Some sketchy education background
My parent's friends sometimes ask me about what their children should do about their education. The Chinese-American parents here seems to be an especially keen bunch - much more than the Chinese-Canadian group that I knew back in Toronto. But then, their kids also seems more objectively successful. Though I'm hardly in a position to give advice, but keen parents are often impressed by people attending brand-name schools, so they ask me anyways. Here is my attempt to make people worry less.
I arrived FOB (fresh off the boat) to Canada unable to speak any English in 2002, I went to a junior high school where they grouped ESL (English as a Second Language) people with special needs children and made us color maps all class (the teacher's name was Nakra, I think she should be fired. It should be a crime teaching 14 year-olds as kindergartners). After a year of doing that, I told my dad about what we do in class and he somehow convinced the principal to put me in the non-ESL class. Despite trying quite hard to not waste this chance, I almost failed, getting 55/100. In the same year, I almost failed the science class, and actually failed the computer class (39/100, which was the lowest grade they were allowed to give, to not hurt student's self-esteem). Funny that I'm considered a computer scientist now.
In 2005, many of my friends went to a slightly better high school because their keen Asian parents physically moved into that district. Mine are not as keen, so I applied to the high school's special music program to follow suit. I think my gr. 10 average was 79%, and my gr. 11 average was like 86%. This high school was slightly better, but still very sketchy. A music teacher was accused of sexual harassment, and got placed on leave. The basketball team, which I really wanted to join, stole laptops at away games and all got expelled. I did well enough at a math contest to be invited to camp for further development, but the math department left the invitation letter in their storage until 6 months later, when the response deadline was way past. Despite these failings, a few things key to my academic career also happened here. 1) the computer class teacher, although not a great programmer himself, took a huge personal interest in student's development and organized contests, which I did well at. He took the impressive personal effort to drive two of us a long way to participate in a programming contest. By a combination of luck and insight, we did quite well by local, Canadian standards. 2) a physics teacher took the pain to write me an exaggerated reference letter (which I've never seen) to get me accepted at a competitive physics camp organized by the Perimeter Institute.
Then I worked quite hard in my first two years of undergrad and caught up a little. Then I had a girlfriend and slacked-off again. Then I went to grad school and I no longer take classes and I can no longer describe what I do to the intended audience. But no, I do not learn about how to repair computers nor how to get rid of viruses on Windows. My stated goal now is to get a very stressful job that requires >60 hours of work a week, that pays like 80k, and that fires half the people after 5 years. I still cannot write English, nor any other language, very well due to my sketchy education background.