SINGAPORE — Education Minister Chan Chun Sing revealed in a variety show hosted by local actor Christopher Lee that he does not discuss grades with his children.
What is more important than results is having the determination and discipline to conquer setbacks, he said in the eighth and final episode of 阿顺有煮意 (Dishing with Chris Lee), which aired on Monday (23 May) night on Channel 8.
"My kids know that their father is not perfect at everything. He has weaknesses too...Even ministers have their own challenges," Chan, 52, said in Mandarin in response to questions by Lee.
Singapore actress and host Kym Ng was also a guest on the show.
Former episodes typically featured guests from the entertainment scene, including actors Fann Wong – whom Lee is married to – Chen Hanwei, Rebecca Lim, Li Nanxing as well as singer JJ Lin. In each episode, Lee whips up Teochew dishes for guests – most times with the help of his guests – and hosts them to lunch on Pulau Ubin as well as a childhood game or two.
During Monday's episode, Chan spoke about his childhood and shared his thoughts on education and parenting in Singapore.
Chan revealed that he had learned to cook simple dishes in primary school as his parents had to go to work. The skills came in handy when he went to England to study at the University of Cambridge in 1988.
His mother did not pressure him to be a doctor or lawyer, but warned him against failing exams and being held back a year, Chan said.
"Because if so, that meant wasting one year's worth of school fees. And you will be starting work one year later – who will provide for the family in the meanwhile?" he added. "So basically, you have to do your job, what you are supposed to do, and not be a burden to society."
But with parents being more highly educated now, they have higher expectations of their children, Chan noted. "With the Internet, everyone knows what other people are doing, so we tend to compare ourselves with others and this gives people a chip on their shoulder."
The constant connectivity, via messaging and call apps like WhatsApp and Skype, may also cause the younger generation to overly depend on their parents and take things for granted, according to Chan.
For instance, Chan said that while he was studying overseas, his main mode of communication with his family was via letters. He would only call back home once a year during Chinese New Year because it was expensive, over $30 to have a one- to two-minute phone call.
A letter would take two weeks to arrive in Singapore, and a reply two weeks more to reach him, he added. Moreover, he had to carefully plan his calls, including when to talk and what to say in a limited amount of time.
Kids these days can reach out to their parents anytime and anywhere, but they risk losing some "independent attitude", Chan said.
Still, he cautioned against parents overburdening their children with their own expectations. Even with his first child, who is around eight years older than his second child, Chan would often remind himself not to impose his hopes on her.
"After all, every child is gifted differently. So we should give them the space to discover what they like," the father of three said. "As parents, if we pack their schedules 24/7, they would have no room for imagination."
Chan also said that tuition for his children is for topics that they have not learned in school and to broaden their horizons.
Being the children of a minister may bring unwanted pressure on them, he admitted. "When their results are good, people may have the perception that it is a given because their father is a minister. If they do less well, people would say: 'As a minister's child, shouldn't they do better?'"
In a Facebook post on Monday, Chan praised Lee for his "fantastic" cooking.
"Was happy to visit Pulau Ubin (with Lee and Ng), a place where I hold fond memories from my school days as a scout, camping and hiking around the island.
Many things have changed on the island, but the trip still brought back warm feelings of nostalgia."
Viewers can catch the episode on meWATCH and Mediacorp Entertainment's YouTube channel.
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