16-year-old letter writer: I hate Singapore’s education system

Posted on 13 January 2012

Dear New Nation editors,

I am a 16-year-old boy and I just completed my O levels. I didn’t do too well. I scored straight Bs and a few Cs. I didn’t make it to any junior colleges. I would most likely continue my studies at a polytechnic but I will be taking a course I don’t have an interest in.

Some times I really feel the only reason I’m still studying is because my parents want me to. Honestly, I hate Singapore’s education system because I don’t like people to judge me based solely on my academic results. I get angry every time I think about it.

I know what I want to do with my life. Although a lot of people don’t believe/ think it is foolish/ want me to change my thinking, I still want to do what I want. I just don’t want to grow up and end up working in an office. While waiting for my results last year, I spent one week at my aunt’s workplace doing part time admin work and I hated it.

Everyday, it feels like the adults working in the office do not want to be something more than office workers running in some routine rat race. They just show up for work, have lunch, idle a few more hours and look forward to knocking off. That’s all they do!

Spending five days with them is enough to kill me. I don’t know how I can do it next time. I really can’t.

I dread being an adult who goes to work in an office. I want to be doing things that other people don’t approve.

I want to be a writer and musician. But there is no room to grow as a writer or musician in Singapore. When I tell people what I want to be, even my teachers, they don’t think it can be done. They just keep telling me to focus on my studies! And study harder! What for?!

I really feel so hopeless.

I want to get out of this country but that is just not possible.

I hate all of this.


This post was written by:

- who has written 2685 posts on New Nation.

Wang Pei can be considered a new citizen of Singapore. She has been here all her life, just that her environment's changed beyond recognition.

Contact the author

  • Pingback: Zoroukah – 16-year-old letter writer: I hate Singapore‚Äôs education system

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=525462983 Mary-Anne Lee

    Actually that’s not true that there’s no room for the arts in Singapore.

    If you quit whining to the internet and got out a bit more maybe you’d find more opportunities.


    • Crystal Skyes

      I did just that and did damn well for myself by spending time whining on the Internet.

  • Danielskates

    Even a writer and / or musician needs to study different writing / music styles and techniques. Some of the world’s best rockers are really educated. Check out this link: http://education-portal.com/articles/5_Surprisingly_Well-Educated_Rock_Stars.html

  • http://profiles.google.com/zerolionlaker Tim Tebow

    Oh my. I feel you. We need more thinkers, not just any office worker!

  • Ballista

    I bet you’re a bored 20-year old NS-man who loves to see people fight about our education system. ūüėÄ

  • Pdfeuge

    Young man, education trains your mind (how to organize, tackle problems and communicate with the world) and also gives you valuable skills such as basic writing, mathematics, science… all of which will form the foundation for you to become a great person. Most importantly, if you want something and have the passion and the grit to be successful, think of your school days as one small hurdle to clear before you can move on to greater things. If you can’t be good or responsible a the little things, you are unlikely to be good at the bigger things. Resolve within yourself that school will not get you down. Try harder. Clear the hurdle and pursue your dreams. Not everyone will be a scholar or must love to work in the office. School is your passport to freedom. Study harder for what? It opens doors for you. This is your reason. Now get on with it so you can become a writer and musician.

    • Crystal Skyes

      The system has brainwashed you beyond the point of salvation.
      Whatever you just said is just what PAP wants you to believe.
      You say all successful people are educated in formal institutions of learning?
      You are highly mistaken, if that is what you believe.

  • Guest

    Diploma courses including Music in NAFA and Lasalle are widely recognized, I think you
    should have no problem getting in. Life in NAFA is very rich, everything you learn here is useful for your respective industry. You may enroll in, do well, get scholarships and go overseas to studies. NAFA Music Department is partnership with Royal College of Music in London. Hope it helps.

  • Dontgiveup

    Dear 16-year old writer…

    This video of a young life that came alive at 11 will hopefully be as inspiring to you as it was to me:¬†http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNZVV4Ciccg&sns=fbMaybe you feel her she does in some way. In her own words:¬†“I think the only thing I can say is don’t give up. Your inner voice will find its way out. Mine did.”

    • Pdfeuge

      Sorry, message truncated: “You may feel like her in some way.” ie for your voice to be heard.

  • been there, done that

    We are living in reality. I am sure everyone has dreams to be somebody or do something that they like. But everyone is doing something that guarantees food and shelter for themselves and their families. Until your passion bears fruit, you probably need to suffice your daily needs.   

  • http://twitter.com/WhiteAsMilk Guillaume

    The gross is always greener on the other side. Going in another might not help you! Fight and not flee yound anonymous 

  • Anonymous

    You are stuck in this life as a 16 year-old boy living in Singapore. If you cannot fit into society, life sucks no matter which country you live in.  

    Because you cannot fit in, you have become an inmate in the prison of Singapore. It is a tough prison, tougher than most. 

    Your unhappy situation is similar to being stuck in a marriage with the wrong girl. Don’t blame Singapore or the girl. Don’t even blame yourself. Blame your bad luck. ¬† ¬†

  • Gulianofazarreti

    Which country in a planet called earth does not have an education system that emphasizes on exams and results? The US have SATs, GRE, GMAT, Finland rated best in the world has college entrance exams, similarly Japan and Korea and the exams are damned serious business. Incidentally Finland also has the highest teenage suicide rates in the world, coincidence? Even if you decide to leave are there employers willing to pay big bucks without looking at your credentials? It’s the real world out there, it’s a race no matter where you are in any part of the world.    

  • Spunkysonia

    true !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i hate the education system too theres no freedom.I come from overseas and i joined the local school and it is the worse thing that has ever happen to me i feel trapped in a cage!!!!!!

  • Crystal skyes

    I understand how you feel.
    I feel the same way too but I refused to give up hope.
    I worked my ass off in secondary 4 and managed to get L1R5 raw of 7.

    • Asyura Abdullah

      i worked my ass off but got only 16 XD

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RVO3GXBVWKWNJPBP6SINXIGND4

    yeah. Singapore is a a place which creates human machine. Please someone stop saying that  never give up. Of course u can give up and choose other way. Come to a place which makes u feel better. I still hate that education system, too. No freedom. Although they got the higher ranking, higher mark but what for? U have 2 choice: 1 is against that, 2 is get out of that. Be free, this life is not a prison. Who are they to judge u, fuck up that education systen

  • a person

    I think you have a point in saying that Singapore has no room for other creativity. Im in sec 3, i get it. And i HATE¬†the judging.¬†I too want a different career. Infact,¬†I have the exact to careers as you. But there are just some things you can’t change (the academics and the jobs you get). But it’s not to say you still can’t fulfill your dream. Look at it this way: Singapore is only one country, possibly the smallest you could find. And office jobs are just a way to get money. Perhaps they can lead to big things. I dunno, i’m just a kid, figuring out my own life. I shall leave the rest for you to figure out.

    • Asyura Abdullah

      How do you feel about the education system now 8 years later

  • a person

    Sorry, I have the exact 2 careers

  • Le Combattant

    I understand completely how you feel…I was 16 only 3 years ago when I came out from secondary school with similar O Level results feeling the same way, yet was shoved into an unpredictable polytechnic course from that JAE form (after being rejected from Junior College and the course choice(s) I wanted to do then). Now that I’m almost graduating, I cannot say I’ve enjoyed or done well in my current course, but I also wouldn’t have imagined how I pulled through the toughest times and enjoyed some magical moments in polytechnic.

    But that is not my point. I only persist on in my diploma studies because now there’s no turning back, and more importantly, I have a dream to catch. This dream revealed to me that life CAN be better than this, and posed me this question: what do I want out of my life? Once I knew what I wanted, I never turned back (otherwise I could’ve easily dropped out as early as in my 2nd month in my then-new school). I faced so much criticism and hardship over this, partly because it involves getting out of Singapore and living abroad permanently, yet it has only strengthened my resolve. And still from the things I’ve been exposed to in polytechnic, I realized even more that there is only one way for me to go.

    I don’t know where are you and what are you doing right now, but especially if you’re still schooling, take the time to explore where you want to go in life, one which you don’t mind going through all the difficulties that may come to get to where you want to be. Don’t give those people who discourage you a damn, and one day when you’ve finally realized your dreams, you’ll be able to proudly tell yourself, “I’m the Living Proof of Singapore’s education system & society”. Because the truth is Singapore’s society is one of the world’s most rigid (and even robotic). But remember, after you’ve figured it out, even though the whole of Singapore is against your plans, telling you to “grow up” and expects you to suffer for the sake of more suffering in the future (just like themselves), NO ONE AND NOTHING CAN STOP YOU. Even if you get lost, as long as you believe in it, let this dream teach you, remind you that you have brighter days in front of you, and guide you back. I really hope for the best for you.

  • Crystal Skyes

    I hate how anyone who complains are labelled as whiners. Those who do just want to avoid solving the issue by refusing to acknowledge that it exists. They are just lack the intelligence or the painful experience that the education system gives you. I hope these pieces of shit have the pleasure of being reborn in Singapore and go through the education system as it is now or in the future. With where MOE is going, it can only get worse.

    • Asyura Abdullah

      it’s more or less the same 7 years later

  • saveTheChildren

    What you are looking for is probably this:


    Hopefully someday, we can be just like them – where children go to school to learn how to learn, not learn how to take exams. Heaven knows how many hearts and minds full of potential have gone to waste.

  • unhappy

    I just completed my Olevel and gotten my posting results. My teachers used to say study hard and you will get what you want. I studied hard and gotten a raw score of 14,however i didn’t manage to get into a school i want. After looking forward to attending school for two months, I felt really horrible the night before, preparing to attend a school that I did not want to enter. I got into a school with a cut of point of 18. I really hope that MOE will just let students get into a JC/Course they want as long as their net score meet the cut. Is it so tough to let students be in somewhere we want,especially since we had already work hard to achieve the score? I sincerely hope that the Colleges and Courses will accept more students who are keen in joining them, rather than just taking students with a much better score than their cut off point.

  • isagail

    i feel your pain. but there is nothing we can do. the whole of singapore is brainwashed already, save for a few. lets hope that our generation is more daring then the previous one

  • Dreamerz

    I am amazed how much I can relate to you… I am in a dilemma now because I am starting poly next month with a course I have no interest in… I play piano and loves writing, I wanted to become a piano teacher. Sadly, I am rejected by NAFA to enter the music course and was devastated. But that is my dream, my interests, my hobby… I will not give up :)

  • kyle

    I wanted to join nafa but sadly I don’t have enough funds even though I had a part time job. And I can’t ask my parents for more funds seeing that they have a low salary job. Life is hard. Thought about moving elsewhere and pray that I’ll get another chance. Asked for a scholarship but got rejected. A

  • 16yearoldstudent

    the teachers expect us to be polite and respectful when they themselves are not so why should we give them respect when they don’t give it to us. I honestly feel that these teachers smart but they seem to lack in other aspects. I do not want to go to a learning institute where I am treated badly

  • Jessica

    This is so relatable. I know I’m not stupid and im just more creative than others. Whenever the results came out I’m always able to score many As for languages, arts and humanities but badly for maths. Yet I always feel that I can’t seem to fit in since the education system is so narrow minded that it’s suffocating. I feel so restricted and dumb. I end up going to a “lousy” school that many people looked down upon, just because Im not good at maths and science. And besides, even if I do manage to graduate with a degree in arts or languages, finding jobs within that scope is tough. I hate to lead a boring life stuck in an office and accomplishing nothing but being robots in this country.

  • Jane

    Hi, I just finished my O levels in 2015. My results are not bad too. I got 2 As, 3BS and 2 Ds. The 2 Ds are (I’m not shy to say) my English and Humanities, which are few of the most important subjects to enter JC. I was panic, and horrendously wrote out of topic for my essay writing and spoke out of context for my Oral. People were shocked over this news, due to the fact that I got a B for my PSLE English and could express myself well with English. I sound like an English speaking girl outside and I’m generally well-read yet I scored A2 for Chinese and D7 for English. It was a great strike and disappointment for me.
    As a result, I can’t enter JC. They don’t even allow me to try in a JC due to my weak English and Humanities result. I’m ineligible for half of the poly courses (humanities courses and business course). Like you, I can still enter Poly but none of the courses that I’m eligible for is of my interest. I’m most interested in Music, second is science, third is psychology. I’m open to business and I dislike engineering jobs the most. The devastating thing about entering poly is that I was not accepted into purely science-related course but a course named ‘food science’ instead. I rejected the offer in the end. I think Singapore should increase its respect for music and art related industries. Scientific studies show that music improves our linking skills and enhances both our left and right part of our brain, be it our creativity or analytical skills. Music is highly related with maths and makes our society a more gracious one.

  • cornthatsings


  • Nikol

    school education was never good or supportive you need to learn selling and entrepreneurship rather then fucking schoool subjects which actually waste your time learn how to become great writer, also some psychology in internet also cheack out tai lopez he talks a lot about how you can achieve financial success without formal education.

  • Vb

    But i am from a jc..
    Jc is jc yay

  • Evangeline

    I resonate so much with this but since this was written 5 years ago, I wonder how he is now, and if he could give any advice.

  • Wake up your Idea

    They put us in different class, and expect us to do what they want us. Few hundred years back their dumba** wouldn’t be doing somethingllike this and tryna let us suffer. Not everyone (ONE) wanna be a slave and work behind a computer that is meaningless to some. Some kinda stupid rule of having long hair is not acceptable. I rather have long hair.