Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thoughts on the Good, the Bad and the PSLE

I bought "The Good, the Bad and the PSLE" by Monica Lim on impulse and I am glad I did.

The book is compelling and the characters are so realistic that it feels as though I know them personally. Noah's antics are funny. I showed some pages to J and he laughed too.

More than that, I think the writer alluded to the emotional demands of Singapore's education system. That kids are streamed into "best" classes or "average" classes from primary three (or even primary two in some schools) is a practice that now befuddles me. At that age, schools could be differentiating the careless students from the careful ones, rather than according to ability. I also find myself being more concerned about tests for which marks are counted although I know I should not. J proclaimed sometime ago that he did not like learning, then rectified his statement with "Actually, I like learning, but not when there are tests and exams." I hope that we are not killing the joy of learning in our children! I do know that my nephews are enjoying learning in another country and we hear of interesting projects they take on.

In the book, numerous bite-sized assessments were mentioned. As a parent, I felt overwhelmed by the many tests in primary two. Math and English tests required minimal preparation, but a recent Chinese test covered 15 chapters. It took a tremendous amount of effort to prepare J for the test. I was exhausted. Speaking of Chinese, an oral test comprising three components is coming up. I need to tell myself to relax.

One last point concerns the PSLE. In the book, April obtained an aggregate score of 23-something in the said exam even though she did very well in the prelims. I still wonder at the benefits of having 12-year-olds sit such a high-stake exam. Does such early streaming translate to economic gains for the country? Why are we holding on to this exam? I believe many primary school teachers are teaching with the aim that their charges do well in the PSLE, rather than to promote a passion for learning. It is not uncommon to hear teachers say "Don't do this, if not marks will be deducted" rather than "Don't do this as it is not accurate". Students also ask questions such as "Will this be tested?" As an adult now who has no test or exam to manage, I feel liberated being able to choose what books I read and I willingly sign up for talks or courses to learn. I hope our young students will also have a thirst for learning.

As I lament, I am reminded to do all things unto God and not unto men. I pray that I will refrain from focussing on J's marks but emphasise positive attitude instead. I pray that he will enjoy learning whether or not there are tests and exams. Come to think of it, the stress may be one-sided as J recently said he was looking forward to the SA2. Haha. May the joy of the Lord be our strength. Always.

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