Issue 29 – The Meaning of Education on My Way Becoming an Educated Person

by Rainbow Chan (ELED Year 4 student 2020-2021)

Looking back, my education path when I was a child/teenager was full of challenges but adequate freedom was provided by my parents and teachers for me to explore and learn on my own initiative, shaping who I am today, and most importantly, letting me understand the meaning of education is to let one learn freely with appropriate assistance and demonstration.

In my childhood and adolescence, fortunately, my parents had always granted me a lot of freedom to learn with enough support as well as assistance. Unlike some Asian parents who would make every effort to bombard their children with an extremely tight learning schedule, including learning types of instruments, various languages and intensive tutorials, I was never forced to join any activities that I did not like. One minor reason is that my parents are not highly educated and little did they know the concept of “winning at the starting line”. Moreover, both of them were busy earning a living, so they had no time to manage my academics wholeheartedly. However, the major reason why they would not minimally intervene in my learning was that they strongly believed that education is to let children learn independently. They did not really verbally show me their educational philosophy but I had always witnessed through the way they nurtured my elder sister who is never interested in academic learning at all. I vaguely remembered when my sister got low marks in her HKCEE, my parents did not blame her for such a “bad” result. I still remember they said to my sister that one’s value is not determined by a number (the score), but the way he/she manages to utilize talents and also the way one treats others. Although I did not fully understand these words at the age of 5, this concept had been rooted into my mind since that moment. Eventually, my sister is now a photographer who handles pressure well and most importantly, utilizes her innate talents in photography. Her story has always reminded me that we are all born different, letting me realize that education is not placing everyone into a swimming race and competing with each other, but to let every child/teenager explore in a forest and get to know their talents in order to live a life they would enjoy.

Although I had never been sent to any tutorial class, my mom would try to give me some assistance and support by hiring a private tutor to help me with my school work when I was a child. Luckily, this tutor who later became my another sister who still teaches me a lot now. As mentioned, my parents were not able to assist me with my school work, and therefore my tutor came sometimes to provide some academic assistance to me. Throughout the lessons, she usually taught me the knowledge with some engaging activities such as storytelling, some little science experiments and even YouTube watching. One thing she did to enhance my interest in English was that she always shared the English songs and dramas with me. Consequently, I followed her to listen to the English songs and watch the dramas, increasing my exposure in English. It might sound cliché but the best way to let children learn happily is making them interested in what they learn. Gradually, I did not only listen to English songs and dramas, I even started to read the subtitles and lyrics to look into the grammar and usage as I found it very engrossing.

Other than academic learning, I was supported and encouraged to join plenty of activities I enjoyed. Whenever I requested to take part in different kinds of activities, my parents would let me try (given that the activities were safe). One memorable experience was having a summer study programme in Australia when I was in Form 4. I got to experience how it was like to be an Australian student in those two months. It was my first time I had left home for such a long period of time. Other than experiencing a completely different learning style, I was also granted a valuable opportunity to take care of myself independently in an unfamiliar place. I was very sure my mother was worried as her daughter had to leave her for a while in a completely unfamiliar country. However, she understood that education is to let one explore freely at the appropriate timing, so that one can truly learn to fulfil his/her own curiosity and be self-reliant to take care of oneself.

Despite having lots of support and encouragement throughout my learning path, facing Mathematics was never a relaxing and enjoyable task for me. In Primary 1-2, I already had little interest in Mathematics. However, this subject has (not had) become a totally terrible subject for me since Primary 3. My Maths teacher in Primary 3 was extremely rigorous and she believed that drilling was the key to success. Every day, my class was given a lot of exercises to drill our calculating skills and speed. Gradually, I lost all my interest in Maths and I started to be scared but I was still forced to get satisfactory results in Maths. Worse still, one of my secondary school teachers looked down on me and directly told me to give up my Maths because he thought I was so weak in Maths. Whenever I tried to ask him for help, he would not teach me patiently. It made me feel really hopeless because I felt completely abandoned and worthless. Gradually, I seldom studied hard for Maths and finally I just got a level 2 in DSE, which is already satisfactory for me. Now, looking back, this experience has always reminded me that education may not be defined as the results but the process. Educators may make every effort in trying to get students to know the correct answers. However, more importantly, an educator should let children know that they are always supported when getting through challenges. In addition, from my experience in primary school, I admit that drilling may be able to train one’s ability in doing something. However, meanwhile, it would also destroy one’s innate curiosity in pursuing knowledge. What we should do is to allow students to learn at a pace which suits their needs and abilities, instead of training them to be a calculator which only knows the answers but not valuing the process of learning.

“If their teaching agrees, he goes straight to his goal, he lives at peace with himself, he is well-educated” (Rousseau, 1911). Mercifully, to a large extent, I have always been able to explore freely, knowing my own position and abilities and choosing a life that I truly enjoy in this world.

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