My School Daze

Reviewed by: XWingSuki

June 17, 2009

Rating: four

The plot is revolving around two Mandarin language secondary school teachers with two different styles of teaching: Tan Xiangchun (Chen Hanwei) and Isabel Zhang (Rui En). Tan is conservative whereas Isabel, as in Rui En's previous roles, is wild and rowdy. While Tan thinks "practise makes perfect" and believes in student discipline and respect, Isabel thinks she can motivate the students by rewarding them with music CDs and bringing them for rides in her sports car.

The principal recognizes Tan as the potential Head of Department, much to Isabel's dismay as she has been working hard for the position all the while. She doesn't realize that working in a company differs from being a teacher, where teachers are valued for their years of experience. However, disaster strikes. Tan injures a problem student and later on, due to stress, develops health problems. Under his wife Qiaozhen (Ann Kok)'s advice, he quits his job and joins Qiaozhen in teaching at Shuren Learning Centre, their tuition school. However, there is another problem - although their daughter, Yixin excels in her studies and at sports, their son Yijie does not have the academic intelligence his sister possesses. He has a love for badminton, though. Qiaozhen disallows her son to play badminton with the condition he should pass his three important subjects with flying colours if he wishes to do so.

Their crafty neighbor Guijuan (Cynthia Koh), married to hawker Tang Andi (Darren Lim) has a knack for promoting things. Guijuan suggests that if she introduce people to enrol their kids at Shuren, she can get one month's worth of tuition for her son Dehua as well as commission. She encourages Dehua to study and forces him to have tuition, but Dehua is not interested in study. Unknown to them, he has a hidden talent at cooking.

After a number of unexpected events, Dehua and Yijie run away from home, hoping to be freed from the pressure from their mothes.

As for Isabel, she has been avoiding matchmaking dates from her older sister Tracy (Apple Hong) until she meets Tan Xiangfeng (Terence Cao), a TV host with a free lifestyle. She mistakes he is a homosexual and Xiangfeng lies to her that he has an ailing father who would wish to see his son having a girlfriend. Isabel agrees hoping that her sister will not force her to have more matchmaking dates. They fall in love, but a third-party, Tracy's sister-in-law Yuxuan (Eelyn Kok) appears.

At the same time, a misunderstanding with Ma Jialing, a student who has a deep love for Higher Chinese, causes Isabel to land in hot waters with students in the school, hurting their impression of her. Isabel quits her job and goes to work in Shuren, not long before she finds out that her ideas and thinking differs from the Tans' and leaves to open a tuition school with Yuxuan and Xiangfeng. However, her stubborn nature results in further misunderstandings with Ma Jialing's mother (Lin Meijiao) who wishes to enrol her daughter. From that incident, Isabel realizes Yuxuan has been using her.

In overall, the drama wasn't bad. In addition, it tells non-Singaporeans about the Singapore education system and the lifestyle and pressures encountered by teachers (Tan Xiangchun) from students and school children from their parents (Dehua and Yijie) or peers (in the case of Yixin with the younger China exchange student Jiang Jun and Ma Jialing with her peers who look down on her and tease her).

Overall comments regarding the actors/actresses:

As veterans, Chen Hanwei and Ann Kok were very promising as a couple in their late thirties, and I have no negative comments on their performance. Chen played his role as a very traditional and down-to-earth teacher very well. Ann as a strict mother yet tender at heart played both sides to herself very well, and her tears were very natural.

Cynthia and Darren as a couple have very good chemistry - they have played as lovers or couples more than once. However, they did seem a bit too young sometimes. Despite that, you can laugh all day watching Cynthia's antics.. she is very cute in the drama! She never persists not to express how kiasu she is! This proves she can act many roles. I liked her wardrobe, and how she would doll up from time to time. Darren's role, however, was not much of a difference from his role in "A New Life", however, the combination of the two made a really wacky couple.

This is the second time I saw Rui En and Terence cast together, and I have no further comments on their chemistry. However, Terence looks like he's 35-38 years old (he is 40+), while the character Xiangfeng is supposed to be about 26-28. Also, I didn't like his clothes in the drama as it seems abit awkward for Singaporeans to dress in such a manner.

Eelyn Kok is quite pretty, but her role comes out at the somewhat-end of the drama. She also has a very natural style of acting, the very carefree type.

As for the children, they played their roles quite innocently. I liked Jarren, who played Dehua most. He was cheeky and very adorable! His role among the children had the most flavor. Yijie was cute too, very scared and often had to listen to Dehua or his sister. Most people, however, like Jiang Jun, the China student. Jiang Jun is very mature and understanding, and very open about Guijuan using him, however he has a small role in the whole drama.

To sum up, if you love the movies I NOT STUPID and I NOT STUPID TOO, and are looking for a longer drama (20 episodes) about school children, this is the drama for you! or if you are a fan of Cynthia, Ann or Rui En, do watch this drama.

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