Monday, April 07, 2008

The French are not kiasu "afraid to lose"

Over lunch I was discussing with a friend the practice of some French Universities that publish the exam results over the notice board.

I asked her:"Won't people feel ashame if they got a bad grade compared to others?"
She paused and think. Then she said:"Maybe not, but you know we are not like the anglo-saxon culture who instill competitive spirit in life."

I was so curious to find out that the French has a complete different education system and mentality in class. The system does not reward you if you do good in class, which mean you won't go receive a gift from your headmaster because you were ranked number 1,2,3 in the class. On the other hand, you would have to redo your year if you don't pass.

I remember vividly how my teachers distributed the exam papers. People who have the highest grade would be on the top. So if you were the last one to receive it, you know how bad you are. In my report card I would have my rank in class and the overall ranking with all the students same age as me. My neighbor, beat her daughter because she got 96 instead of 100. These days, parents literally ask kids "What is your ranking in class? How many As did you get in PMR?..." We are living in the world where everyday people compare our achievement to others, and less, in our own progress. This is not so the case in France.

My friend couldn't believe when I told her that during my Uni time, some students stole others lecture notes so that others won't be able to get good grades in class. Yes, this is how kiasu the system makes us. It was difficult to make real friends with the coursemates, as we were fighting constantly with each others. People tend to hide information for themselves so that they would get better grade than you.

Now, I do see the bright side of the French education system. In my class, people are willing to share, and we don't fight much among ourselves. If you get good grade, good for you, but seldom people would get jealous over it. I was very impressed by how people can be good friends during the college life and keep in touch after graduation.

I think it will be good to have a balance between reward and competitiveness. Reward those who work well, but let them strike for themselves, not due to the kiasuness. So, next time if your kid is not doing well in class, help him improve, but don't tell him:" Why you so stupid lah, Ah Beng also got A and you are even worst than Ah Lian. "

We don't have to be kiasu to perform.


  1. BE,
    I think learning is a life long process.

    The gift that I inherited from my mom that if you instill a love of learning in any child, the child will not stop learning.

    My mother is a wonderful educator though she herself had never gone to any formal school because of 2nd world war but she instills a love of learning in all her 3 children.

    I pass this gift to my little boy. He loves to learn. If there is nothing I do it right to this child, I have instill a love for learning in him !

    He loves to read, to write and loves to reason and I hope that as he grown into a young man, he will appreciate the rhetoric part of education.

    I enjoy being a part of my child education, it is a joy to see him grow in wisdom and understanding each passing days.

    My siblings and I are life long learners :). My husband family too :). My late mother in law got her 2nd Ph.D when she was 52 :). She loved languages, so she became a scholar in both French and Japanese language :).

    We are a family of life long students :).


  2. I absolutely agree with you with the education system and the mentality of the people here.

    It is quite seldom that people will be jealous with you for getting good grades here.

    Hmm..I didn't know that people will steal other's notes just to prevent them from getting good grades. That's a little too far.

  3. Anonymous9:23 PM

    Kayatan... you have been pretty quiet with your seaykopitiam hah..

    I think it is an interesting mentality. I suppose French understand that knowledge is not a zero sum game and the more they share, the better it is for themself and others. This is win win I suppose. Stealing notes would be loose loose (I had a Singaporean friend whose uni collegue actually gone as far as destroying another guy project so that that guy won't get a better mark then him (and they are not even suppose to be competing - their is no ranking etc)


  4. Casper,
    Did you check my new seaykopitiam ?
    It is
    I have been busy the last 2 weeks. Will update more often after April.
    Take care