Where Plump Pigeons Fly: 003

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It was a cold week, to say the very least. This week marked the start of lessons proper at the culinary school. Demonstrations have begun, and practical lessons followed suit. Each student was given an impressive set of tools, which they certainly paid for. Some of these, like the chopper or the fish knife, will be put aside for now, while the others were put to good use in the first few practical classes.

Being back in school again feels nostalgic. It’s a different type of school, in comparison with high school, but it’s still an institute of learning. Not that I didn’t learn anything in the past two years in the army, the setting of the demonstration theatres and the kitchen classrooms is homologous to the lecture halls and tutorial classes. I’m happy to be back, learning again.

In a small country like Singapore, the government has always emphasised the importance of learning. The Ministry of Education, of Manpower aims to mould a learning nation, one in which its citizens constantly upgrade themselves to support the various pillars of the economy, and so on. Besides that little patriotism to contribute one’s value to society, what is the individual’s motivation to keep learning? Is it the process, the consequences, or just doing so because everyone is learning?

A little bit of everything. We like learning in general. In the process, we feel productive instead of wallowing in laziness or slogging away for cold, hard cash or promotions. As a student, we have subjects that we like, and others that we don’t, but it is always a positive process. Studying for exams, on the other hand, can be a little annoying. Although studying and learning are not identical processes, they are part of each other. That’s when the other reasons of motivation come in.

We learn because we want to succeed in life. In a meritocratic society like mine, certificates and results make a great deal of difference in determining the outlooks of one’s future. The number of As on the high-school final year report matter. And various schools have established a diversity of extra-curricular programmes – science research programmes, student-leader conferences, or overseas exchange programmes. While it’s true that some students genuinely participate for the delight of learning, there is always a harvest for portfolios or CVs. He attended this science fair and she organized that community project – experiences that can make an impression during interviews for prized placings in undergraduate schools.

In my struggle, not mine alone, between ideals and pragmatism, I think that either, or both of, these reasons are legitimate. Sometimes we enjoy what we learn, and other times we envision the reward of learning. After all, learning is not all sweets and rainbows. Needless to say, the third reason is unwelcome.

I’m sharing my thoughts on learning because I am pondering over the value of learning. What is worth learning, and what not? Time and youth are limited, so we must be choosy. Ideally, there shouldn’t be a difference in value-judgement between learning in a cooking school and in university. Practically, an undergraduate degree weighs much more than a culinary diploma. I’m unsure how other countries and cultures weigh such practicalities  but from a Singaporean perspective, it is so. The paper matters. It’s a truth that I had hoped otherwise for.

It’s ironic, to realize that accepting this truth subscribes myself to the third reason. The paper matters because everyone else hold high regard for it. I will be doing something because everyone is doing the same thing. I can turn a blind eye and “learn what I want” and “do what I want”, but it is easier said than done. In the coming three months, I have to figure an answer out.

Moving on, it has been a rewarding experience learning how to live independently. Living alone takes skill, because you have to take care of everything yourself. Your laundry, your meals, your room hygiene etc. But those are the simple stuff. The challenging tasks are keeping your spirits up, finding motivation, and cooking healthy meals for yourself. If these don’t matter, I’ll probably end up as a couch potato,eating microwave-ready meals and sleeping the day away. It’s been one and half weeks, I’ve coped well, but it’s been only such a short time. Time will tell the tale.

P.S. WordPress has a new interface, seems pretty decent!

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