Is There Room For Compassion In Singapore’s Harsh Education System


Is scoring top in class more important than anything else?

Singapore’s stressful education system is not a surprising revelation.

It has made many headlines and become subject to a lot of criticism.

A former Ministry of Education (MOE) policy officer has come forward to say that one of the problems with Singapore’s education system is that “being depressed and anxious has become the norm for what it is like to be a student in Singapore”.

“Our students are subject to environments where they develop high amounts of shame when they fail to perform academically,” says Yann Wong.

“Even for high performing students, I have observed high amounts of anxiety due to fear of failing to perform.”

That is the basis of Chang Kai Xiang’s new short film, ‘Final Exam’.

It revolves around four classmates, Ming (Nathaniel Ng), Rafiq (Rayan Malique), Bella (Twyla Chloe Ku), and Nina (Yuiko Kayo).

How three students chose compassion over high grades

In a school, three top students who aced their Maths exam are asked to help their classmate, Nina, to improve her exam score.

Nina’s score of 81% is deemed ‘not good enough’.

Therefore, a study group is formed to help her.

Girl helping her classmate study for exam

As they get to know Nina better, they find out she is ill. The upcoming Maths test could be her final exam in school.

Motivated by compassion, they resort to making some sacrifices to help Nina achieve her goal.

“The premise of ‘Final Exam’ is actually based on an online forum post where people shared their childhood memories in school. And this particular story stayed with me for years because I’ve witnessed a similar situation back in my primary school days,“ says director Chang Kai Xiang.

“Singapore has scrapped the streaming system and will change to subject-based banding in 2024. But some things are not changing fast enough, like their parents. This is the world that Ming, Rafiq, Bella, and Nina live in.”

Mother showing off her son's Math exam results

“I think everyone will agree that kids are a reflection of their parents. But kids possess a stronger sense of compassion and empathy,” he adds.

If you grew up in an environment where your grades mattered more than anything else, then you’ll definitely related to this heartwarming masterpiece by Chang Kai Xiang.

Watch ‘Final Exam’ by Chang Kai Xiang (Singapore) here.

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