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 +

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bullying by teachers in Singapore's schools.

Singapore has a bullying problem. Disturbingly, however, the bullies are the teachers.

I have heard many examples of bullying, in Singapore, by teachers. I shall detail a couple in different posts, in due course. Today, I will begin with one I found most shocking.

In one of Singapore's best known schools there is a teacher whose personality can only be described as sadistic. This teacher loves to humiliate students. In this teacher's class there is a young boy who has dyspraxia. This is a disorder of motor co-ordination.

One day, this boy forgot his school books. Instead of arranging for the boy to share his books with a neighbour, the teacher responded to the situation by getting the boy to stand on his desk, for one hour. Recall that he has a disorder of motor co-ordination and that standing on the desk is not easy for him...he could easily fall off.

The teacher wasn't satisified with that. The teacher told him: "Your name is Stupid. What's your name?" He asked the boy this repeatedly until the boy said: "My name is Stupid.", before the whole class. Thereafter, for the rest of the year, this boy was called "Stupid" whenever the teacher addressed him.

The parents of the boy complained about the teacher's behaviour but absolutely nothing was done to stop it.

Finally, the year passed (he had been in Primary Five) and Primary Six began. The boy's parents thought that this would be a better year, because he would no longer have contact with that teacher.

On the first day of P6, the boy's new teacher pointed out the boy in class, as he welcomed the new students and said: "I know your name: you are Stupid!" - and so it began again.

This is the truth of the Singaporean education system. This is what so many students have to endure - tales that echo this one. I have heard quite a few. Teachers are bullying students all over Singapore. Yet, nothing is ever done to stop it: the parents are always ignored.

(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 @ 8:51 AM 


Blogger Indiana said...

If you know this for a fact, why not name both the school and the teacher?

9:29 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Indiana,

This information was relayed to me by an expat teacher I have known for some years: she didn't include the name of the school or the teacher in her telling - and I was too shocked to ask. The next time I see her, I will see if she will let me know.

I have heard other tales of bullying, by teachers, too...quite a few such a tales in fact. I shall detail one soon in which I do know the names of the school/teacher.


10:26 AM  
Blogger Indiana said...

I agree totally with what you are saying here, it is disgusting that it is not only accepted but tolerated and supported.

I hope in the cases where you know it as fact (and not the heresay of another) that you will name names.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, things were worst in the past during my parent's generation.

In fact, the norm now is for teachers to be afraid of the parents, and hence many students are no longer disciplined (effectively) by the teachers.

The case you have mentioned here is an exception, and no doubt there are many of such exceptions, but they do not constitute the norm, nor do they even form a significant proportion.

As with any school system, there will always be such teachers, esp now with many fresh, frustrated teachers, aka those who have lost their jobs.

Perhaps your friend should inform MOE. I'm sure MOE will do the right thing.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

That is evil. I do think those teachers shouldn't be having their jobs.
I was humiliated by a teacher in third grade and my mother took me out of the school.
I did have a teacher that also humiliated me, but I don't think she meant it. Whenever she gave out tests, she would write the scores on the board and have the kid(s) with the highest score stand up. It was usually either me or a boy named Tim. That helped me get picked on a lot.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Hi Indiana,

This information was relayed to me by an expat teacher I have known for some years: she didn't include the name of the school or the teacher in her telling - and I was too shocked to ask. The next time I see her, I will see if she will let me know."

Dear Valentine,

In this case, wouldn't it be better had you done so before writing about the school?


11:56 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Indiana, I am sure that what my friend tells me is true: she is a very straightforward woman of about 60, well trusted in the community. She doesn't play games.

I agree that it is wrong that such practices go unpunished and are allowed to continue: that poor kid has enough problems without being bullied as well.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, it is evil - and very cruel.

As for class rankings: my school used to publish them for all to see pasted on the walls. The result was that top performers were bullied. What a stupid policy.

Thanks for your comment.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. informing the MOE: that could be a way forward. It is clear that schools, themselves, in general, do little to curb these practices.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. waiting until I knew which school.

No, I shouldn't wait for such information. I am sure that her story is a true there is no need to hold back until I have the identity of the school. Furthermore, given that I teach myself, in Singapore, at times, naming the school might actually cause ME problems, within the system. Singapore's is a system that doesn't like openness too much. Those who open it up, can expect reprisals.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Your comment is puzzling, since I haven't named the school...

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the contrary, i do not think that class rankings help to promote bullying.

I was top in my class in primary school and among the top 30 in secondary school and consistently top in my JC class, but throughout my education, i have not been bullied once.

Among my school mates who are even better than myself, none of them received any form of bullying- on the contrary many of them remained popular with the school students and teachers.

Perhaps the schools i attended were just different?

12:56 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. rankings and bullying.

You have no perspective on other cultures.

The chance of being bullied for being top of the class/school in the UK is 100% in every single school. You will ALWAYS get picked on if you do well academically, in that country. The same goes for many other countries. You, presumably are writing from Singapore. Here, things are rather different.

Thanks for your comment.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. rankings and bullying.

You have no perspective on other cultures.

The chance of being bullied for being top of the class/school in the UK is 100% in every single school. You will ALWAYS get picked on if you do well academically, in that country. The same goes for many other countries. You, presumably are writing from Singapore. Here, things are rather different.

Thanks for your comment.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this post was on Singapore, hence i'm (of course...duh) writing from a local perspective...i thought that was obvious enough.

No need to assume(and make An ASS of U and ME) that i "have no perspective on other cultures."
I'm not fond of judgment based on just one statement...And i hope u're not too fond of jumping to conclusions about others based on a single comment.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Ass u me.

You are over-reacting. I was merely pointing out that your answer is not universal, but very local. It is, in fact, an answer that doesn't address the comment of Christine, who is most probably not from Singapore, given her previous posts. Her comment required an international perspective to answer it properly. To object to her more universal experience, with a local situation, as you did, is, indeed, to ignore almost the whole of Earth and its people.

You are overlooking the fact that most people who read this blog are from overseas. Thus, all answers need to have an international viewpoint...otherwise they are not really valid or valuable.

The posts, however, can be aimed at any topic, anywhere, whether it be a local topic or an international one.

Anyway, bullying in schools is not just a local topic. Other nations have schools too...and there is bullying in them as well. So, of course, duh, an international perspective is necessary.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U did not address my point that u were judging me.

Also, since this post was tagged under Singapore(and the story is a local one too), I thought it was fair to give a local perspective on my part, unless a local view is too small to be heard...which in that case, U may want to untag it under Singapore...

I'm all for international response, but your reply to my earlier post and your judgment of me were uncalled for.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I went to school in Massachusetts, USA. Yes, students the USA and the UK and many other Western countries seem to not appreciate academically inclined peers. Gifted and very bright students are often picked on and called things like "nerds", "geeks", and the like. I was often called a "geek" just because I wore glasses and was always reading a book.
I have wished that the West would make academic success as something that is just as appreciated as doing well in sports. Yet sports seem to make the school celebrities, not academics.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I rather thought you were American, Christine.

Yes, I have posted before about the sports gifted as heroes and the academically gifted as the opposite. It is sad...and limiting. However, it is the culture in the Western countries with which I am familiar. It seems the wrong people are feted...or at least the right people are not feted.

Thanks for your comment.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Judging you.

I haven't judged you in anyway. I have just observed that YOUR COMMENT was not from a global perspective. That is all. I did not mean that you, as a person, were not capable of such perspectives.

I am sorry if offense has been caused...I am just seeking to clarify the situation.

As you can see from Christine's clarification, I was right in thinking that she was not local.

A local perspective is valuable, too...but it should be marked as local...meaning you should say something like: "In Singapore...". Otherwise, it comes across as a categorical statement that bright students are not bullied - which is just not true. Generally speaking, bright students are usualy bullied - that is they are bullied in most countries.

Thanks for your comment.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Anon of 7.01 pm.

You may recall (if not read it above) that it was you who brought the dialogue into negative territory by first using "duh"...with all its implications for the mentality of your correspondent. Your writing was rather provocative. My reply just sought to explain to you what you had overlooked, that is all. It was not meant to be as your comment had been.

I find that internet writing often leads to misunderstandings, because there is no expression or tone of voice. It is easy to make assumptions about the other's meaning. For instance, I don't know where you got the impression I was making a global judgement of you...not so.

Thanks for your comment.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous me :) said...

Maybe this is a one-off case?
There are black sheeps everywhere... :P

6:24 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I wish it were a case of a single black sheep...however, I have heard of other cases and I am just one pair of ears. No doubt there are many cases out there.

Thanks for the hope, though.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi dear,

We have all probably played the game called "pass the message". The last message received after being relayed one by one to some 10 persons is very often very different from the original message sent. This goes to show that word of mouth is totally unreliable.

This cases that you may have heard, for all we know might have stemmed from just a single case but got decorated along the way and as a result, it seems like there's a few stories even though it's just a story to start with.

As with all comments required to be clear cut legally or not, it's best to be backed up with concrete evidence as to actual time, date, etc.

I am saying this because for instance the recent case about the toddler being kicked and abused by the maid as seen on youtube, most assumed it's recent and local when in actual truth, it's a 2 year old case in Malaysia. When where how the video got circulated and caught our attention, we don't know. I'm only glad that we know the actual truth at the end of it.


12:38 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

"Pass the message" is completely irrelevant to the sources of my information, since the supply chain is very short: directly from an observer of the situation, to me. There is very little room for "decoration".

As for other evidence, bullying by teachers in Singapore must be quite common, because MY OWN SON has experienced it. (I may detail the case at some point...I will have to think about it.) Now, that particular is very short indeed. It comes directly from me...since I witnessed the effect of the bullying which involved some physical action on the part of the teacher.

Bullying by teachers happens in Singapore...those who seek to deny it do every Singaporean child and parent a disservice.

By the way, it feels very, very strange to be addressed as "dear" by someone I don't know...

Thanks for your comment.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


i was bullied too...

my maths teacher in school told me off in class...

he mention that while my classmate allan is intelligent but lazy...i am hardworking but stupid...

not only that, when there are additional lessons given on saturday morning or at his home...he only allows a certain group of classmates to be taught...

needless to say, stupid students and those he consider not good enough students or hopeless are left out...


4:01 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. The teacher in question sounds awful.

Best wishes.

7:41 PM  

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