I’ve never thought it really important that my kids attend a brandname school – even though I was from one myself. So Jason has been attending a neighbourhood school near home for the last few years. Shannon is due for Primary 1 next year, and the time has come for school registration. In a column in Straits Times published today, I wrote about the dilemma of selecting a school for her – my alma mater, or her korkor’s school. (ST has a new education section that comes out every Monday and I’ll be writing a monthly column there.)
If I didn’t feel so strongly about my alma mater, perhaps there wouldn’t be much of an issue. But I have fond memories of my primary school life, even though it’s been decades since I left the school. The most iconic person from my primary school was my principal, Mrs Hwang. She has since retired, but the last time I met her several years ago, she was working as a primary school counsellor. She is not one to rest on her laurels. I was delighted to meet her in the course of my work, during an interview in a primary school. I greeted her the only way I knew how: “校长!”(“Principal”, in mandarin) And the first thing she said? “来, 校长抱抱一下!” (Come, let me give you a hug)
I was not a high profile student in school, and I’m pretty sure she did not remember or recognise me since it had been more than 20 years since I left the school. But such is her warmth. She hugs all her students. All her ex-students still call her 校长, even though she has retired long ago. She set the tone for the school. Ask anyone from the school then and they remember her motherly reminders to drink water, her lengthy assembly talks and more.
I will always be grateful to Mrs Hwang, my teachers in primary school, and the friends I made there. They have contributed to who I am today. They made primary school enjoyable. All I hope is my children will also have fond memories of their school life. When they leave school, I hope it is not the brand of the school, the marks they get in tests and exams, or the homework they remember. I hope they remember the friends they played with during recess, the fun they had during CCA after school, and the antics they got up to with their friends during lessons. And such memories, can be made anywhere, whether the school is a brandname or neighbourhood one.