I look with keen interest on the announcements of the PSLE results and the flurry of activities and posts in its aftermath. It is not easy to disregard the PSLE score. If you know a parent whose child has just received his PSLE results, you know that most likely he is some state of emotional turmoil.
So what is the purpose and meaning of PSLE and all the heartburn it causes?
Consider this question from a Primary 4 exam :
Explain why the shadow appear in front of the person?
I went around asking 5 working adults and they all gave me the above answer.
The answer the teacher is looking for is, because the sun is behind her and she is blocking the path of the light.
Here’s another question: Why did the water level rise?
If your answer is, the ball has volume, then WRONG.
The answer that the teacher is looking for is, because the ball occupies space.
So is there anything that occupies space but does not has a volume?!
Suggest a reason for the water in the glass tube to move in the direction indicated
If your answer is, the plant takes in the water. WRONG.
The answer the teacher is looking for is, the roots of the plant sucked up the water.
Ok, then why not the cuticles on the roots of the plant.
Oh, it has not been taught in school yet.
The students were given an open ended question but expect a specific answer that was given in the textbook.
Meeting with school’s Science HOD was enlightening. In her words, they were preparing the child for PSLE. They were training the child to give the type of answer the PSLE examiners want.
In other words, train the child to regurgitate from the text books, to deliver the model answer.
The school system does not reward initiative to learn outside the school curriculum. It discourages logical or analytical thinking. For subjects like Chinese, some teachers actively encourage memorising idioms and model essays, and offer strategies to adapt these essays to the exam question. In other words, our kids are being trained to be exam smart.
So what is the purpose of putting our children through school? I thought it was to learn?
PSLE is about standardised testing for the average mortal on the average road, like what this mom blogger wrote. Its purpose is to reward those who have good memory and are willing to put in enormous amount of sheer hard work required to ace the exam. After all, providing the model answer to an open ended question takes some hard work.
Is there a better way? Probably not. Does it mean much if your child didn’t do well for PSLE? Probably not either, if I go by the explanation that the Science HOD has offered. It probably means that your child sucked at memorising and regurgitating the textbooks. Does it mean that your kid is really smart if he aced the PSLE? Could be.But chances are that he is exam smart and knows the PSLE system like the back of his hand.
And that is my point. PSLE results are meaningless when taken out of context. Primary school and PSLE is not about learning neither is it about thinking. The form has changed but the substance has not. It is about rote learning. It was like that 30 years ago, and it continues to be the same.
If your child is a late bloomer or not willing to put in as much hard work, he is probably ok anyway. You just have to accept that he will not be competing for that nice government scholarship or he may not go to university the “usual” way, if at all. Because in a system that is going to continue testing him on his ability to reproduce the model answer, good memory and hard work wins.
Your child would probably be better off enjoying his childhood, playing, learning or just day dreaming. You just have to accept that his path will be different, possibly more exciting and fulfilling. After all, what would a university education buy them nowadays? Hope of a better future? Or a working class life doing something that they don’t enjoy and struggling to make ends meet?