The Truth of the Matter Is...

Posted by Unknown On Wednesday, April 24, 2013 3 comments
Regular readers and subscribers would have noticed I have not been blogging as often as I used to do.

This sudden change in posting is NOT due to me attending ceramahs or doing stuff related to the GE 13. God forbid! No way! I deal with enough balderdash in my own backyard and certainly don't want to contend with more.

Rather, it is because of two reasons:

a. Recently, I discovered a fantastic website with over two million ebooks and 20 million scientific journals and articles which means that I have reading endlessly to the extent that my vision has blurred. Hence, I have to use Chrome's Speak it widget whereby all I have to do is to highlight the whole page and the application reads it to me. I can just lie on my bed and listen to the story/article being read out to me. Sheer bliss! Besides, I also get to choose the nationality and gender of the reader. Pretty cool huh...

b. I am being driven insane by the horrible standard of work by some students and I am not joking when I tell you that the past two weeks alone, i dropped 5 pounds from exasperation.

One of them is my friend's son who has a very serious learning disability and attitude problem. She asked me to help him because he will be going to Canada to join his brother in 2015. Even though he has a serious learning disability, it is really frustrating to see how he tries to wriggle out of doing work seriously and carefully.

He actually paid a friend to do my homework which was just a simple essay on the Hokkien Chinese New Year. We had worked on the points, the outline and I had sent him various links for him to pick out some relevant historical points but no - he had to pay someone to do the essay for him - a one page essay. On top of paying his friend, he did five pages of his friend's Maths homework. And the best part is when I asked him who wrote the essay for him, he claimed he did it himself and the 'slight' variation of handwriting was because he used a new pencil and did it in the school library (God knows how a change in physical environment can cause a change in handwriting). And round and round we went - one denial after another, one silly claim/rationale after another till I burst and said - For heaven's sake, if you want to cheat, please look at me. Do I look like the kind of woman you can cheat easily? He shook his head.

The next week, he copied all the answers for three chapters of a book I use. I prefer not to remove the answers because I expect students to exercise self-discipline. Sadly, this was not to be so for him. And as always, he denied copying the answers many times. So I said, "Fine". Do it again - use my book. And he went pale. Of course he fumbled and failed when he did it again.

Seriously, I have gone beyond the line of duty to help him but I persevered. I asked him to send me a short essay five times a week and I painstakingly typed comments and highlighted the parts that had to be rewritten and gave points as to how each essay could be developed. To cut the long story short, each essay was like a badminton match. Meaning - he would send it to me and I would email my comments almost immediately or within half an hour. This went on for five rounds and on Monday I went through version 6 of each essay and you can see for yourself the horror I have to go through. If not for the fact that his mom is a very good woman, I would not be doing this.... The following is Version 6 of the essay which he emailed to me:

Subject: Pg7 Susan hard earned bicycle
CC: Mami

One day, Susan went OT a complex. She saw a bicycle that looked very cool but it was very expensive. When Susan went home, she asked her mother could she sell fruits from their house to earn money to buy the bicycle.

Susan's mother agreed that Susan was allowed to sell the fruits for her garden. Everyday after school, Susan always collected fruits. Every week one day, she would sold fruits to her neighborhood.

She saved her allowance about a month. Finally, she could able to buy her favorite bicycle. Everyday, she will ride her bicycle when she had free time.

You can imagine how I laboured to refine it and still it is like this! All errors had been highlighted etc. but he did not bother to even correct or to make the necessary changes to improve his work.

The following is Version 4 of another essay. I nearly had a massive cardiac arrest when he emailed it to me...version FOUR!!!! Can you imagine what Version One looked like??? He studied in an international school and has since transferred to another private school. Here goes...fasten your seatbelts.

One day, the famouse Mr Lim was going to organize a campaign at Han CHIANG high school. Mr Lim was a very good donator to the poor. Mr Lim organize this campaign and also will give some rewards. The rewards will be you are allowed to go in to the star newspaper whoever collects the most recycling material.

After Mr Lim announced the campaign, everybody started to find all of the recycle material as they could.

There were three students named Rita, Anna and Sabrina had a dreamt that they wanted to be on the newspaper one day. After the announcement, Rita, Anna and Sabrina asked Mr Lim what was recycling about for this campaign. Mr Lim says that it was about recycling newspaper and aluminum can because nowadays he saw a lot of people just dumped those recycle material away and did not recycle.

Rita, Anna and Sabrina told Mr Lim about their dreamt so Mr Lim helped them by phoning some of the rich families do they have any recycle material. On the way, Rita, Anna and Sabrina asked some of the people near their neighborhood were there any waste materials to recycle.

After 2 hours, Rita, Anna and Sabrina brought a lot of recyclable materials to Mr Lim such as aluminum can, plastic water bottles that was empty and old newspaper. At last, the winner was going to Rita, Anna and Sabrina because they altogether collected five bags of recycling materials. In the next day, Rita, Anna and Sabrina were inside the newspaper with Mr Lim because they won the first prize.


I really don't understand students nowadays. Why is it so difficult for them to:

1. Understand that it's and its are different?

2. Understand subject-verb agreement?

3. Understand the role and usage of auxiliary verbs?

4. Understand the form and function of the various tenses?

5. Understand the part of speech and how each has different uses

6. Understand ordinal numbers?

7. Understand the need to check their work, think before writing etc etc...???? Arrrrghhhhh!

This boy is fourteen. Very saddening.

I see students handing up hw where the date is written as:

22th April.

Today, the other boy who drives me insane wrote:

23th April. So I told him there are two things wrong with his date. Quietly, he changed it to 23rd April. Then I said that it was still wrong and he exclaimed that he had already corrected it. So I asked him if he went to school today and he said yes. And when I asked him if he wrote dates for each piece of school work done in class, he nodded. What's the date you wrote? His reply? 24th. Mind you, just now, he whatsapped me because I wanted to know if he kept to my homwork schedule that I set for him and he wrote:

19th all done
20th all done
21th not done
22th all done

And this was after I scolded him about his '23th' problem when it should have been 23rd. :-(

Last week, he told me he could not finish his work because him mom did not photocopy my book 'properly'. Oh really? The thick book had ring binding so I inspected for 'evidence' of him ripping the six pages of the book.


The perfect crime.

To cut the long story short, I called the mom who is a very beautiful woman inside out and she checked his room and found the evidence of the crime. :-( And also of other crimes. He is only 11.

It breaks my heart to see such deviant behaviour.

Worse still, it is most tragically heartbreaking to see the death of the thinking mind at higher levels.

Last week, someone wrote this for a test I gave recently:

Man exploits land to build houses and the soil cannot stand the weight of the houses so landslides happen.

Back a few thousand BCs, before man first step into this world....

Pollution occurs because of burning of fossil fuels and car plants.

Car plants?????????

And the student scored nine A stars in SPM. *shudders*

Seriously, I don't know why I have the misfortune to witness the decline in educational standards.

This is only the tip of the sh** i see a few times a week. Thank goodness I teach very little. I do get offer to teach but I have gladly declined because I rather be earning a little and be happy than to earn a lot and be driven insane.

You cannot imagine how shallow and simple is the English Language syllabus and standard in our system today. Years ago, the Literature component was something to be proud of and this was back in 1970's and I am glad I scored A1 for my Literature and English Language exams which were marked by Cambridge examiners in UK. 

Fast forward to 21st century. Have you seen the Form 1 literature books? One is an illustrated version of Black Beauty and the poems they learn are what I learnt when I was in Std 1!!! And this includes 'Mr. Nobody'. My son could not believe it until I showed him my precious 'Junior Anthology of Poetry' and then he gasped in horror.

Back in 2004-2010, the Form 4 and Form 5 students studied John Steinbeck's 'The Pearl' and meaningful short stories and poems including Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken' and Kipling's 'If'. Today, the SPM English paper is easier than the PMR paper of yesteryears and the PMR paper is easier than the UPSR papers of yesteryears. My younger son could do the PMR English paper with only one mistake when he was in Std 3. And I don't even teach my son. All I do is to tell him that it is his life and reading will be the tool for him to improve his life. And he devours books, even those new books of mine that I have not read!

And for the five students I coach, three are leaving this year - one of them has been with me for 12 years whilst the other has been with me for eight years and the third will be off to Down Under. So I will be left with those two I mentioned earlier - the main supplier of anecdotes for my book on 'Memoirs of A Teacher'.

The nightmare continues.

Frankly, I see enough nonsense in the classroom to put me off teaching for the rest of my life. I really do not know what is happening to the education system of this country. It is soooooooo frustrating because I see the decline from 1980's and the sharpest decline has been in the last five years.

Of the 1980's students I taught, most of them became famous doctors, lawyers, media personalities and one is even listed in Wikipedia because of his internet site. And this special guy was my economics student who could not differentiate between cost-push inflation and demand-pull inflation. As a punishment, he had to draw each graph 10 times. The next lesson, he still could not get it right so he had to do 20 and finally 40 of each i.e. 80 graphs. Amazingly, he did it with a smile as a Year 10 student. He scored A for my economics and when he was studying his A levels in Cheltenham, the first email he wrote to me was filled with my economics graphs. This young man aced his A levels, went to King's College to do economics and did his masters at Imperial College. I doubt any student in the 21st century would have reacted to my strict standards in the classroom then.

Of the 1990's students I taught, one is working directly for Bill Clinton, another is a famous producer in Philedelphia, another is an astral physicist but now in charge of a dance company in Scotland, another is a famous television celebrity in Thailand, another is a famous cardiologist in London, many became doctors and a significant number specialised in O and G, plastic surgery, dental surgery, orthodontics etc. and one who reads my blog quite regularly is teaching English in Korea even though he was trained in environmental science. Most of them have at least one masters degree and quite a number have PhDs.

Of those I taught between 2000-2005, one works in Seattle for Microsoft, another is a broadcast journalist in CNBC news, another is a famous internet marketeer, many I taught between 2000-2005 ended up as doctors from PMC, IMU and foreign universities. One lovely girl who never passed my exam as she could not work against the clock after being home-schooled touched my life. I told her I am not giving up on her. She did not make it for my GP paper at the A levels but I told her that one day, she would be a famous writer and I said she should study writing instead of law. Well, she called me from the airport before she left for Tasmania and I reiterated my stand. Years down the road, I discovered I was not wrong for she became an award winning journalist in Australia.

Another fine young man whom I coached for thirteen years is my personal project. A mediocre student whose parents are the most supportive and loving ones I have ever seen, I told him it was my personal ambition to groom him to be an award winning student. He laughed and it was no easy road. When his parents went overseas to work, he went astray and one day, I pulled him aside and had a tete-a- tete with him. Along the way, drama queen madam here broke down and cried. I felt so saddened that he had turned that way. His parents were the kindest I have ever met and when I was expecting Nicholas, every week, she would make home-cooked nourishing stuff and send them to my house. Such acts of kindness will never be forgotten. Well, to cut the long story short, he went on to win a full scholarship to one of the best universities abroad to study economics and had enough $$$ to pay for his sister's final year university fees as well.

I could write a book about the wonderful achievements of my former students because I am very proud of them that despite the odds, they shone through..even those who had only mediocre SPM qualifications who were in my Business Communication Diploma class. One of them was the late actress Brenda Chiah who passed away last year. Despite their humble backgrounds, these students worked part-time to pay their own fees and even secured masters degrees. Today, they remain humble and still keep in touch with me even after 15 years.

However, I am so sorry to say that in the last eight years, I have only taught two good students. So tragic.

Instead of singing 'Where have all the flowers gone?", I sing, "Where have all the neurons gone?"


And so with all the community sanitary output that I receive from some students on a regular basis, why woukd I want to expose myself to election news? I would go insane.

I did not even know 30 000 people turned up in support of a leader on nomination day and a friend exclaimed, "OMG, you have become insular!" 

Not insular but pragmatic.

I know who to vote so I will just go and vote and not expose myself to more nonsense in the media.

Whatever it is, I seriously hope and pray that whoever wins the right to be in power will do something about our pathetic state of education.


End of rant.

Bad week.


My apologies to some readers who wrote to me...I have yet to reply your emails/comments but will get round to it soon.

3 comments to The Truth of the Matter Is...

  1. says:

    beamer Would appreciate very much if you can share the fantastic website you mentioned. Many thanks.

    TM Wong

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Good morning, Mr. Wong!

    It is a pleasure to hear from you. Could you just drop me a mail at writetomws at hush dot ai (I have to type my email that way to bypass bots/spammers) so that I can give you not just the website but also the complicated steps involved when you need to download the ebooks/journals and then to upload them for reading.

    Thanks! Have a pleasant day.

    Best wishes

  1. says:

    Gem What's worse than a student who can't differentiate between "its" and "it's"? A boss whom you are not supposed to correct, that's what. Those past students that you groomed really owe you a personal debt. Would be great to hear Bob Dylan singing your version of his signature song.

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