When my elder daughter hit primary school-going age, my husband and I reviewed our options. We could send her to my alma mater, Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (PLMGS), or another one of my alma maters, a SAP school.
Admittedly, the first things that come to mind when I think about my own formative years at PLMGS are not the teachers’ godly nature or the spiritual values inculcated in us—it was the strict culture. We were known for being conservative, or to put it plainly, just downright square. No talking, no whispering, no fidgeting whether in class or in the hall; pinafores down below the knees. Not the sort of memories that inspire a mother to send her daughters to the same school.
My husband and I eventually chose a Methodist school because we were not prepared to compromise. We wanted a school that takes academic excellence seriously (as most Asian parents do), but takes putting God first in everything even more seriously. We wanted an environment in which our daughters would study hard and play hard, but always within the context of what God is seeking to build in us and through us. I love the PLMGS motto, “Look Up, Lift Up”. It is embedded in the school crest, a visible reminder to the girls to lift up their eyes and fix them on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and Lord over our everyday lives.
Character is not built overnight, but rather in a hundred different teachable moments through our growing up years, and the school environment can potentially have a huge impact on how character is formed. Both my girls are now in MGS and I appreciate the little things that contribute to a Christian school environment—the weekly chapel services, or how a theme verse is used at the start of the school year to form a spiritual thread that weaves through the rest of the year. The secondary school girls receive weekly email updates that not only contain school announcements but also a Bible verse or some other biblically-based inspirational quote. My younger one, who gets particularly anxious during exams, appreciates that her teacher will pray for the class before they sit for their papers.
Now, this does not mean that Methodist schools are perfect. No school is. There are days when my girls come home rolling their eyes at how some teachers don’t walk the talk, or how classmates behave badly despite coming from Christian homes. Bullying happens, and parents and students alike often fall into the unhealthy habit of comparing grades and anything else that establishes rank and order.
And what I struggle with the most is the knowledge that the school is better resourced than the average neighbourhood school. Will this result in my girls developing a misplaced sense of privilege when they grow up? I also occasionally wonder if I should have placed my kids in a non-Christian school instead so that they can live out their faith under more “real world” conditions. As Christians, doesn’t Jesus exhort us to be in the world but not of the world?
But the world in which our kids are growing up is increasing in both complexity and uncertainty. This has created a whole range of issues that cannot be interpreted in black-and-white terms but rather overlapping shades of grey.
Education for the modern child has to take this into account. I want my children to have the courage to step into the arena of the future without getting blindsided by the relentless onslaught of moral and ethical dilemmas they will surely face. They can only be adequately prepared for this by being grounded in God’s unchanging truth and to use that as the primary lens through which they interpret all of life.
While parents must take the primary role in discipling their own children, the school is an important partner in the process. In this regard, I appreciate how the Methodist education seeks to cement godly values and principles into the fabric of learning. Training up a child in the way she should go is a journey—a marathon, not a sprint.
My prayer for my girls is that when they have completed their years of Methodist school education, they will be able to face their future pathways like a house built on a rock, sure of their foundation in Jesus, and shining like a beacon of light and hope to all around them.
Ng Su-Ling serves on the Global Leadership Team of international missions agency Operation Mobilisation (OM). OM’s vision is to see vibrant communities of Jesus Followers among the least reached. Outside of work, Su-Ling is a hands-on mum to two Methodist school-going girls and a dog named Milo.
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