Thoughts on GP

At this very moment, let me be frank. There has never been a time in my life, as a (most of the time) hardworking student and a (fairly good) English learner, that I hate English this much, No, not English, but General Paper, to be exact.

General Paper is a H1 subject compulsory for all students pursuing A Level in Singapore. It is basically academic English with essay and comprehension paper. While I do not hesitate to admit that I am not doing so well with  my GP, that is not the main reason why I’m so fed up with it.

At times, it seems to our English teachers that we deserve no rights to be free and more creative in our expressions and arguments, simply because we are not native speakers and most of our attempts of being “creative” may turn out as a disgrace to the English language itself. I recall a time when I used a less common word found in the dictionary in my essay, and it got scratched out in red with a remark: “?” Clearly we are advised to stick to more “mainstream” vocabulary in the exam, but seriously, if the word I use is English and the one who will be marking my script is a Cambridge examiner, what’s the big deal about it unless my expression is truly awkward?

Then there’s the issue about application question in the comprehension paper. You told me to extract the author’s observations in the passage and argue how they apply to me and my society. I saw that a statement does apply to a larger part of the crowd, but not me. I said it. You asked for it so I said it. I wrote it down and the comment I received later was neither about my grammatical errors nor my incompetence in clarity, but this: “Really? You are an exception?”

Dear whoever marking my midyear script, WHAT IS SO WRONG ABOUT ME BEING AN EXCEPTION? Is there any single being in this world who is not an exception in any area/ issue/ norm at all?

You demand authenticity and originality from my writing, but you mercilessly shoot me down when I want to be honest. You want us to give you constructive feedback on your teaching, have you ever done so on your students’ papers? You frown and sigh when we don’t pay attention to your words, do you not see only question marks on their faces after you explain your markings earlier? And when you say you want us to be more creative in our expressions, have your lessons reflected the same standard?

Not all of us are gifted in writing, that’s why we need you. We need both your kind and harsh words to light our ways and improve our linguistic skills, not to shut down the already damp and dark tunnel. We want to enjoy studying GP as much as you want to enjoy educating us. So please, do not stamp out our efforts to explore English and loving it. Do not shun our attempts at being fluent while staying true to ourselves. You always say that you are not here to make life harder for us, please mean it.

All of us know that in the end, only the grade matters. It matters to our A Level certificates. Our journey with the language that you are teaching matters to our hearts. Therefore, let us try our best to make it a wonderful journey, which we all will fondly remember.

Since it will, most definitely, be life-long.