Addressing the Child’s Low PSLE Results
There was online uproar with commentators expressing their disapproval against Madam Soon Lee Yong, co-founder of popular parenting forum KiasuParents.com, on her parenting style. Accordingly, Madam Soon even posted an open letter on the website in response to criticisms over her reported response to her son’s Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results. It was reported that at the core of the matter is that she promised to buy her son a Nintendo DS if he scored 250.
The background behind the uproar are as follows; Today article reported that Madam Soon’s son, who attended Yew Tee Primary School, was expecting to get a T-score of 250 while his mother had more modest expectations of three As and a B with a lower score of 230. This is because she had spotted some questions in the PSLE examination that her son normally could not answer. However, upon receiving her son’s SMS that he got all As and a T-score of 229, she reacted positively and reported that Madam Soon’s attention soon turned to the lower than expected T-score. Subsequently, her son SMSed her to check if she was angry and she responded that he can forget about getting his Nintendo DS.
Consequently, some of the netizens offered to buy Madam Soon’s son a Nintendo DS. However, Madam Soon subsequently clarified that her son already has the Nintendo DS and that she had confiscated it because he did not keep to their agreed playing time limit of 30 minutes per session. She claimed that her statement was said in the context of a “longer private face-to-face conversation with” her son. More importantly, she responded to criticism about her parenting style by stating that she is still celebrating with her son by having a post-PSLE treat right after the exams and a family trip. In addition, she stated that the family trip is not a reward for her son because the family travels for enjoyment and exposure and she does not believe in tying such experiences to grades.
PSLE as a Short Term Benchmark
From the foregoing article, it is apparent that the Singaporean mindset is slowly changing and are now more accepting of the fact that the PSLE grade is not a single determinative factor in the life of a child. The value of PSLE as a relevant measure of a Child’s ability was recently reviewed on a Straits Times Roundtable, ‘How much does PSLE matter?‘‘ Nevertheless, the value of the PSLE is still being regarded as a useful means of gauging the success of their child at the end of their primary school education. Ultimately, every parent wants to see their child succeed at the end of the day and the PSLE is a good gauge as a short term benchmark but not for long term assessments.
Reality of achieving success in Singapore
It is undeniable that many of the successful people from the older generation in Singapore got by without a degree from a university, be it locally or overseas and with the exception of certain specialised professions such as lawyers or doctors, and some only with a primary school certificate. However, with increased specialisation in the industry and the pegging of one’s salary to their education qualifications, the need to do well in one’s studies to just gain a degree or a degree from an acclaimed institution becomes a pressing need.
It follows then that this environment in Singapore leads to a vicious cycle where generations after generations of Singaporeans would advice the younger generation that doing well in their studies would give them financial security and a better social standing in the eyes of society. For instance, it is conventional wisdom that every Singaporean parents would want their children to grow up to take up either one of these highly coveted position of employment that is either a lawyer, a doctor or an engineer due to the financial rewards and the positive impression that they garner from society.
A holistic approach
However, with the recent scrutiny and growing criticisms against the value of PSLE, it can be suggested that the Singaporean mindset is changing and there are residual benefits from this. Before examining the residual benefits, it should be noted that the PSLE only tests the students in the areas of English, Math, Science and their Mother Tongue (e.g. Malay, Mandarin, Tamil) and does not assess the other qualities that the students have. Accordingly, this departure from having an obsession with the PSLE scores means that Singaporean parents would be more holistic in their long term focus on their child’s development, such as considering whether their child is better suited at a career in the music industry or as a painter. This recognition of their child’s strengths would be translated into a more supportive environment and investment into these areas to bring out the child’s potential.
For instance, Joseph Schooling’s story of how he came to being is very apt because his parents decided to sent him to America and the school where he went to is noteworthy for having an edge in providing a rigorous swimming programme that yields results apart from his normal day-to-day studies.
To conclude, it is clear that Singaporeans’ attitudes and mindset towards the PSLE are shifting and this is to be welcomed. It is hoped that Singapore will be able to produce more people whose long term outlook corresponds to their respective strengths, such as Joseph Schooling.