Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Elite instiutions take pride in the high rate of candidates "washing out" of their courses such that only a small handful of deserving students can claim the honour and bragging rights of having survived a most gruelling, challenging experience. Those that graduate from the course know they are the best in their field, that they passed the highly stringent quality control measures, and their qualification actually means something to society.

Somewhere along the line, the Junior College has lost this prestige as an elite institution. A JC is, after all, not an institution of basic education, and being educated in a JC is therefore not an entitlement, as much as our students seem to think it is (and news of there being yet a 4th Uni could well increase the sense of entitilement our future students will have).

Under Article 26 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, while "Elementary education shall be compulsory.... higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit" (emphasis mine). Kids, you either work to prove your worthiness to be educated at H1/H2 level, or the education you have already received already ensures that you won't starve if you decide that you are wasting your time with us.

These days, though, we are so afraid to allow our students to fail. We pride ourselves in the number of our students who pass, and we bend over backwards just to get even the least deserving to make the grade. Not that we do anything illegal or underhand to give our students a passing grade, but we take it personally, when the kids underperform, and feel that we haven't been doing our jobs properly.

But our job is also to maintain standards and quality as gatekeepers of qualified personnel who will seek responsible positions in society in the near future. We canot afford to let loose into society sub-standard, yet paper-qualified graduates, or that really would be a violation of our civil trust. Yet we feel guilty for letting down our students if they eventually fail.

Perhaps it's us that are perpetuating the fear of failure that's a symptom of our unwillingness to try new paths, take risks and experiment to make new discoveries. It's us that perpetuate the myth that there is only one way in life and that failure at this stage is the end of the world for our kids.

The kids don't realize how much in the minority they are out of their cohort that took the 'O's with them. Our kids are elite seeking elite education. We need to constantly remind them of the reaity that not all of them are going to make it. Only the brightest and the best will, while the rest, well, they can always go back to living ordinary lives with the rest of their compatriots.

This is a proving ground, not a playground. Sure, everyone who enters has the potential to make it given their prior qualification, but it takes further effort, further endurance, further determination to overcome setback after setback, and if that is too much for them, then I'm sorry, they don't have what it takes. As their instructors, we have a responsibility to help the deserving, but we also need the courage -- and these days, reassure ourselves that we have the authority -- to allow those who deserve to fail fail.

Welcome to the Junior College. Appreciate the privilege of being here. We hope you survive the experience.

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