Post-PSLE book-burning photo inflames netizens

In this picture that was initially published in Shin Min Daily News, a group of children and parents appear to be burning textbooks following the recent PSLE. 
The photo later made its rounds on Facebook, sparking complaints over the message it sent
In this picture that was initially published in Shin Min Daily News, a group of children and parents appear to be burning textbooks following the recent PSLE. The photo later made its rounds on Facebook, sparking complaints over the message it sent and the wastage of the books themselves.

While many families breathed a sigh of relief after the Primary School Leaving Examination ended last Wednesday, some took celebrations a step further - by setting their books on fire.

A photo of a group of children and parents burning what appears to be textbooks has sparked discussion after being shared online. Some concerned netizens accused them of degrading knowledge and education, while others questioned why the books were not given to needy students instead.

After the photo was published in Chinese evening paper Shin Min Daily News, it made the rounds on Facebook and forums such as kiasuparents.com.

Mrs Kelly Yeo, 40, who saw the original photo on Sunday, said she felt very sad for the children. "It shows how stressed they are and what kind of mindset they have (about) exams. They don't see them as part of the learning journey.

"The source of it all is the great emphasis on exam grades in the education system."

The homemaker and mother of four boys aged eight to 14 said that after her two older sons sat their PSLE, their books were kept for the younger siblings and members of their extended family. "Some of the books my children have are also passed down from other friends," she added.

Another parent, Madam Lim Shu Min, 41, said of the children in the photo: "It's worse that their parents are there encouraging them. Education starts at home. There must be something wrong if children think it's okay to burn their textbooks."

Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education Lim Biow Chuan said the photo sent the wrong signal from the parents.

"Books are a source of knowledge meant to help and educate a person so whatever the amount of stress one may have I don't think they should burn the books," said Mr Lim, who is also the MP for Mountbatten.

His younger daughter sat the PSLE this year and he plans to ask other families if they are interested in her used books.

However, Secondary 1 student Jaren Pang, who still remembers the PSLE stress from a year back, admitted he understood the pupils' feelings.

"You can be quite happy after your exams, so maybe that's why they burned the textbooks. To celebrate, and because they don't want to see the books ever again," he explained.

But he said the furthest his friends went was to tear their books and worksheets.

Jaren gave his books away to his neighbour, a Primary 3 student. "It's selfish (to burn them)," he added. "You might not need it anymore but other people do. It will help them."

Parents can donate used textbooks to needy students through NTUC FairPrice's annual Share-A-Textbook drive. The start date will be announced in November and people can pass old textbooks to cashiers in any NTUC FairPrice supermarket.

The drive accepts school books from any education level. While the Salvation Army does not have a drive for textbooks, it accepts used books of any sort at its donation centres.

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joseow@sph.com.sg