I loved school more than a normal child should; it was the only thing I was good at. I hated sports: Sweating profusely as classmates lapped me on the running track was not my cup of tea. I wasn’t any good at extra-curricular activities: I dropped every single requirement outside of school by the age of 12. But the structure of a classroom, the praise of a teacher, the knowledge that I could consistently make good grades and still have time to watch X-Files, made school a pleasure rather than a chore.
From primary school all the way through high school, I never once doubted my intellectual mettle. Then I sat the university entrance exam and found out an awful truth: I was a serial coaster. Sitting on my laurels, I had been content to play teacher’s pet and fly low enough over the radar so as not to draw attention to myself.
My B+ laziness caused me to miss out on entering my dream university course (by a few points, which really rubbed salt in the wound), and I was shipped off to what I deemed the ends of the earth to study at a mid-level university. I was a big fish in a small pond and it was terrible.
Despite my general doom and gloom attitude at the time, this rude awakening was possibly the best thing that happened to me as a young adult. It caused me to re-evaluate what I wanted from life and from myself. Was I content to let others set my standards, or was I going to create my own? I stopped thinking of myself and others as direct reflections of their test scores. And the most important thing: I learned that one should never breeze through life waiting for greatness to find them.
Sometimes failure is a good and very necessary thing. It’s not nice and I highly recommend finding an alternate route to enlightening one’s self, but a hard lesson is often the most effective. Speaking of lessons, it’s time to introduce our education issue. This month’s feature is packed with information all Beijing parents should have: Explore local school options (p53); read up on the pros (and cons) of bilingual education (p59); see what parents have to say about their experiences of Beijing schools (p56), and check out three great reads for teenage girls (p62).
I sometimes wonder what might have been, had I pushed myself just that little bit harder, but unless I build a Back to the Future-style time travelling machine, I’m happy to keep moving onwards and (hopefully) upwards.