The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, July 11, 2008

The shame of a nation.

How much should a book cost? What is a fair price? In particular how much should a book used in school cost? Think of a reasonable price, a price you would feel comfortable with.

I have learnt of a private language school, in Singapore, that disagrees with you, over the proper price for a book. A foreign student of that school was complaining that they had been charged SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS for their course books, for their language course (about a three month course).

Now, I would like you to guess how many books she received for her 600 dollars. How many books would have to have been priced fairly to come to a total of 600 dollars?

Two. That's right - she received two, quite slender, English language teaching books for her 600 dollars. One was a Student Book and one was a Workbook.

Now, this girl was upset enough over what she had been charged, but I bet she would have been even more upset to learn just how much those books actually cost. I would like you to have a guess at the standard retail price of those two books.

They cost just twenty-five dollars each, in any well-stocked bookstore. Thus, her 600 dollars of books could have been had for just 50 dollars, had she known to go to a bookstore rather than suffer the predations of the school salesman.

Singapore is aiming to be an "education hub" for the world. It aims to attract - and is already attracting - students from all over the world to come to study here and better themselves. There is nothing wrong with that aim. However, it must be implemented with integrity. Such abuses as the one I have just described must not be allowed to sully the reputation of Singapore, as an educational centre.

That girl has a tongue. That tongue will tell the tale of the 600 dollar course books to many people in the years to come. Rumours will spread about the extortionate cost of things in Singapore. There is no telling how many people will get to hear that tale. Most of the damage, of course, will be done to the reputation of the school in question. However, some of that poor reputation will attach itself to Singapore as the location of the school.

I am unaware as to whether charging 600 dollars for a couple of books is school policy or whether it is opportunism on the part of the salesman, who may, indeed, be pocketing 550 dollars for himself. Whoever is ultimately responsible, it should be stopped. Such practices are criminal in a moral light, whether or not they would be regarded as criminal in law.

Singapore speaks often of how "clean" it is of corruption of all kinds. Yet, it seems, there are dubious practices happening everyday in Singapore that appear to be overlooked. They usually centre on overcharging or exploitation of the customer in some way. To me, such dubious practices are as unwelcome as any corruption in high places might be. Society should do what it can to stamp out such abuses before Singapore becomes known not for its "clean" society, but for being a rip-off.

Truly, that private school is the shame of the Singaporean nation. It is also, of course, doing irreparable harm to the reputation of its nation. Just think of this: what if all the students at that school are being massively overcharged for books? What if thousands of students a year are being ripped-off? Just how many hundreds of thousands or even millions of people would ulimately get to hear of how they had been cheated? That hardly benefits the reputation of Singapore.

There is one way to handle this. It should be an offence to charge higher than the cover-price/standard retail price, for any goods, within the borders of Singapore. That would put an end to it.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:15 AM 


Blogger Miao said...

Has she bought an English dictionary? The school may charge her S$1000 for one copy.

3:43 PM  
Blogger ------ said...

This is so scarily deja vu. Someone I know recently took a taxi. The taxi driver started venting about a tutor he had gotten for his two children, one in Sec2 and one in primary school. The tutor kept rattling on about being an 'MOE officer' and hassled him to buy a set of books for $500. These books were some so-called 'special programme' that was 'only available from MOE'. Yours is a private school; at least we know that they are not the people in the ministries. This MOE officer is the pits. If she's fake, she's ruining MOE's image - if she's real, what is she speaking of the quality of our civil servants?

10:03 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I rather suspect that such abuses are common in Singaporean education. There is a great desire to "succeed" which makes people easy prey to con-men out to make quick money at the expense of eager parents. It is probably one of the most common categories of overlooked crime in Singapore.

Kind regards

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sham-ful and shameful, two in one shameless perpetrator.

From the Comments, such practices seem pretty widespread in Singapore.

Where have self respect, dignity and honesty gone to?


9:51 PM  

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