My Take On PSLE

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?
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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?
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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
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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?

 

 

7

Lemon Chia Cranberry Breakfast Bar

If you are like me, a regular patron at NTUC, you will know that cranberries are in season now.
I was on my regular grocery run and had my trolley packed with the usual fruits and vegetable when I saw a Caucasian lady pushing a trolley packed with cranberries.

Okay, I know that cranberry juice is good for urinary tract infection. My 4 year old loves cranberry bread and dried cranberry snacks are healthier than raisins. That’s about all, fresh cranberries, I have never tried them. But since someone is willing to load a trolley full of cranberries, it must taste good. So the ‘kiasu’ me decided to do the same. I lugged home 4 bags of cranberries.

To my dismay, the cranberries taste nothing like the fruits I usually buy. They were sour, bitter and not at all juicy. They were nothing like the dried cranberry snacks that my kids love to munch on and it made me wonder how they extract juice from this tarty little fruit. Great, now what should I do with my 4 bags of cranberries ?!

photo 1 (46)
As usual, I googled. Thankfully, Martha Stewart has a whole list of recipes for fresh cranberries. But I was feeling ambitious and wanted something healthier than what the domestic goddess had to offer, preferably something with no added sugar.

Most of the recipes called for dried cranberries which are already sweetened. It took me a while before I found this. Now, this looks like the kind of super duper breakfast or snack that I wouldn’t feel guilty munching on. And better still if my kids would eat them for breakfast. I love granola bars but it is almost impossible to find something off the shelf that doesn’t contain ingredient that I can’t pronounce.

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What I love about this recipe is that it is totally flourless! In its place is rolled oat, ground to a powder form. Besides that, this recipe also uses chia seed and coconut oil instead of your regular butter. I add chia seeds into my fruit blend every morning, but I have never tried baking with them.

I wasn’t so sure about using agave nectar as sweetener, since it is still controversial whether agave nectar is indeed a ‘healthier’ sweetener as compared to honey and sugar. So instead of agave nectar, I blended an apple with 1/3 cup of water and used it for sweetener since the original recipe also called for applesauce. And I really like the idea of using applesauce as sweetener, so totally natural.

All in all, the modified recipe looks almost too healthy to be tasty. So to make sure my kids would eat them, I substituted the shredded coconut with dark chocolate chips!

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Unfortunately, the cranberries still taste bitter even with the chocolate chips. I also suspect that the lemon zest contributed to the bitterness.

My 5 year old loves it anyhow, cos he loves anything chocolatey. His elder brother with his more discerning taste bud wasn’t so fond of my creation. He was obliging enough to have some for breakfast and snack and I am happy that he get loads of fibre out of them.

As for me, these are the perfect energy bar for me to munch on while on the go. I can’t say I ate them totally guilt free, because of the chocolate chips. So for my next bake, I would probably take out the chocolate chips and add more nuts instead.

Lemon Chia Cranberry Breakfast Bar
Yields 16
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  2. 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (approx 1.5 lemons)
  3. 1.5 cups regular oats, ground into a flour into a blender
  4. 1/2 cup regular oats (not ground)
  5. 1 tsp baking powder
  6. 1/2 tsp sea salt
  7. 1 cup semi sweet dark chocolate chips + additional for sprinkling (optional)
  8. 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  9. 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (made by blending 1 apple with 1/3 cup of water)
  10. 4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  11. 1/4 cup almond (chopped)
  12. 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 175 degC. Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the chia seeds and lemon juice. Set aside to gel up while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Take your 1.5 cup of oats and blend till flour form
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the oat flour, baking powder, 1/2 cup regular oats, sea salt, lemon zest, fresh cranberries, chopped almond, and chocolate chips.
  5. In another small bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, applesauce. Mix in the gelled up chia seed mixture until combined.
  6. Add wet to dry and stir well until blended. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and spread out smoothly with a spatula. Sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top before baking.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes at 175 deg C until golden around the outer edge.
  8. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes before transferring onto plate. Cut into squares and enjoy.
MalMal Our Inspiration http://4malmal.com/
0

My Kind Of Cake

The other day, I baked a Blueberry Lemon Loaf Cake to bring to a gathering at a friend’s house. It was my first time using coconut oil and Greek yogurt for baking. The cake turned out surprisingly well especially for a last minute effort. It was moist and soft, much like the texture of the blueberry muffins at Starbucks, my kids’ favourite.

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So I have been trying to add coconut oil and natural yogurt into my diet. You might have already read about the remarkable benefits of coconut oil, which was once classified as the oil that causes heart diseases because of its high saturated fat content. Recent studies have shown otherwise as lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid that is found in coconut oil have antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties which are helpful in treating a wide repertoire of diseases.

It is relatively easy to add coconut oil into my diet. I usually take a tablespoon in the morning or occasionally use it for cooking. For a person who doesn’t take any dairy product, consuming natural unsweetened yogurt was much tougher. I am still trying to figure out a way to take unsweetened yogurt without feeling all pukey. To date, I have already thrown away a few tubs and there are still a couple of them sitting in my fridge, untouched.

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So I woke up on Deepavali morning, 3 hours before meeting my friends, to find out that I ran out of butter. It was too early to make a run to the grocery store and I had about 2 hours to bake. I went on the internet and search for a blueberry cake recipe that doesn’t require butter.

I was thrilled because I not only found a recipe that doesn’t require butter but uses Greek yogurt and coconut oil! The recipe was like your usual mix-wet-and-dry-ingredient muffin recipe. It was really simple. I didn’t even have to use my super duper Kitchen Aid mixer.

It took me less than 2 hours to mix, bake and wash up. The cake was done just in time for me to bring out for the gathering.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten about snapping pictures until when we were at the pool and the cake was cut. I hastily took a few pictures (shown above) before they were gobbled up.

This small slice was about all that was left in the baking tin when we got home.

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This recipe is definitely a keeper and I know I will be baking it again and again simply because it has coconut oil and natural yogurt in it.

Blueberry Lemon Loaf Cake
Yields 10
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
55 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I would substitute this with Gluten Free flour)
  2. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  4. 1 cup sugar (I used less than 1 cup and it is always good to cut back more)
  5. 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  6. 3/4 cup natural Greek yogurt
  7. 1/2 cup coconut oil (I used organic cold pressed, unrefined virgin coconut oil)
  8. 2 large eggs
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. 3 cups whole blueberries, lightly smashed (I would think 2 cups would be enough and the next time I would probably not crush the blueberries)
  11. 1/4 cup flour for coating the blueberries
Instructions
  1. Coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with oil then coat with flour and tap out excess.
  2. Whisk the 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, rub the the tablespoon of lemon zest into the 1 cup of sugar until moist and kind of clumpy, then add to flour mixture..stirring until combined.
  4. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together 3/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until smooth.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined.
  6. Place all the blueberries in a large ziplock bag. Seal it and slightly smashed the blueberries.
  7. Open the bag and dump in the 1/4 cup flour and seal it closed. Shake until all of the smashed blueberries are coated with flour.
  8. Gently fold the flour coated, smashed blueberries into the batter
  9. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan.
  10. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for about 50-55 minutes until golden brown on top. A test skewer should come out clean.
  11. Let the cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  12. Cut and serve.
MalMal Our Inspiration http://4malmal.com/
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