Chee Soon Juan: Don’t let our education system tell you you’re not good enough

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Photo: Facebook screengrab/Damanhuri Bin Abas

No one could say that Singapore Democratic Party (SD)’s Damanhuri Bin Abas is unmoved by SDP leader Chee Soon Juan’s recently published book, “Never on Bended Knees.” Damanhuri, who contested for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC in 2015 under the SDP, has been sharing posts on his Facebook page from Chee’s book, the latest being an account of how the SDP leader’s triumphed in his educational pursuits, which he posted on Sunday, February 3.

However, this post has resonated with netizens even more than the others, since education is a topic dear to many people’s hearts, and Chee seeks to inspire readers with his triumphant story despite a lack of encouragement from the country’s educational system.

Chee wrote in his book that his first experience at pre-school at Balestier Road was a delight for him. But, upon needing to transfer when it closed, he later learned to “hate school” because of rote instruction, instead of creativity and play. He wrote, about the school where learning was repetitious, “It was my first encounter with the PAP.”

Chee narrated that he had not excelled in his Anglo-Chinese school years, to the point that he was not accepted at NUS, saying, “I was resigned to the fact that I was not university material.”

However, things took a turn when he went to the US for further studies after military service. He “found himself” and “blossomed academically, getting on the President’s List (reserved for students with straight As) every semester and graduating summa cum laude with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.”

Chee continued, “It was truly a renaissance in my own little universe.

I was learning; after more than 20 years in school, I was finally learning again. I found myself reminiscing about that little kindergarten at Balestier Road.”

Chee went on to graduate studies at the University of Georgia in the US, where, despite hard work and straitened circumstances, he thrived and felt fully alive. He met the woman who later became his wife, worked odd jobs, became a teaching assistant, which earned him a stipend.

Upon his return to Singapore he joined the Department of Social Science and Psychology at the NUS as a teaching fellow but was not awarded a full-time Lecturer’s position until after a year because, again, his “A-level results were not good enough.

Chee ends his post by seeking to inspire those “who are still finding your way.”

And then he advises his readers:  “If you’re tired, take a little rest. Then get up and get on with your quest. If you’re having doubt about yourself, here’s my advice: Don’t. You cannot soar on the wings of doubt. Don’t let our education system tell you you’re not good enough.”

On the lighter side, this is a beautiful and inspiring account of Dr Chee’s formative years in his educational journey…

Posted by Damanhuri Bin Abas on Saturday, 2 February 2019

Singaporeans openly make a beeline for Chee Soon Juan’s book outside Raffles Place MRT station