As parents, our job is to support and encourage our small people to try their best – whatever that may be, and regardless of exam results...
Hands up who remembers being more worried about parent reactions to exam results and school reports than we were about any other thing during our childhood? Teen acne, first love angst and having the right pair of trainers were problems that were utterly eclipsed when we had to bring home a report card full of Cs. And nothing seems to have changed today.
The pressure on students here in Singapore continues to build, and with them a new generation of kids who are refusing to go and have fun in the park for a childhood spent with noses in study books. But where is that pressure coming from? Is it parents? Is it the school? Or both?
Well, that’s why we love Life Beyond Grades (and no, this isn’t an Ad!). It’s an initiative started by a group of parents who aim to highlight that in the grand scheme of things, grades aren’t everything, and that we should be championing other strengths in our kids such as passion, innovation and resilience…
All about the Life Beyond Grades movement in Singapore
What is Life Beyond Grades?
On the 14th of September 2018, five influential parents launched a campaign that saw a group of 65 Singaporeans from different walks of life share their PSLE scores on social media. Tjin Lee, Charmaine Seah, Derek Ong, Aarika Lee and Dolores Au co-founded the movement as a platform for people to share their individual stories and to prove that each and every person who shared was more than just a number. And it seems that Singapore is not only listening, but agreeing too: the Life Beyond Grades Instagram page has 13.3k followers and is growing every day.
Average grades doesn’t equal average person
Mother-of-two and musician Aarika Lee shares: “I’m one of the lucky ones who had a mom that chose to look beyond my below-average score. The day I collected my results with her, I wasn’t sure what to feel because I just wasn’t very academic. But I wanted so desperately to not disappoint her. She had always told me that my best was all she asked for. I hoped with all my might that I would yield a score that’d make her proud. Alas, I opened the slip to a 198. At that moment, I wasn’t thinking about anything else. I just wanted to know that I was gonna be ok. I was 12 and the only validation I needed at that point was my mother’s. The only person whose opinion really mattered to me.”
“Years later, I asked her what she really thought about me being such an average student, and she said: ‘I never once thought you were average. I always knew you would find your way.’ I truly believe that what we say to our children and how we make them feel plays a huge part in who they grow up to be.”
Practising what they preach about life being beyond grades
Fellow co-founder and mumpreneur Dolores Au shares: “Many years later, my daughter Elizabeth received her PSLE grades – 187. I remember her expression: apologetic, sheepish and scared. But I remember what my parents did, and I celebrated her. We celebrated her coming of age as a teenager and for moving on to the next phase in her life. I did not tell her that grades weren’t important, but she had tried her best. I wasn’t going to break her spirits by punishing her for having one of the lowest grades that year in the school.
Regarding the initiative, this is what Dolores has to say: “Give us a chance; we are concerned about the rising depression, stress and youth suicide rates in Singapore. Let us show why we do what we do and how we intend to address this mindset shift. If we don’t step up, who amongst us parents, will?”
The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) reported that suicides for those aged 10 to 19 years hover around 22 cases per year. That’s two children lost per month. We’ve all read heartbreaking news reports of young people taking their lives over exam results and pressures. This needs to stop.
The key is remembering that we will all get to our destination in life via a different path. Some people may not display academic prowess until they’re a little older, other children may thrive in a non-academic setting. Not every child will be a lawyer, a doctor or a rocket scientist. And not every child will obtain top-level grades in their PSLE. And that’s okay. The world needs creatives and kids who embrace their differences, follow their passions and live their happiest, best life. After all, we humans only get one shot at this.
How can we all help as parents?
Our job is to support and encourage our small people to try their best – whatever that may be. Children thrive on love and encouragement, so it’s important that they know that their best will always be good enough for you, good enough for the world, and most importantly, good enough for them to lead a fruitful and productive life beyond the classroom and way beyond their grades.
What do you think about PSLE pressure in Singapore today? DM us your thoughts and let’s have a conversation.