Value, develop each child's unique talent

Some parents are ignorant of the wide range of careers that their children could aspire to: podiatrists, phlebotomists, paralegals, product designers, personal shoppers and so many more (When poor children in school don't dream big; June 9).

Instead, they can force their children to dream "too big", which can also be a problem.

When we insist that anything less than becoming a doctor, lawyer or engineer is a "failure", we condemn children to a stressful and unhappy life.

We need just as many people with excellent service skills to give customers a memorable shopping or dining experience. Appropriate rewards and respect should be accorded to those who choose such careers.

But let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Exams can open doors for children from financially poor backgrounds.

Take, for example, refugee and cleaner Hunta, who is my student in an English class for speakers of other languages in Britain.

Her sons could have gone to a secondary school assigned by the local council.

Instead these aspirational young men chose to sit gruelling exams, which gained them admission to possibly the country's best free grammar school, where 20 boys compete for each place.

Ms Hunta's older son is already in a Russell Group university. Her younger has been offered a place at Oxford.

As they come from a lower-income household, both qualify for substantial financial assistance.

If we view each child as a gift to the nation, each should be valued for the totality of their natural talents.

We need smaller class sizes where professionals - teachers, career advisers, psychologists - can identify these talents, be it in the academic, sports, arts or other fields.

Then, working closely with parents, we must invest in developing these talents to the fullest.

Only then can we get children of factory workers to top schools and universities, the athletes and artists that make our nation proud, and exceptional service staff.

Lee Siew Peng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'Value, develop each child's unique talent'. Print Edition | Subscribe