Discipline, the main ingredient to success. Sprinkle with concentration, a dash of determination and double boil with patience. That’s the making of a properly executed education. In every education system around the world, the recipe above are quality prerequisites because students spends years in school before gaining their certification and joining the workforce. The need to have the discipline to stay on course, and the patience to knock in the hours (or in fact the years before they reach university and graduate) are what causes only a small percentage of students that can reach their goal of obtaining their degree. Even though over the years, this percentage has grown in Singapore, it still takes a lot of effort and consistency to win this studying game.
So what separates the wheat from the chaff?
Take the recent GCE “O” level results and ask the successful candidates what they did in preparation for their examinations and you will get the common reply of countless studying hours, sitting themselves down by their quarters. That takes discipline, and a matured mind. Its the ability to do more than just the ordinary, the discernment that the future grows brighter with a better education, and to find the energy locked within to do that extra mile. Again, this takes discipline. They could have been out playing, watching a movie, hanging out with friends or god forbid, playing computer games. Instead, they took the back-breaking path and stood firm in the face of distractions.
So how do we cultivate discipline and reap a successful harvest?
One of the most important ways to cultivate discipline is to complete tasks. And start when they are young. Tasks don’t have to be onerous, or even exacting as this will put the child off. It does not need to be annoying too, like taking out the trash or washing the dishes. It could be something fun, like games, or doing jigsaw puzzles, or even reading a book. The idea is to teach your child that whenever you set about a task, you should complete it. Think of what goes through the mind of someone running a marathon. Grueling, definitely. But add the sense of self accomplishment at the end of the race, and it all makes it worth it. That’s what we should help the child feel. That once you complete the task, no matter how arduous, the triumphant result outweighs its tribulation.
There are many times that children gives up too easily, and parents lets them do so. And, the parents completes it for them, or it just stops altogether. Its easy to see why this gives out all the wrong signals to the child. Inability to complete the job and see through the full cycle means that the child does not learn anything from that job. This could lead to pessimism that things cannot be done, laziness creeping in, and an unproven bout of self censure.
Its like baking a cake. Do up the dough, all the ingredients nicely folded in, let it rise, into the oven at 350, and out it comes. If you don’t try the cake yourself at the end, you will never know if you succeeded in baking a tasty cake, or it could be just a ho-hum piece of dough that you just created. Its the last steps that makes all the difference, self evaluation. When you are learning how to bake a cake, you have got to eat it too. Try it out, see if its any good, evaluate the outcome to see if its a success or failure, take notes on how it looks and tastes, and think of how the baking can be refined. Then set off and bake another cake, now improved, and that process gets repeated until you have a proud product that can win the hearts of many. (Nevermind if your kids complain of the copious amounts of cakes they have to eat before you get there) A healthy postmortem documentation of the process by oneself creates a greater self upon further refinement, an intimate knowledge of what has been done, and what else can be improved.
In every process of learning, there needs a leverage of self evaluation on the completed cycle. Students are taught by a teacher, learns it, understands it, practices sums of it, memorizes it and finally, gets tested on it. Something is missing from this formula. and that is “self evaluation”. For a good score in the final test, there is a need to self evaluate before being tested. To see if all the fundamentals of the class are properly digested. Much akin to the baking process, a baker who never tastes their own cakes, will never have a winning product. How can one sell something that doesn’t know how their products tastes? Its just silly. And that is what students must do too. To complete the cycle, a student must always evaluate themselves and improve themselves before they finally go for their finals. Making sure of this is imperative to a successful candidate. Knowing where went wrong, and correcting themselves gives them the confidence they need to attempt a major examination.
Again, that is where discipline comes into play. It takes discipline and determination for a child to sit down and study the needed hours but more if the child wants to complete every task and evaluate themselves to know if they are doing it right. Methodology, and creating an efficient learning program will help too in this case.
Generally, completing a task like a major examination takes years for the students and the daily grind of school could take the wind off of their sails by the time the examination approaches. There needs a steely determination and the discipline to keep themselves on track, with their heads up high and constantly be above of their curriculum to perform well. But if they complete their daily tasks consistently, eventually, they will complete their examinations with ease. Like a very popular Malay idiom, “sedikit, sedikit, lama lama menjadi bukit” (little by little, a long time later, makes it into a hill), doing well in their final examination is the culmination of all the small tasks that were completed earlier on in their studies. And sweet old Mr and Mrs Discipline gets you there.