Wednesday, June 06, 2012

GNIE: Kiasu-ism in action

I wrote previously about the other GNIE sub-group who made a complaint against our teacher H. As mentioned previously, one alleged motive behind the complaint was that the group launching the complaint "preferred lecturer L because they think/feel that they will score better marks under L."

Anyway, the results of our first theory test are out. Lecturer H wrote out the scores (without the corresponding names) on the board. Thus, we know that everyone in the class of 35 passed, most students scored within the band of 83% to 93%, and the top person scored 97.6%. By any account, those would be fabulous grades for a class.

Yet, somehow it seems to me that unlike in the previous semester where my sub-group often had a celebratory feel when such test results are out, this combined class seemed "distracted" over the results. That is, they didn't seem to be elated. I suspect that I was watching kiasu-ism in action. That is, I guess that for some folks, it is not enough that they reach their Ace goal posts, it is also important that they are head-and-shoulders above their peers.

A profile of my sub-group: 2 Koreans, 3 North Indians, 4 South Indians, 7 Filipinos, 1 PRC Chinese trained in Singapore, and 1 Singaporean (yours truly).

A profile of the other sub-group: 1 Indian, 1 Thai, 4 Iranians, and the remaining 11 Filipinos (of which 2 are ethnic Chinese Filipinos).

It has been known since last semester that students in the other sub-group were observed to be more competitive in general than students in my sub-group. Students in my sub-group, despite minor disagreements with each other, are generally willing to share information and contribute to group discussions. [Note: The exceptions are a couple of students who "only take but never give in return". See below for example.]

While kiasu-ism is often associated with the Singaporean psyche, based on feedback from my classmates, I am somewhat the antithesis of that Singaporean psyche. E.g. One classmate KS remarked on Monday that when she looked into her email of GNIE notes and tips, most of them came from me and she thanked me for them. Instead, it is a couple* of my sub-group classmates (AmP and AmJ) of a certain ethnic group (I shall not say which one) who embody kiasu-ism to a T. That said, KS who of the same ethnic group as AmP and AmJ, is definitely not kiasu.
*E.g. These folks wilfully skipped the weekly 3-hour Sociology class and, on the day before a Sociology test, demanded to photocopy the handwritten notes from a kind-hearted, top-scoring, and hardworking classmate (note: that's not me). See the next section below for more.
In short, while social and cultural generalizations are quick-shortcut filters, never assume who one is dealing with based on such generalizations alone.

p.s. My theory test results fall into the modal band. I am very happy about it. I was too tired to study so I decided to sleep instead, and rely on my past knowledge and recent information gleaned from the previous day's jeopardy game revision conducted by lecturer H. Last but not least, I am very happy that everyone passed the test as well, as many of my classmates are adjusting to lecturer H's more discussion-based and self-directed approach to learning.


Last Thursday evening while waiting for the lab class to start, AmP just stood opposite me and stared for a very long time at my Sociology notes while I was typing in the information from my notes into my laptop. Finally she said, "This is your notes? I didn't come for class last week." and gave me a "give-it-to-me" look. Yup, AmP does not even bother say "please" or "thank you" when asking a favour. For someone who is amongst the top-scorers herself, who wilfully skipped Sociology class (we know that she doesn't work and her in-laws help with her childcare), who figuratively and literally looked down her nose on those whom she considered weaker students, I don't buy it that AmP "needed help". Thus, I just acted blur and pretended not to understand that obnoxious person's implicit request.
FYI: Unlike my ADD behaviour in nursing-related classes, somehow I am rather interested in the topics discussed in Sociology and was an active participant in class - raising questions, answering questions, and offering different perspectives. As the lecturer briefed us and answered questions, I would scribble down as much notes as I can. It became known that I seem to know quite a bit about Sociology from the Canadian perspective.
As a result of my pretending to not understand AmP's implicit request, she turned over to my kind-hearted, top-scoring, and hardworking classmate IT - who was studying his notes at that time - and asked, "Can I photocopy your notes?" He passed the notes to her and she went off to make copies.

After school last Thursday, AmP and her good friend AmJ came over to me. AmJ asked me for help because she couldn't think of a research topic for her Sociology assignment. At least, AmJ was polite and asked with a "please" and "thank you". So I gave her a topic that I had thought of and which no one else had laid claim to. Yup, as usual, I generated more ideas (topics) than I could use, so I had given away 3 other topics before giving the 4th to AmJ. Then came the shocker. AmJ asked, "Can you give me the references as well?" I gave a surprised look, took a beat, donned a quizzical face and then told her firmly, "I can show you where to find references in the library, but you will have to do the research yourself."
[Actually, I was thinking inside my head, "While we're at it, I might as well write your assignment, get your grades and graduate on your behalf!" The gall of some people!]
After school on Thursday, I emailed my entire sub-group (including AmP and AmJ) the keywords that my Sociology lecturer wrote on the board over the past few weeks which he said we must know. Later that night, I emailed via bcc to everyone in the class (except for AmP, AmJ and another of their "take but don't give in-return" friend) my entire set of handwritten Sociology notes after scanning them into my computer. I felt that my sub-group might like to have my notes because I noticed that many of them had difficulty catching up with the pace of discussion during Sociology class. Indeed, many thanked me the next day for the notes.

Over the weekend, I told my classmate AP about my act of excluding AmP and gang from my handwritten notes. AP cheered me on, saying that I have been too nice too them. Today, I decided that I will only share my notes with those who "give-and-take" and who at least attend class. For the kiasu few, I am going to swallow my previous semester's declaration that, "We must help everyone pass"; and replace it with "You die, your business."

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