Is PSLE Derailing Our Purpose To Nurture Our Kids To Never Give Up?

This viral video made its rounds on social media and made hundreds of moms and dads cry.

As part of its new social campaign to inspire and instil the values of perseverance and a #NeverGiveUp attitude among school-going children” during the upcoming exam season, MILO® Singapore showcased how having a resilient (#NeverGiveUp) attitude help these students overcome exam pressures, especially the daunting Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

I cried as I watched the kids in the video echo their parents’ advice — the same words that I say to my son sitting for his PSLE this year and hear them retold the same desires as my son — to get good grades to enter a good secondary school.

I cried partially because I am touched by the filial piety of our school kids to please us parents and do their best. But mostly, I cried because I am frustrated with the unfairness of our primary school education system and the insane pressure that we place on our 12-year-olds.

These are 12-year-old kids for Christ sakes! Do we really need them to show their potential and proof themselves at this age? At this age, our kids should be happy going to school to explore their interest, develop a good learning attitude and foster healthy social habits. Instead, our 12-year-olds in the local schools are mired deep in assessment papers and cooped indoors studying for what amounts to the SAT for university. Not to mention the strain it can cause in the relationship between parent and child during the navigation of this treacherous academic landscape.

I appreciate the initiative of this campaign to “cultivate resilient children who are well-equipped to rise up to future challenges.” I am all for that. I am not sure academic grades and PSLE exams are the right tools for it. Also, in an era where we are advocating lifelong learning, this route seems to be turning our children against it. Here are just 3 obvious reasons:

1)Tedious Final Year 

This is the LAST year of primary school for them, but the insane pressure of this year-end academic examination hovers over them like a dark gloomy cloud throughout the year. Unless you have a child who enjoys studying and massive amounts of assessment papers, I dare say most of the primary six students will report that this year is NO fun for them.

2) Insanely Competitive Aggregate Scores 

They have a very HIGH bar to leap over in order to get into their desired secondary schools. To get into elite secondary schools like Raffles Institution (RI), Raffles Girls’ School, Hwa Chong or Nanyang Girls’ School, your child need an aggregate score of 260 and above. To get into second-tier or good secondary schools like Anglo Chinese School (ACS), Victoria School, St. Joseph Secondary or Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (SCGS), you need aggregate scores of at least 248 and above. These scores are for students from non-affiliated schools. In light of this pressure, no wonder parents are gunning for schools with affiliation during their primary one registration. (Source: Choosing Your Secondary Schools 2016)

3) Unpredictable Bell Curve 

What makes matters worse is that their PSLE aggregates are based on a bell curve. (This might not apply to kids sitting for PSLE in 2021.) No one knows what their aggregate will be until the cohort has sat for the exam and we know what the highest or lowest mark is. Click on this link to read this great article by Adam Grant on why we should STOP grading our students on a curve. 

To combat this, our kids have to score high in their individual subject papers. That is HIGH As (85% and above) and A-stars (92% and above). Overcoming this hurdle is no mean feat. Anyone working with our P6-ers will know that scoring these marks are not easy as the papers are very tough!! Read here for tips from school teachers to prepare for your PSLE.

Going Beyond Grades To Nurture Resilience In Our Kids

While we wait for our policymakers and educators to Go BEYOND Grades and look at better ways to build resilience in our kids, to reinforce a love for learning and a never give up attitude, here are 3 things YOU can do to nurture your child with this advice by the panel experts from MILO® Singapore’s discussion:

beyond the singapore education system

1) Build a Strong Parent-child Relationship 

Dr Sanveen Kang-Sadhnani, Principal Clinical Psychologist at Thomson Paediatric Centre

“Having a stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent or caregiver is the single most common factor in building kids who do not give up easily. Resilient children eventually grow up into hardy adults who can survive well in today’s competitive and challenging environment.”

  • Resilience is a process of adapting well
  • It can be learnt and developed
  • Self-perception/ self-esteem is very important
  • Look out for signs of stress and teach them to manage it.

2) Positive Motivation and Encouragements

Mr Edmund Lim, a former principal (primary school) and vice-principal (primary and secondary schools)

“Encourage your kids to try their best! As parents and educators, we can promote the pursuit of personal goals and cultivate the desire to fulfill their potential and optimize their capabilities.”

  • Develop abilities to pick oneself up and try again.
  • Celebrate the success of your kids (big or small)
  • Affirm your child’s efforts
  • Manage your expectations (especially when report cards come home)
  • Have conversations around personal challenges (parents should also share theirs)

3) Develop The Healthy Habit of Having Breakfast

Dr Kalpana Bhaskaran, Manager for Nutrition Research under the School of Applied Science and Head for the Glycemic Index Research Unit at Temasek Polytechnic

“Have quality breakfast as it is vital in sustaining them throughout the day and in helping them focus in school. Look at healthier breakfast choices that are low in Glycemic Index (GI) as it releases energy slowly and prevents  the sugar level from dropping too rapidly.”

  • Parents are the gatekeepers of our kids’ health
  • Start having good nutritious habits from a young (eat BREAKFAST)
  • Encourage “I can succeed and be champions in time” belief.

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Meiling Wong

Meiling is a Singaporean mom who loves spending time with her 2 kids until they ditch her for slime-making and digital gaming. These days, she keeps herself busy trying to keep up with the social media while still contemplating if she should learn how to play "Clash Royale".

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