Life Beyond Grades: why less than perfect PSLE results do not have to define a person

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 C’s. And nothing seems to have changed today.

The pressures on students here in Singapore continue to build, and with them a new generation of kids who are refusing to go 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?

Life Beyond Grades is 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…

What is Life Beyond Grades?

Clockwise from top left, Aarika Lee (musician), Claire Jedrek (race driver), Kelly Latimer (TV host) and Joakim Gomez and Sonia Chew (radio DJs) are all proud to share that their PSLE results did not define who they are today.

On the 14th of September, 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 already has 11.5k followers and is growing every day.

Average grades doesn’t equal average person

Co-founder, 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. On the day I collected my results with her, I remember not being sure what to feel because I just wasn’t very academic. To add to it, I knew there was no way I could change the results by then, but I wanted so desperately to not disappoint her. She had always told me that my best was all she asked for and 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. In that moment, I was not thinking about which school I was going to, or if I’d get to go to Express with my friends, or if I was considered smart or stupid. I just wanted to know that I was gonna be ok. I was 12 and the only validation I needed at that point was hers, the only person whose opinion really mattered to me. 23 years on, I asked her yesterday what she really thought about me being such an average student, and she said to me: ‘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”.

Gain perspective

Suicide prevention centre, 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 per month lost. We’ve all read heartbreaking news reports of young people taking their own lives over exam results and pressures, and 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. We humans only get one shot at this, after all.

How can we all help as parents?

So, 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.

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