Saturday, November 05, 2005

Semi-orphaned children

In my years as a teacher, I have come across several sad cases of how children, who are otherwise very bright, under-perform in their school work. Worst, some of these same children become infrequent in classes, and generally do not get on well with their fellow students.

In almost all of these cases, these children come from broken homes - homes where the father and mother are always quarrelling or who have separated or divorced, and still quarelling - over child custody and, possibly, cash. I do not pretend to understand the issues behind these, but it is enough to know that they are in very bad environment for a child to grow up in, even for 17 and 18 year-olds.

So, I can understand the concerns of social workers who are alarmed to learn that, in 2004, nearly 1.5 million babies were born to unmarried woman in the US. The statistics are startling:

By age group, almost 55% of the births for mothers ages 20-24 were to unmarried women. For those between 25-29, almost 28% of the births were to single women.

Teenagers, who accounted for 50% of unwed births in 1970, accounted for 24% of unwed births in 2004.

Source: USA Today

This seems to suggest that this trend is by choice because these groups of mothers are in their twenties - adults who are matured enough to think for themselves. This group of people tend also to have some financial means.

What happens today will affect the US in 16 years time, for that is when children become teenagers and start to exhibit the values they would have imbibed in such single-parent family environments. My concern is that it would likely be unpleasant for teachers then, if not society at large, further down the time-line.

I hope that Singaporeans do not go down this road. Otherwise, those who are still in the teaching profession will have their work cut out for them.

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