Education comes in many forms and the more strident the content the more a child, and we adults remember. The process of learning by rote drums the content into our skulls but overshadows the concept of enjoying the educational process, which is sadly lost to a series of rehearsed mantras and mnemonics. But there is another approach which can be seen at Haw Par Villa in Singapore.
This weird and wonderful park was built in 1937 by Aw Boon-Par one of the brothers involved in the commercial development of Tiger Balm, that cure all potion that relieves everything from a headache to a missing limb. It was in the grounds of the new mansion built for his elder brother and business partner Aw Boon-Haw. Their philanthropic activities centred on education which is the reason behind the whole theme park. Although the theme park still exists and is constantly being maintained, sadly the magnificent mansion house is now derelict.
There are over 1000 statues and 150 giant dioramas depicting positive educational themes form ancient Chinese folklore. Central to this theme is the Temple of Justice. A cave depicting all manner of retribution for everything from being cheeky to ones elders through every known form of criminal activity. Especially relevant is the punishment for lending money at excessive rates of interest which results in being crushed under a huge grinding stone. This part of the park is in a grotto along with warning signs declaring that some of the punishments being metered out are extremely gory and may upset younger viewers. In my experience this serves as an enticement guaranteed to get all 6 years olds plus to want to have a look, perhaps exactly what the Haw Par brothers had intended.
The dioramas depict tales of ancient Chinese folk lore as well as morals in more modern culture featuring wisdom and cause and effect in society. It all takes a bit of understanding to grasp the theme of each setting but the park is firm favourite with schools even after nearly 80 years since it was built. As a practical teaching resource it is unparalleled and demonstrated the forward thinking of the Haw Par brothers. Perhaps there is scope for a modern version commissioned by a philanthropist that will enthral modern generations of school children