When I joined FLM362, the real challenge was talking about something that was—as the course title suggested—meaningful. I decided to examine something I generally keep under wraps: the real me. I was home-schooled on an American curriculum from 2001 to 2007 after completing four years of primary education in a public school. The decision to leave the public education system was a collective one made by my family, primarily on reasons of faith and practice.
This decision had practical ramifications as I lost access to things regular student citizens would receive, like student concession fares on public transport. Most painfully, my dreams were crushed: the Singapore Youth Flying Club rejected my application as their programme is classified as a Co-Curricular Activity for schools under the Ministry of Education. The rejection—not on grounds of merit, but on the basis of my education—seared itself into my teenage mind. Rejection was also expressed in the form of disparaging comments; people told my family, “Your son won’t be able to find a job,” or “He’s going to have problems socializing,” or “You’re jeopardising your children’s future.” All these happened while hearing calls to be a proud Singaporean, which never resonated and continues to seem absurd.
I do recognise that the home-schooling path is unconventional and that people need time to accept unconventional things. Also, society now is not what it was back then. People like me are unlikely to find themselves frowned upon as intensely today. Still, the emotional turmoil of these experiences cannot be dismissed, and its effects have continued to influence my views on society till this day. The film I produced is a brief dramatic interrogation of the dissonance I experienced growing up. Through the juxtaposition of familiar Singapore scenes and my narration, I tried to convey my anguish and struggle. The lack of a conciliatory tone was intentional. As much as I bear no hatred for the people of this country, I must confess a strong resentment of many of the systems and values local society held then, and which some still hold on to. The film alludes to this, with a rather defiant penultimate declaration that conformity is not an option.
Prejudice will have a damaging impact on individuals. While my life turned out to have positive outcomes for myself and society, this will not always be the case. I hope that the film will encourage viewers to examine their behaviour and thoughts toward those who choose to take a different path in life.