There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to PSLE. But are they really important, in the grand scheme of things? This writer shares his thoughts and words of wisdom...
PSLE. Primary School Leaving Examination. The first major academic hurdle that children in Singapore face. Even though the Ministry of Education has announced a new PSLE scoring system that’s taking effect this year in 2021, everything else affiliated with this annual nightmare remains the same. The stress. The constant comparisons of grades, study regime, and school of choice. While there are countless other articles on this topic on the internet, here’s our take on PSLE for both kids and parents in Singapore.
Dealing with the aftermath of PSLE: advice for kids
Congratulations kiddo, you’re officially leaving primary school! But wait – you’re no doubt anxious about PSLE, or you’re afraid of how your parents will react to your results. Kid, there’s more to life than PSLE…
1. You are not your grades
Here’s the thing, kids – no matter what grades you attain for your PSLE, it’s not (and should never be) an indicator of your intellectual ability. Education and examination in Singapore are, by and large, all about retention and regurgitation. So good revision techniques and how well you answer the exam questions determine what your PSLE score will be. And anyway, we’re not living in some dystopian world where you’re only remembered by your exam results. You are more than your grades! You are kind. And you are smart (regardless of what your grades say). You are important. Cultivate all these qualities, because they’re what make you a good person.
2. It’ll soon be forgotten
Sure, throughout the year of your PSLE and a couple of months after you’ve gotten your results, conversations will no doubt centre around the topic. But eventually, it’ll dissolve and become a distant memory. No one – not even you – will remember your PSLE score… unless you purposefully go looking for it. Heck, even the Singpass app doesn’t have your PSLE score! So chill, my young friends.
3. You’ll tackle other exams (far bigger than PSLE)
If you ask me whether I remember my PSLE, the answer is “NO”. Because that’s the truth. (And it’s not just because PSLE was yonks ago for me!). What do I remember instead? Other types of ‘tests’ in my life, like when I was bullied throughout secondary school, and how I dealt with it (I didn’t). Or being let go from a job at the height of a pandemic. These ‘exams’ in life are etched in my mind because they truly tested me, and the lessons I derived from them remain with me for the rest of my life.
Of course, you’ll also be facing other academic challenges that carry far more weight than the PSLE, such as O-Levels and tertiary education. Those are the ones that’ll determine how far you go in terms of academia. PSLE is but a tiny speck.
4. Success takes on different routes
There are plenty of stories about adults who didn’t do very well in their PSLE but still emerged triumphant many years later. Take it from me – I only achieved a score of 199 for my PSLE, which I was okay with. I ended up going into the Normal (Academic) stream, which benefited me largely because I’m not a studious person and the slower pace was less stressful and easier for me to keep up with. I went to polytechnic, did my National Service, and then entered the workforce. I’ve gone through various job roles before I finally ended up here at HoneyKids. Am I successful? Yes, because I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. PSLE (and education in itself) is part of your journey, but ultimately, only you can determine how and where your path will lead you. And by then, PSLE is so far behind from where you are, that it’s inconsequential.
Dealing with the aftermath of PSLE: advice for parents
Parents, I get it. You’re worried but still hoping for the best. You’re trying to suppress the Tiger Parent from rearing its ugly head. I’ve heard and read those stories. I’ve witnessed them myself. I may not be a parent, but I empathise… And that’s why it’s all the more important for you to read this next piece of advice, again and again.
1. It’s not about you
This header says it all, but it bears repeating: it’s not about you. If your offspring didn’t do as well as you’d hoped? It’s not about you. There’s no need for you to be projecting your feelings, mum guilt, or personal PSLE traumas (ah, remember those, parents?) onto your children. And if your wonder kid did extremely well? Still not about you, folks. Move along. Sure, you can bask in their happiness, feel proud of them, celebrate their successes, or discuss what to do moving forward. But under no circumstances should you be taking credit for their hard work. Did you go through the exams? No. So just remember, it’s not about you!
2. Don’t compare your child to others
So you’ve heard your neighbour’s child scored less than five points? Good for them! Your auntie’s second cousin’s tiny human bombed their leaving examinations? Well, that’s too bad… In any case, don’t ever use your youngling’s PSLE score as a tool to compare them with others. If your kid did well, you’re just gloating. And if they didn’t, you’re just shaming them. Either way, it’s not a good look for anyone. Your child would likely be embarrassed and/or probably resent you for playing the comparing game. Ultimately, no one likes being compared to (parents included!).
3. What you should do instead
Your child’s already nervous. Now’s the time you should be more involved with their lives. Nagging, reprimanding, or leaving your kids to their own devices will no doubt be detrimental to them. Remember, you want to be part of the solution – not the problem. Instead, check on them, and let them know that they can talk to you about anything that’s bothering them. When your child does decide to unload their thoughts and feelings, withhold from providing solutions. Listen and empathise. Also, get them involved in the post-PSLE decision-making, i.e. which secondary school to attend. This lets them know that their opinion matters.
And finally, remind them that they’re still loved, no matter what their PSLE scores are.
PSLE is not the be all and end all. Life is a big ‘ol lesson for you. So keep on learning, kids!
Top image: chocogato via Flickr