PSLE, a national examination that every Singaporean kid needs to take at 12 years old. Whether you are formally schooled or homeschooled, it’s almost certain that you can’t run away from it.
So my husband and I have agreed to take a more hands off approach when it comes to our kids’ school work. The elder one is pretty much on his own when it comes to his school work. The younger one who is in Primary 1 still needs nagging before he settles down to do his work everyday. These days, he knows that it is his job to ask if he doesn’t understand and if he doesn’t finish his work, he will have to answer to his teachers.
We want them to be accountable for their own schooling and we want them to understand that knowing their school work is their responsibility. There isn’t really any special arrangement to prepare them for tests or examinations, the only work they do on a daily basis is homework brought back from school. The teachers have put in a lot of effort to prepare them for PSLE. They started supplementary classes since P4 and now in P6, worksheets and past years papers are regular drills. Because of that, life at home could remain pretty much the same even during this period. The boys spend most of their time doing their own things, mostly school unrelated.
It’s my first time being a PSLE mum and even though we try to keep things at home as usual, I have to admit that the stress is real. It’s coming from parents, teachers, friends, colleagues and even the social media. I have found that the best way to deal with the stress is, shut them out. But if you can’t, the next best way is, go get a good workout! And yes, I think it is the adults who need to destress because when the adults feel stressed, it would most likely cascade down to the kids!
So why is PSLE so stressful? Why do kids kill themselves over PSLE?
Our general belief is that PSLE is an important milestone in life and this is reinforced by what we see around us. It gets you into the elite schools. A disproportionate number of scholarship winners and top achievers come from these schools. Anybody who seem to be somebody in Singapore come from these elite schools – ministers, top civil servants, etc. Many of us having not been able to get into these top schools, would want the best opportunities for our children. That, we believe, is probably one of the best and most important things that we can do for our children. We do not want to compete against the law of statistics. Getting to one of the elite schools will probably give your children the best chance to succeed in life.
So the question is whether our children can succeed in life without making it to one of these elite schools? Are they condemned to a life of mediocrity if they don’t? What is the positive correlation between success in life and good PSLE results? Does PSLE results have a positive correlation with success in life?
And we can’t answer these questions without first understanding our underlying assumptions about success in life. What is succeeding in life? Should we define it against a list of material possessions and the monthly pay check?
We should also re-examine our underlying assumption that what has worked over the last two generations will continue to work in the future. My generation grew up in a rapidly developing Singapore. We were told to study hard, do well in school, go to university, and get a good job. If you landed a job in a MNC, you have got it made. Yet, many of these dreams were shattered when the MNCs relocated to lower cost countries. What do we know about the future of our country? Of our economy, of our children? Should we continue to shape our children into the moulds that worked generations ago?
Empirical evidence also casts doubts about the importance of going to an elite school. There are people who are top in their fields who do not come from these elite schools. There are also many that go to these elite schools that do not do well in life.
In the larger scheme of things, the PSLE is an exam for getting our children into the secondary school. That’s about it. It does not guarantee happiness or success in life. It may even be totally irrelevant. It is ridiculous to think that our children’s fates are sealed over this 4 day event. Having a child who thinks that life is not worth living over PSLE result is the saddest things in life. Our children deserve more than that and we should let them find their own way in this ever changing world.