Teaching runs in this family

Teaching runs in this family
Ms Ruth Shirley Janarthanam (foreground), with (from left) her brother Luke, mother Elaine Heng and father Janarthanam Subramaniam.

SINGAPORE - Seeing how her parents were so busy as educators is a "double discouragement" from following in their footsteps, says visual arts graduate Ruth Shirley Janarthanam.

"But I think I have their genes to be a teacher," says the 19-year-old School of the Arts alumnus, who has just graduated with an International Baccalaureate diploma with a score of 40 out of 45.

After all, she seems to have an affinity with kids. For 1½ years from 2012 to last year, she created weekly or bi-weekly art lessons for primary school pupils, including those from poor or broken homes, at Kampong Kapor Family Service Centre.

Her father, Mr Janarthanam Subramaniam, 49, head of department of physical education in a secondary school, says he does not discourage his elder child, who hopes to study sociology or international relations, from joining the teaching profession. "If she's good at it, she should teach with passion and love her kids."

His wife, Ms Elaine Heng Quek Liang, quit teaching at a primary school when Ruth was born, "to take care of and teach my own children". She became a private tutor and hired a maid to help at home when Ruth was 10 and her younger brother Luke was seven.

What early promise did Ruth show as an artist?

Mr Janarthanam: My wife kept a file of her drawings from when she was three or four years old. We took her to art galleries and exhibitions, and signed her up for art classes when she was four. But the classes lasted for less than a year because she didn't like drawing animals in class.

Ruth: From the time I was five till about eight or nine, I drew dresses and clothes every day when I came back home from South View Primary School.

Mr Janarthanam: I would like to appreciate her current art, but it's too conceptual for me. I prefer landscapes or portraits.

Luke: I don't understand her work either, but I respect her work.

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