Advanced as a Student

24 May 2012
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Photos by Heman Chong

It was an after-school and after-work time at (probably) the strangest looking school in town – the School Of The Arts. We were told to be here, to attend some lessons, conducted by students. And this is a preview of Advanced Studies in… (Ten Lessons for Life), part of the Singapore Arts Festival 2012. Strange enough.


It’s a school style hereafter. We were asked to line-up like students to enter the ‘classroom’. Inside there’s a mirror image of us – another line-up of students, waiting for us. Each of us was assigned to a student who immediately assumed the role of a teacher, and confined to a set of desk and chairs, in a beam of light, in the next hour.

I couldn’t remember for how long I have not been in such equality with a teacher. In a face-to-face and restricted setting, unexpectedly I did not feel uneasy being tutored by someone whom I was so unfamiliar with.

My teacher looked extremely prepared, even without any materials in her hands. The lesson started with topics of literature and theatre, then was carried over to humanity and philosophy, extended to personal experiences and beliefs, and ended with a simple call-off by Heman Chong, the creator of these ‘lessons’.

Maybe you would ask: “What could I learn in 45 minutes?”

Well, it all depends on you.

I wouldn’t say it depends on the teacher as well. Since you can’t choose your teacher, you got to choose what and how to learn from your teacher.

Learn to listen. I think this is an essential first step in a learning process. Just like in a lesson where the chair is uncomfortable, the classmates are disturbing and the teacher is talking about some boring topics. You might not like it in the beginning, but if you calm your mind down and open your heart to listen, you might comprehend the most uninteresting topic that you would never have touched.


In the unique setting of Advanced Studies in… (Ten Lessons in Life), you get the chance of talking back about your views and beliefs, either related or unrelated to the topic brought up by your teacher. Through a series of peaceful discussions, you might or might not agree with your teacher. But I do believe that you will know at least a bit more about yourself.

This is what ‘advanced studies’ are about. It’s not about what and why of a topic. It’s about ‘what it could be’ and ‘how it would be’.

Advanced Studies in… (Ten Lessons in Life) could be on top of the list of the most unusual works in the festival this year. To me, it is beyond artistic appreciation. It is an intellectual exploration.

I realized, it’s easy to be a student, but we gotta work a lot harder to be a good student.

Do I need Advanced Studies in… (Ten Lessons in Life) to know this? I don’t know. OMG.