Sunday 15 November 2015

O is for 'over': Giving O levels the finger

Dear fellow parents of students taking O levels this year,

High five!

It’s over. It’s finally over.

I can’t feel my face after the last paper on Friday, but I love it.

But I love it.

We should go to Zouk before it moves to Clarke Quay, get drunk and vomit on the toilet aunty to celebrate.

And I know she’ll be the death of me. At least we’ll both be numb.

Of course, the O levels weren’t just stressful for us parents. The kids did their part too.

They were the ones who actually had to take the exam, the poor things.

We just had to pay for their private tuition.

For all the money I spent on my children’s tuition, I could almost afford an Uber ride during surge pricing.


My son took his O levels two years ago. This year, it’s my daughter’s turn.

But it’s worth it.

I mean, sending them for tuition is better than doing nothing, right?

It’s for the kids. For their future.

So what if it meant making their present hell?

As if their kiasu schools weren’t sucking the soul out of them enough by giving them so much homework, we kiasu parents were vacuuming whatever soul they have left by making them go for tuition as well.

But the stress is only temporary.

The O level results will be forever.

At what cost, though? (Apart from the private tuition fees.)

My daughter is possibly more relieved than I am that the deed is done for better or for worse — although “relieved” may not be the right word.

She said that after taking her last paper, she and her friends walked out of their school and pointed their middle finger at it.

I don’t know where she learned such a rude gesture.

She certainly didn’t learn it from me since I have never given anyone the finger in my life.

I give only the thumbs up.

And the Vulcan “live long and prosper” salute from Star Trek.

And maybe throw the occasional horns as tribute to the late great Ronnie James Dio, lead singer of Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio.

But never the middle finger.

So I can’t say I approve of such behaviour from my daughter, but I can empathise.

I hated school at her age too.

The thing is, I don’t think it even matters what school it is.

Remember four years ago when we were so stressed about PSLE?

All that because we want our kids get into the best secondary school possible.

My daughter actually got into her first-choice school.

Now, four years later, she’s giving that first-choice school the finger.

Honestly, why did we even bother?

Same with the O levels — they are just to help you get into a junior college or polytechnic.

My guess is that if my daughter ends up in either one of those, in a couple of years or so, she’ll probably give that institution the finger too.

What I’ve come to realise is that the real reason we try to get our children into the best school is not so much to give them the best education, but to ensure that they have higher-calibre friends.

Hopefully, friends who don’t teach them to flip the bird since, as I’ve established earlier, my daughter certainly didn’t learn it from me.

On the one hand, the finger my daughter gave her school could be seen as an indictment of our whole education system and the damage it does to our children.

On the other hand, it’s also like Daniel Craig saying he’d rather “slash his wrist” than do another James Bond movie after Spectre.

They just needed to blow off some steam, but when the time comes, I trust they’ll do the right thing.

In Craig’s case, it’s playing 007 again.

In my daughter’s case, it’s A levels.

Or else.

Speaking of which, my son still has more than a week to go for his A-level exams.

So, dear parents of students taking A levels now, you can expect another invitation from me to go puke on the Zouk toilet aunty soon.

She told me: “Don’t worry about it.”

She told me: “Don’t worry no more.”

- Published in The New Paper, 15 November 2015