It's amazing how an education system can inculcate learning in such different ways. As a young child being brought up in the Singapore education system, like all my peers, I've learnt how to game the system. Results were crucial, the number of As determined everything. Learning was swallowing a whole load of information and regurgitating them in exams. Sure, I got an A1 for Higher Chinese by learning to game the system effectively, but can hardly speak or read the language now to save my life.
I'm sure the genuinely smart kids easily understood concepts taught in school and applied them accordingly. Unfortunately, I was not one of those. I was a slow learner, and it took me a long time to understand what I was taught. To cope with an incredibly rigorous system, memorising was the key to success. I was also in an elite school, even though I really had no business being there. This mismatch made the stress level even higher, and the pressure to produce consistent results tremendous. I do not fault the education system though, it is what it is. Any system would work well for some and be detrimental for others.
When I started my Masters, I decided that life is too short for learning to game the system to obtain those As. I spent my entire life prior to Masters chasing As and I'm not about to continue doing that. In my first year I was hardly a straight As student, but I started to embrace the process of learning. I wanted to learn what I was curious about, write papers I was interested in researching, and make discoveries about topics that are actually relevant to my life and interests. I'm a slow learner and I wanted to learn at my own pace and embrace the journey.
Now, I can say I've fully embraced the learning journey. The process of learning is often more important than the results, and realising this really helped me enjoy learning and savour life much more. There was no rush to get to the results - each step of learning is an experience of its own we can never get back in future.
In my musical life, I grew up in an environment where music competitions were a huge deal, and results were crucial. I never enjoyed the journey, the results nor the aftermath. I was and still never am the competitive sort. The first time my teacher and I discussed concerto competition at music school, I just said "But I hate competitions!!!"
This exclamation results in me getting a spiel about exactly what I knew and wanted competitions to be - not about the results but the learning process. I do truly understand how beneficial competitions are for a musicians growth, but I avoided it for myself since it gave me more stress than I would love to have and past experiences of competitions as a young child will probably not allow me to enjoy the learning journey. When the next competition came around, I got slightly smarter about weaseling my way out of it. =) I found other ways to challenge myself of course.
Through my years of teaching, I encourage all my students to attend auditions/competitions - as a means of learning to perform, growing from the experience, tracking their musical growth, enjoyment of music, as a goal to facilitate practice and learning, the list goes on, but never merely just for the results.
My hope is to bring different perspectives of learning to all my students, encouraging them to apply it to all aspects of their life. I believe that every child should have the opportunity to explore their learning at his own pace, cherish each step they take and celebrate any progress they make in this journey. Most importantly, they become independent learners and love what they do each day.