Singaporeans tend to be obsessed with good grades in school and paper qualifications. This leads to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, among students and a rising suicide rate among youths.
A group of parents started the Life Beyond Grades initiative to shift mindsets and reduce the increasing academic pressure on our young ones by showing through examples of how grades are not everything in life. The laudable positive approach led to mainstream publicity and went viral on social media, but the campaign has yet to feature people from the Deaf and disabled groups. Here are two such stories from the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community.
“Never give up, until you succeed”
In a school which used only oral communication, I had difficulty understanding teachers and communicating with friends. I found myself in the Normal Technical (NT) stream due to less-than-stellar PSLE results. I was also enrolled in a mainstream secondary school instead of a school which used both sign language and speech. A school that used sign language would help me better communicate with others. However, because of adults thinking they know what is best for us deaf youths, I didn’t have the power of making choices at that time.
In 2015, I enrolled in a course of my choice in Kaplan, doing a Bachelor of Science in Cyber Forensics, Information Security and Management & Business Information System. At one point, I was holding two part-time jobs because it was difficult for employers to accept a Deaf person in a full-time position. Trials like this really challenged my belief in not giving up until I succeed. Two years after graduation, I finally landed a full-time position.
I am especially grateful to my friends and mother for supporting me through my secondary, ITE, polytechnic, and university years. My classmates would explain concepts to me by writing or speaking slowly. Communicating and socialising with hearing people was a challenge for me, but these friends were kind and helpful. Thank you for being my friends.
Grades may be important, and so is having the perseverance and determination to strive hard for ourselves. But the social support from friends and family makes it so much better for us.
“Embrace the process, not just the product“
I quickly left the school upon receiving my PSLE results. I had mixed feelings. Even though I was too young to understand what my results meant, I felt paiseh. I wasn’t ashamed of myself, but I just guess that society wanted me to.
A light bulb lit up in my head during my secondary school days, and I peaked during my polytechnic years. I realised I needed to face reality and work harder than my hearing peers if I want to succeed. And I did. I managed to receive a scholarship in polytechnic, and am currently under a scholarship at university.
I wish this is a happy ending, but it isn’t. University life is challenging. I didn’t have a regular clique to depend on with because classmates change every semester. With new classmates, I had to keep repeating my story of being Deaf and my communication preferences. Given my shy personality, this was a struggle. I remembered the joy of scoring 71 marks for a quiz only to find out that I had received one of the lowest scores in class. My results were not up to expectations, and I even received a warning letter for not meeting my scholarship grade requirements. I remember getting left behind for class participation (which was graded) because it was advancing too quickly for a notetaker to catch up. I remember applying for withdrawal from school because I simply couldn’t keep up.
I’m not here to tell you a zero-to-hero story. I’ve learned that school and life is a process; there will always be ups and downs, and a single moment should not define us. I feel we should not compare ourselves with others because different people have different abilities and learning. To everyone out there, and to my younger sister, I wish to say results and failures aren’t everything. It’s about the experience and process. Even now, I’m still struggling to improve myself, and I’m sure you are too. Find something to release your worries and stress. Let’s work smart to get better each day.