Are Our Schools Killing Creativity In Our Children?

My daughter has a P1 English vocab question in picture form that is with me until now.

In the picture, it shows a dog going after a cat.  So the multiple choice words include ‘playing, chasing, etc’.  My daughter chose ‘playing’ and she was marked wrong.  In my eye, the obvious word should be ‘chasing’.

I asked her why she thinks that she is correct.  She pointed to the face of the cat and told me, ‘See, the cat is smiling.’ (and the picture really shows a smiling cat).

I wrapped up that question by saying that mummy thinks she is correct but the picture should have shown a scary cat and so the picture is wrong but never mind about the 2 marks and we shall see what other interesting pictures would turn up the next round.

She excels in Literature but her interest was very negatively affected by her Literature teacher during an exam in her Sec 1. The students were given a piece of unseen poem for analysis. She did her part but was given very minimal marks coz that was not what the teacher wanted. I read through her analysis and it made sense (well supported and written). However, the teacher had ‘marking guidelines’ and if the students couldn’t state the points required, then there will be low/no marks. I feel the teacher is taking a poem like science or maths that need to have precise answers… (anyway, she still scored an A1 for her literature in her O levels).

She can write Chinese compo creatively but her Chinese teacher expected her to write Chinese compo in a sure-score manner (there is a ‘sure-score’ format for all to use). She was distraught as she couldn’t write the way she wanted as the moment she didn’t adhere to the ‘standard guideline’, her teacher would mark her down drastically. The teacher even could tell that to me on my face during PTC that that is the safest way to an A1 in O levels and so should not ‘take chance’ (I argued with the teacher but gave up eventually as no point trying to convince someone who is so driven by KPI). I feel for her. The teacher destroyed whatever good Chinese exposure that I have been giving to her by year in and year out drying up her creativity for the sake of MARKS. I discussed ‘reality’ with her and told her actually I am OK with her free writing if she could accept probable marks from her teacher though not necessarily from the O Level marker. Just like what I had advised her over her Literature writing, she would be best if she could conform to her feelings when comes to writing. I added that there are many ‘square’ people around and we just have to deal with such square people even though we cannot see eye to eye with them. She relented and conformed to those ‘guidelines’ under ultra reluctance that I know she feels sore until today (she got an A2 for her Higher Chinese in her O levels).

This out-of-shape, distorted educational system… (at least for her school).

I am frustrated with the local educational system. I can’t wait to pack my kids off to overseas for their higher education once they are ready (I can’t stand ‘square’ people and the chance of them turning square permanently is high if continue to be educated here).

That's why overseas folks

That’s why overseas folks call us paperdolls…. because everything is planned for and laid out for us from young.

Best Regards,


Importance of being open..

This is probably very late since the blog entry was published.

However, I feel very strongly about your entry as I think it happens all the time.

What the kids can see and do, rcan eally astound the adults, if we allow it. However, if we are not careful, sometimes, we are easily swept by the "right answers" too.. That is a "trap" that I always try to watch out for.

When doing one of those left/ right brain development worksheets with my 3.5 yr old son, there was  a picture of an empty paintbox, in which he had to draw in the correct item to be placed inside.

My son drew circles in them, but with tiny lines connecting the circus. I asked him what he drew, and he told me "spectacles". So I asked him why, and he replied "this is a spectacle box what, like papa’s". And i do not have to heart to tell him that well, he was supposed to draw in the paints as it was a paintbox, as in my mind, I was sure he was also correct..

However, like you mention in your blog, once the kids are placed in the formal school environment, one teacher facing so many students, coupled with pressure to excel, not many will take the time to praise or acknolwedge thinking out of the box when kids do that.

It really makes me question how do the schools take care, then, of some kids who require special attention in learning.


I understand how you feel

I have the same feeling too. so as my husband.
once my hubby mentioned to me after the interviewing the graduates. some of them are smart kids, grades are very good. but when you ask them questions, they are blue like sodong. very square and narrow minded. somehow I feel it is the product from singapore education system.

Sorry to hear this

I think you have a very special girl so what you did was correct. As for catering to scoring marks, well, it all depends on how important the marks are. Just bear in mind, like you said, that this is only temporary. Who knows? The external markers may be more receptive.

The consolation is that not all schools/teachers are like that. I’m very sure some teachers would love to have your girl as a student.

As for my own child, I do worry that her creativity will be stifled later on. And I hope I can be as strong as you when the time comes.

play play play


Allow a child to play and give him/her a chance to be creative. Is play not part n parcel of development? Think…the benefits of play is surmountable to a child’s development. Now how can we do this without worrying about academics…


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