My reply to the writer of that column who was surprised to see many secondary and primary school students returning to school for activities during the holidays: What's new?
While it may be too much that primary school children return to school for cirricular or co-cirricular activities, it probably is very little as compared to what students in secondary school and JCs do. Even one of my teachers commented that JCs were more stressful than university education. We cannot enjoy our "holidays" anymore. Nope. No time for that. To be the best in the world, to be better than the rest, to take academic excellence one step further than everyone else has - that is the main problem of developed countries. Once aquired the resources, after reaching a different arena, the priorities change, and the focus shifts to tertiary products. Education is definitely one of them, and on top of that, it is a big investment in the future economy that has a good chance of giving really high returns!
We are all caught up with this fight, this competition, to outgrow each other's economies, to be better in all aspects, compared to other cities, countries and regions. Once education is suddenly spotted as a root to the goals, it takes alot of the spotlight, and a student becomes not only an occupation, but also a full time job. Singapore is not in this alone. We have countries like Japan and Korea for instance, with students roughly doing the same hours in school. Now that we are already studying long hours, and probably cannot extend them much further, someone, or some country will probably figure out some way to include yet another aspect into education that would place it higher in terms of, now focused on, "all round development". Everyone just wants to take it further. It's as though education itself was a research, with the best of us pushing the frontiers, hoping to come with some breakthrough to make the system "better".
Once the focus in education shifts from just ensuring literacy amongst the population to arming the next generation with tools to fight all other economies, we end up with a different culture, a culture that values education and places it on such a high pedestal that even us students feel guilty to let one moment of slack come to our lives because we know that the opportunity cost for that would be that moment of doing something related to attaining higher ranks in our education system. The pressure is caused by this culture, and the culture by the government (somewhat) who is elected by the society (who also plays a part).
With all these inevitable changes in the education system, we have no time anymore. No time in fact, to even keep up with the regular school cirriculum, or the workload handed to us. Rightfully, these holidays in the middle of school terms should not be called holidays, since holidays are days where people are exempted from work. We should call them breaks. A break from what? Well, it depends on which level of education you are at. For those who are rather near to tertiary education, these breaks that we have now serve a different purpose - to catch up. During these short gaps of cirriculum, we must seize the opportunity to eliminate the backlot that built up. This includes sleep and any other activities that we have to do to stay healthy enough to not drop dead way before the expected life span of an average person. To those who are lucky enough, they may be able to trick these breaks into giving them the opportunity to relax. These are rare and few though, since the odds are really low.
So I won't be surprised and neither should you, if a job as a student becomes more tiring and stressful than a typical worker in the workforce who is employed. Or maybe that situation is already true? I'll eventually find out. We just keep pushing, and I have no idea where the limit is. Neither does anyone! After all, the best we want is still yet to be achieved. Right?