Were you a 90s kid? Here are 5 things you lived through that your kids will never experience

There was a time when children still went to sand-filled playgrounds and teens depended on second-hand bookshops for affordable romance novels and comic books.

If you were a child in Singapore in the 1990s, you would remember how much fun those years without Snapchat filters were.

The mischievous ones will even remember how they were threatened with a ruler when they forgot to do their homework.

Rest assured, corporal punishment is no longer allowed in schools.

Here are five other things we had to go through up till the early 2000s which pupils in the digital age will never get to experience. Fortunate or unfortunate? We leave that up to you.

1) Pets coursebook

Different textbooks and workbooks used by Primary Five kids in the EM1/EM2 and EM3 streams. Photo: SPH

Remember when English lessons were all about spotting hidden animals in your textbook?

The Primary English Thematic Series (Pets) coursebooks were introduced in 1992 by the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore (CDIS). Bet you didn’t know that the series was written by an all-women team and took 18 months to complete before being introduced to schools.

In the late 90s, textbook publication was opened up to commercial publishers for direct sales to schools instead. This allowed schools to pick their own textbooks, and meant different schools could use different materials for teaching.

2) Electronic ban

A mini Nintendo Game Boy keychain. Photo: The Straits Times

We didn’t have Instagram or Snapchat then, but we had our fair share of gadget obsessions too.

From Walkmans to pagers, and eventually the iconic Nokia 8250, schoolkids bonded with each other over their clunky gadgets. The thing was, these electronics were considered prohibited items in most schools and students would have to get creative and think of new ways to hide their gadgets during spotchecks.

These days, most schools allow pupils to bring their mobile phones and gadgets to class, as long as they don’t use them during lessons or within school compounds.

3) Cheap junk food for recess

A drinks vending machine at Balestier Hill Primary School tuckshop. Photo: SPH

What was your favourite after-CCA snack? French fries in the school canteen, perhaps?

Back in the day, tuckshop vendors sold cheap and simple meals to hungry pupils. But you won’t find the same menu in many schools today.

As of February this year, 319 out of 359 schools from the primary level to junior college had joined the Health Promotion Board’s Healthy Meals in Schools Programme (HMSP). School canteens in the programme have to serve healthier meals containing whole-grains, skinless poultry and lean meat. They must also use reduced-fat ingredients where possible.

Other products and drinks sold must have the Healthier Choice symbol, and unsurprisingly, deep fried and preserved food items are no longer allowed.

But because healthy food costs more, the prices of tuckshop food have also gone up. A parent told The Straits Times that a bowl of porridge with a side of fruits now costs $1.50 in her daughter’s school, when it used to cost just 70 cents without the fruit.

4) TAF Club

Trim and Fit program at St Andrew’s Junior School. Photo: SPH

Singaporeans who had the privilege of joining the Trim and Fit programme (otherwise known as TAF Club) would be glad to know that their kids will never have to go through the same trauma.

Designed to fight child obesity, TAF Club’s members were singled-out for being overweight and had to complete exercises before school started and during recess.

Critics pointed out that the programme caused children to feel embarrassed and psychologically stressed. It didn’t help that “TAF” when spelled in reverse was the word “fat”, causing many children to be teased and stigmatised. A 2005 NUS study even linked TAF to an increase in cases of eating disorders from 1994 to 2002.

After 15 years, the programme was finally scrapped in 2007 and replaced with the Holistic Health Framework, which focuses on the total well-being of all students by encouraging them to lead a healthy lifestyle.

These days, many schools encourage pupils to be active by introducing fun games and activities during recess or before and after school hours.

5) Primary school streaming and secondary school rankings

Pupils in class in the 1990s. Photo: SPH

“Streaming” and “PSLE” were probably the two most overused words during our time in primary school. These stressful events shaped most of what we remember about the education system of our time, but pupils today and in the future may have very different experiences.

In the early 2000s, many schools began to reduce reliance on rote learning and aimed to encourage critical thinking.

In 2004, EM1 and EM2 streams in primary school were merged, and by 2008, the EM3 stream was removed completely. The banding of secondary schools was also dropped in 2012 with the aim of making “every school a good school”.

One of the initiatives introduced to teach children about core values is the Form-teacher Guidance Period (FTGP), where teachers interact with pupils to help them discover their strengths and interests, and develop their social and emotional competencies.