Why a co-ed school was the wrong choice for my son

My son had his first Sec 1 PTM and having experienced regular complaints from his teachers in primary school, I was dreading the meeting. From a co-ed primary school to an all boys school, I had no idea what he was getting up to in school. Fights? Bullying? Bad behaviour? Getting information out of him is like pulling teeth. I get scanty details which I have to piece together.

I approached his 2 form teachers, gave my son’s name, and waited with bated breath. After scanning the master sheet, the first thing Mrs Teacher said was, “Oh, he did ok, you didn’t have to come, you know?”

Yes, #5 had told me that his grades were fine and it was not compulsory for me to attend. However, I wanted to have a talk with his teachers to find out how he has been behaviour-wise, and to see if he is settling in well as it was a huge transition for him.

Mrs Teacher gave me a smile and said, “He is an interesting boy. The things he says are quite different from the usual answers.” Hmm, I couldn’t quite decipher if that was a good or bad thing, but drawing from her grin, I don’t think I should be too concerned. “What about his behaviour? Is he naughty in class?”

“No, not in my class. Sometimes he tries to wriggle out of doing work, but he knows when I mean business and he will get my work done nicely. No issues at all. However, he has some scratch marks on his face. Is he cutting himself? I also notice he yawns in class, he must be tired.” I told her that he wakes up at 5.30 to get ready to take the bus to school, but he goes to bed by 9pm. And those scratch marks were done by little Kate.

I was surprised at how they are genuinely concerned about the whole well-being of the child, not only the academic aspect.

Mr Teacher started to talk, and I was keen to hear from a male teacher’s perspective. “I don’t have any problems with him in my class either. In fact, he scored 100/100 for art! He is a very creative boy and you can tell that he is bright. He pays attention and is very focused when he is doing his work. Looking at his overall results, the only thing that is worrying is his Chinese. He scored 16/100 and that will pull his average down. You may want to speak with his Chinese teacher. She’s a very experienced teacher.”

I thanked them for their time and Mrs Teacher got up and escorted me to his Chinese teacher as the hall was crowded.

I felt much better knowing that everything was going fine and he was in such good hands. The last concern was Chinese! I was expecting the same-old, like the past 6 years, where his Chinese teachers tried to tell me (in too cheem Mandarin) how bad his Chinese was, that I had to encourage him to read more Chinese books, sit with him to revise the words he didn’t know, or hire a tutor for him.

Mdm C was a pleasant, smiling lady, and we conversed in English. She started off by saying, “Your son is a joy to teach!” I almost fell off my seat.

My son? Chinese? That was impossible! Was I hearing wrong? Wait a minute, she probably got the wrong child. I scanned the list and pointed out his name.

She was concerned at his score of 16/100, but showed me his compo. “Look at what he wrote. Not bad at all. 2 pages, good sentences, neat handwriting. He’s a bright child, but his foundation is very weak. His standard is below his peers, and sometimes they will laugh when he doesn’t understand even the simple words, but I tell them not to laugh at him because he is trying to learn.”

I asked if she had trouble getting him to pay attention in her class, and that previously he gets bored and would fold origami under the table or disturb his friends. She was surprised to hear that, and assured me that he concentrates in her class and tries his best to complete her work.

What a nice change, that unlike Primary school, she did not handover the responsibility of revision to me nor ask me to outsource to a tutor, but took full responsibility and said that anything that had to be learnt will be discussed with the students directly. She reassured me that he had a good learning attitude and will try her best to help him.

I left his school on cloud nine. Can you imagine how I felt?! To have had teachers complaining about your son for 6 years, with only 2 or 3 out of 20 who had positive things to say about him, and finally finding a school where the teachers accept him and are able to bring out the best in him.

I texted our family chat group with the good news and the girls were so proud of him. One of them said, “Lol, he’s in a boy’s school now, so that is just normal boy behaviour. For years, he has been judged by girl standards at home and in school. He’s given up trying to be good a long time ago.”

For years, he was labelled as naughty simply because he couldn’t pay attention, talks too much, disturbs his friends when he’s bored, and as a result, constantly punished by being made to stand in the corner. All because his Executive Function skills like attention and impulse control were weak and he just could not sit there and take in this “teacher talk, student listen” approach for long periods of time.

An experiential approach is needed for children with such profiles, especially when they are in lower primary. Instead of viewing these kids as disruptive, they are the ones who will be most needed in the changing future landscape where we need creators, inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs.

It was only after 5 years that his first male teacher Mr Tan understood him and told me that he is simply an active boy with a quick mind who gets bored easily and when he gets excited about a new idea, he talks too much, too fast and too loud. Mr Tan made the effort to build rapport with him, and would remind him to tone it down instead of punishing him, and thus could gain the cooperation of #5 to behave well in his class.

I have seen it in the neighbourhood schools and now in a boys’ school, where because these students are the norm instead of the exception, teachers have found ways to handle them so that teaching can be done. And most importantly, teachers seem to understand that there is a difference between learning styles, developmental needs and discipline issues, thus handling them differently. Sadly, he may have enjoyed the learning journey better over the 6 years of primary school if things had been different.

Nonetheless, I’m extremely grateful for his dedicated teachers and I’m sure they have been and will continue to be instrumental in developing the students who come through them into contributing adults with character, and to give them a fair chance to succeed in our traditional classrooms.

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 – Tuition – First line of attack?
#14 – Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 – First day mix up!
#16 – The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 – No more T-score. Now what?
#18 – Tackling the new school year
#19 – She did it, without tuition.
#20 – So who’s smarter?
#21 – Why I do not coach my kids anymore.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Settling into P1 and Sec 1

Kate has entered Primary 1! On one hand, she was really excited to finally be a ‘big’ girl like her siblings, yet she was apprehensive about the new changes and environment. The night before, she couldn’t fall asleep and had lots of worries. The good thing is that she is able to voice out her fears and I can help her to make sense of them.

She had a multitude of worries, from being afraid of getting lost, to not being able to understand her Chinese teacher fully, to not knowing where to go when her school bus drops her off. However, many of her fears were allayed as the parent volunteers did a wonderful job of helping the children to settle in. She comes home happy and tells us that she has made new friends. She still doesn’t understand everything her Chinese teacher says and sometimes feels sleepy in class and once she closed her eyes and was scolded by her teacher!

The second day of school, she lost her water bottle. She put her school bag next to her on the school bus, but when the bus jerked, her bottle fell out and rolled away. They were told to wear their seat belts and she could not pick it up. By the time they reached school, the bottle was nowhere to be found. Poor girl did not have her bottle, but she said, “I was very thirsty so I told my teacher I needed to go to the toilet and I quickly went to the water cooler to drink water.” The bus uncle had placed her bottle in the Lost and Found, but Kate doesn’t know where to go to find it!

Overall, she is adjusting very well. When I get home, her bag is packed and she has seen to the instructions of the day and is able to relay messages and relate her day’s events.

As for #5, my oh my. Every afternoon, we are holding our breaths.

We have chosen a wonderful school with a focus on character development and community service. The school is quite a distance away but he has a direct bus there. He used to take the school bus in primary school, so during the December holidays, my mum took him on a trial run on the public bus.

The night before, I pre-empted him. Boy, you may fall asleep on the bus. If you do, look around to see where you are. Stop as soon as you can, where you can see another bus stop opposite the road. Cross over the overhead bridge or at the traffic light and take the same bus home.

All scenarios covered, I went to work in peace. As #1 hasn’t started school, I told him to text her if anything happened.

Day 1:

During recess, he was about to buy food when he realised that he had left his money in his school bag. He went back upstairs but all the classrooms were locked! He had not made any friends yet so he went hungry.

School ended at 2pm and he took the bus home. He was tired and fell asleep soon after boarding. Suddenly, he jolted awake, looked out, saw unfamiliar surroundings and thought he had missed his stop. He quickly alighted and texted #1. While he waited for her reply, he wandered around. He chanced upon a pizza hut, ordered takeaway and used up his whole week’s allowance!

Finally, he and #1 figured out that he had alighted only a few stops away from school and he was still a long way from home. He walked back to the bus stop and took the next bus home.

Day 2.

I got home at 5pm and found #5 in bed. This time, he did not fall asleep on the bus, but stopped 1 stop too early. He started walking home but halfway through he could not go any further and took a rest at the playground. He fell asleep at the playground!

When he woke, he texted #1 to come out and get him but by the time she saw the text and went to look for him, she saw him about to hail a cab. She called out to him and told him not to enter the cab. He was having a fever and was too tired even to walk the rest of the way home with his heavy bag.

Day 3.

He was sick, stayed home, and rested over the weekend. He is starting to get used to the routine of sleeping at 8.30pm so that he can wake up at 5.30am.

Day 4.

Boy: Mum, are you at church?
Me: No, why?
Boy: I just passed it. Thought you can pick me. I think I missed our stop.
Me: Quickly alight now. Cross the road and take the same bus back.
Boy: I can see this condo called xxx
Me: Press the bell and alight! Now!

Silence for a while. Meanwhile, the girls and I were sitting in suspense.

Me: Boy, where are you? Have you alighted? Can you see a bus stop across the road?
Boy: No still on bus.
Me: Why? I told you to get off the bus.
Boy: Too crowded. I tried. Can’t squeeze out.
Me: Just say excuse me and go towards the door!

Silence.

I texted #1 to see if he had texted her. He hadn’t, and she also tried to reach him.

Me: Boy! Where are you? Answer me! We are getting very worried.
Boy: Bus interchange.
Me: So far! Ok, get off and look for the same number and take the bus back.

Silence for a long, long time. Meanwhile, we were getting extremely worried. But deep down, I had a feeling that he should be ok.

Finally, after an hour and a half, he breezed into the house.

Me: BOY! What happened? Why didn’t you answer us? We were so worried about you.
Boy: Oh. I saw a mall so I went in to take a look. Then I took the bus back. My phone is in my bag. I walked very slowly because I’m hungry.
Me: Next time, you don’t go silent on us ok? All of us were super worried! You must update us.
Boy: Ok!

Day 5.

At 2.30, we got a text.

Boy: Lost my bus card
Me: Search your entire bag again
Boy: I did. I cut my finger because the safety pin can’t close properly.

Me: Pay with coins
Boy: No coins
Me: Pay with $2
Boy: Don’t have
Me: How much do you have
Boy: 0
Me: Why
Boy: Spent everything on food

Me: Ask a friend
Boy: No friend at bus stop
Me: Ask a stranger
Boy: No
Me: Your sister did that once, and a kind lady gave her $1. She met her again many weeks later and returned the $1. Can you ask?
Boy: Nobody

#2 said she will call a grab for him, but because he was at a bus stop I thought it was better he walked to hail a cab. He walked a long way because all the cabs were hired.

When he got home, I told him to be more careful, and that I had just topped up his card with $40 and his carelessness cost me the cab fare plus the $40. I was about to give the general office a call to see if anyone had found it.

Boy: Wait a minute! Maybe it is in my shorts! Just maybe!

He ran to his school bag, pulled out his school shorts and whipped out his bus card.

He was beaming.

Me: What!?

Oh mum, when I alighted from the bus this morning, I put it in my pocket. But we changed into PE shorts!

Me: You should have been more mindful and remembered where your card was! You just wasted me $16.

Boy (with a grin): But I saved you $40!

I really don’t know what to say about this kid. It’s become a daily family anticipation with many face palm moments.

I don’t think anything more can go wrong.. fingers crossed.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

PSLE Results: Good or Bad, what do you say?

2017 PSLE results will be released tomorrow. I was asked for my views for a CNA article, and what poured out was enough to write a whole post after going through this 4 times!

As the PSLE is the first major exam they face, we, as parents have an important role to frame this experience for them. How we guide them to view failure and success is crucial. Our children need to know that one failure does not define them; they can get up, dust themselves and try harder next year. If they have the resilience and tenacity, they will go far despite early failures.

Thus whether they do well or not, it is a window of opportunity to start talking to them about how they themselves feel about their achievements and what they did to get there. The discussion about the process is even more important than the end result of the grade.

I remember the day I collected my PSLE even though it was so long ago. My parents were not well educated and left us to handle our school life. They did not know when our exams were nor gave us any tuition or assessment books.

The day before the results were released, my dad who had never said much relating to school told me this: “No matter what, just come home. It’s ok.”

I didn’t really know what he meant until the next day.

When we received our results, there were exuberant friends, crying friends and parents with grim faces.

My results were average, better in some subjects, worse in others. I didn’t know what to feel, as there were friends who did much better and friends who did much worse.

What stuck with me the most, was that the aggregate itself didn’t matter.

What mattered was that I could go home, not having to hang my head down or having to face the wrath of my parents. I knew they loved and cared about me, regardless of what was written on that paper in my hands. I felt safe. Several of my friends dreaded to go home, afraid of what their parents would say.

When I showed my parents my results, they acknowledged the good and the bad and told me simply to work harder next time.

These days, it is as much a PSLE mummy’s journey as the child’s, or perhaps there is even more at stake for mum. The time and money poured into sending them for tuition, having to face friends and neighbours who may be judging us or worries about our child going into an “undesirable” school.

But try to resist the urge to compare them to their siblings, label them as “lazy” or take it as an opportunity to unleash your pent-up emotions on them. I’ll admit that I have done all of the above at various times with my 4 older kids. It’s hard, but we have to restrain ourselves and not say things in the heat of the moment we might regret.

So what advice can I give to parents?

If your child has done badly, all the more, it is crucial for you to provide them with emotional support at a time when they are probably feeling lousy about themselves. They may have worked really hard, and are disappointed in their own grades. Or their close friends may have done well and are all celebrating and discussing exciting plans and looking forward to entering the schools of their choice. They may have cousins in the same year and relatives are patting them on the shoulder, telling them how smart they are or how wonderful they have done. It is not easy for a 12-year-old to experience and process all that is going on.

When one of my kids did badly for the PSLE, I had to bite my tongue. I wanted to scold her, “Watch some more TV la! Sleep late and don’t concentrate in class!” My mind darted around, looking for things to blame – Our education system for being ridiculous in expecting all 12-year olds to be suitable for this narrow examination model, her teachers for focusing on quantity instead of quality, resulting in many of her classmates scoring between 180-210, the hubs for allowing her to watch Chinese drama with him and wasting precious time, our dog for her incessant barking, affecting her concentration. I had to exercise tremendous self-control and not rub salt into the wound as I knew she was already feeling awful.

There is no point in giving them a long “I told you so” lecture the day they get their results. Instead, take them out individually for a meal or an activity to show them that above all, you love them and value them, despite their result. Try to refrain from talking about the PSLE (I know it’s hard!) unless they raise it. Then, when they open the conversation, go in for the kill! (just kidding). Talk to them about what they are thinking and feeling. They may be afraid of going to a new school all alone, especially if their group of friends all made it into the affiliated school. They may feel embarrassed, ashamed or upset that they have disappointed you.

Just imagine what they have gone through for the past year. All that stress, late nights studying, and expectations from parents and teachers, culminating in these 3 digits. Give them time and space to process their emotions. When they have come to terms with their results, you can move on to discuss how they can learn from this experience. What strategies worked for them and what did not, what are their areas of strengths and weaknesses.

For children who do well, it is also an opportunity to guide them. Acknowledge and celebrate with them if they had run the race and emerged triumphant! But instead of congratulating them as being a smart girl or boy, praise the specific effort and strategies which helped them to excel. #1 went from failing all 4 subjects at the end of P5 to scoring straight As in her PSLE. By putting in sustained effort and persevering despite the odds, it showed in her results. She was self-motivated and did 4 hours of Math practice almost daily, and went to her aunt’s house every weekend to practice her Chinese Oral, going from being shy and having a limited vocabulary to being more confident about the language.

On the other hand, there are children who are able to ace our exams year after year either because their intelligence fits our education model or because they have been highly tutored. The danger comes when they move into higher education. Some children have never tasted failure, and when they do so, it could be at the A levels or University and they are unable to bounce back. Worse, they may go into depression or even attempt suicide because of self-imposed shame or despair as they are no more seen as being smart.

I was surprised but many bright kids I spoke to regret not putting in more effort and felt they were too complacent. Don’t compare them to others saying things like, “Wow you did so much better than so and so.” Instead, hold them to higher standards because they are capable of more. Tell them that you expect great things from them, and they should still strive to put in their best effort and achieve what you know they are capable of.

The PSLE may be over, but it is not the last exam or challenge they will have to face. It is in our hands to support and empower them to ready them for the next stage and beyond.

It’s not going to be easy, but see it as an opportunity to help them take ownership of both their successes or failures. Good luck parents!

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 – Tuition – First line of attack?
#14 – Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 – First day mix up!
#16 – The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 – No more T-score. Now what?
#18 – Tackling the new school year
#19 – She did it, without tuition.
#20 – So who’s smarter?
#21 – Why I do not coach my kids anymore.



~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

My daughter created a winning exam strategy

When #2 took her O levels last year, I knew it was a whole different ball game from preparing for the PSLE.

In 4 short years, they morph from caterpillars into butterflies. Beautiful individually formed strong characters, ready to flap their wings and fly.

But, along with the development of their unique and bold patterns, there are 3 areas we as parents have to come to terms with:

– They are no longer little children whom you can dictate to, and expect pure obedience (could we ever?!).

– Their phones are like an extension of their hand, which can’t be forcefully extracted from them lest I am keen on igniting a war of wills. It can be used positively, or become a huge distraction.

– They have a life (with the prom being a few days away from the last paper not helping things at all) and their friends have a far greater sway than before.

I learned that it was futile to nag and scold, and I left her to figure out her own exam strategy. Instead, I watched from the sidelines and support and guide where necessary.

I made it a point to turn up for all her parent-teacher meetings, and was so heartened to see that her teachers were genuinely concerned for her. She was a child with a lot of potential, but she was very clearly an Arts student who loved her Literature and English subjects, but struggled with the Science subjects.

Her poor Chemistry teacher found it so hard to motivate her and even encouraged her to turn the boring formulas into songs and allowed her to bring her guitar to school to sing. When she received her results, she told me: “Mum, she was the only teacher who never gave up on me.”

 
 

She devised this simple but effective strategy in the months leading up to the O levels.

She painstakingly wrote out every chapter of every subject on individual bits of paper, numbered and colour-coded them.

Once she had finished revising a chapter, she would move that piece of paper to the other side of the wall.

With this system, she demolished the chapters systematically. The brilliance lay in its visual cue, where you can see the number of chapters per subject left very clearly.

It was also highly motivating to see the bare side of the wall starting to fill up!

She was excited to take up the challenge of this crucial year and after the exams, she said, “It was actually quite fun to set my goals and study so hard.” And her great achievement was sweet reward indeed.

I am pleased that my efforts over the past 15 years of guiding them to be independent learners have finally borne fruit.

And that I was able to give them a carefree childhood where tuition and assessment books are not a normal part of their lives, yet they have emerged to be driven and motivated teenagers.

School Stories:

  1. When your son gets into fights in school
  2. My son the loan shark
  3. So kids can’t play once they start school?
  4. Things teachers say
  5. Lessons learnt from #1’s Os
  6. My son. There’s hope yet
  7. Who has an obsession with tuition?
  8. Paying tutors $250 an hour to do assignments?
  9. I didn’t even know my child was being bullied until…
  10. How I got my son to do his homework without nagging
  11. How #2 topped her level in English
  12. DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped.
  13. Tuition – First line of attack?
  14. Why do exams have to be so stressful?
  15. First day mix up!
  16. The day I forgot to pick my son from school
  17. No more T-score. Now what?
  18. Tackling the new school year
  19. She did it, without tuition
  20. So who’s smarter?
  21. Why I do not coach my kids anymore
  22. My Best Parent Teacher Meeting EVER
  23. My daughter created a winning exam strategy
  24. 6 tips to really prepare your child for P1
  25. 6 tips to choose a Primary school
  26. 6 things to do in the PSLE year
  27. 6 tips to choose the right Preschool
  28. 6 tips to choose a Secondary school that is right for your child
  29. Our education system is starting to get exciting!
  30. PSLE results: Good or bad, what do you say?
  31. “Mum, just get me exempted from Chinese.”
  32. A huge jump in P6 SA1
  33. PSC Scholarship? WOW
  34. My teen in a neighbourhood school
  35. What the PSLE is really about
  36. How to choose the “best” Secondary school for your child

She did it, without tuition

We attended #2’s award ceremony last week at her alma mater. It was indeed a joyous occasion for us, seeing how she has blossomed over the 4 years, not only doing well academically, but displaying leadership qualities and being surrounded by close friends. She received a leadership award for her position as band major, and topped her cohort in Social Studies/Literature for the O levels.

I think what I was proudest about was that she managed everything on her own, without me having to nag or micro-manage.

When she entered Primary 1, I gave her my expectations and her responsibilities and guided her to be in charge of her own learning for the next 6 years.

She did not have any tuition nor extra “mummy homework”.

So what did she do with her time?

She spent a lot of time reading, and went to the playground every evening with her siblings, even throughout the PSLE year. Their fond memories of playground games with their neighbours will stay with them forever.

Dinner was at 6pm and bedtime at 8.30pm, so that hardly left room for much else during the school week. When bored, she would create all sorts of things, such as mazes for their pet hamsters or swimming pools for their terrapins, and the 5 siblings would find their own fun.

The grandparents took them out most weekends, to the zoo, bird park or science centre.

The only tuition I gave her was after the P6 prelim exams because her grades were Bs and Cs. On hindsight, tuition was probably not needed as we discovered that her school had set very tough prelim papers, and she scored much better for her PSLE with 3 As and 1 A*.

In secondary school, she returned home at 8pm twice a week due to CCA and in her spare time, she wrote fan fiction (she has more followers than me!) and taught herself to play the keyboard and guitar.

I encouraged her to balance health and family with school work especially when the latter became a monster which took on a life of it’s own. And even when she bucked the trend and was the only one amongst her classmates sleeping at 10pm, she stood firm.

I did not keep track of her tests or exams, because it was her responsibility, and the message was always that learning does not equate to passing exams, nor competing against friends, but for herself.

In the run up to the O levels, I checked in frequently to see if she needed additional help from a tutor (while reminding her that it should be the last resort), but she reassured me that she was managing ok and was getting help from her friends in her weak areas. In the end, she did well and entered a JC of her choice.

School days are the best days!

I made a decision not to be sucked in to the rat race, to keep my focus on what was healthy and meaningful for them, and the achievement she attained today is testimony that pushing our kids relentlessly through the education mill is not the only way, and we do have a choice in how we want to bring our kids up in this over-competitive academic landscape.

Having walked this ‘alternative’ path alone, I’m glad they turned out alright.

10 years on, I am assured that I have not short-changed my kids in any way, and that I have achieved my simple goal of giving them a happy childhood, guiding them to be self-motivated, to discover their passions, and to never be afraid to chase their dreams.

For that, it’s time I gave myself a pat on the back 🙂


School Stories:#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 – Tuition – First line of attack?
#14 – Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 – First day mix up!
#16 – The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 – No more T-score. Now what?
#18 – Tackling the new school year
#19 – She did it, without tuition.
#20 – So who’s smarter?
#21 – Why I do not coach my kids anymore.

 

About MummyWee

Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 7-turning-17 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function, to survive today’s volatile world. She is also a parenting coach and has been featured on national TV, radio and print media.

 

NEW Changes to PSLE Scoring and Secondary One Posting

The wait is finally over!

MOE has just released more details of the changes which are going to take place, starting from the 2021 cohortIn a bid to reduce the excessive focus on academic result due to the fine differentiation of students by aggregate points, they are changing to a grade band.

Since our PM announced this change almost 3 years ago, parents have voiced tremendous disapproval at this suggestion, speculating what sort of criteria would be used as the tie-breaker when there are students with the same grades, for example 4 As or 4 Bs.

Here’s where MOE is going to make the biggest change. They are introducing 8 Achievement Levels (ALs), with AL 1 being the best. This is similar to the O Level grading system, just that the mark range is different.

Credit: MOE press release

The PSLE Score is the sum of ALS across the four subjects, ranging from 4 to 32, with a score of 4 being the best. Students with a score of 4 – 20 will be streamed into the Express course.

See table above for the placement outcomes of Express, N(A) and N(T) and their corresponding PSLE scores.

The other significant change is that previously, when there were students having the exact same PSLE score fighting for the last place in a school, they would be allocated to the secondary school based on a computerised balloting.

Many parents were not privy to this, but yes, for the few students in this situation, it was down to luck. In future, choice order would be the new tie-breaker.

What this means is that, say for example there are 3 students fighting for the last place in a particular school.

Student A puts it as his 1st choice, Student B puts it as his 2nd choice, and Student C puts it as his 3rd choice.

In this scenario, Student A would be given priority for the spot.

With this wider scoring bands as compared to aggregate points, we will see a higher percentage of students who will end up in this situation.

Thus, more than ever, we have to use our 6 choices judiciously.

This new scoring system looks to be the middle ground between the aggregate score (which is too fine) and grade bands of A,B,C,D (which is too broad).

The way I see it, this seems to be the most practical solution to move towards their goals of reducing an over-emphasis on chasing the last mark and hopefully free up time and space for a more holistic education and well-rounded family life.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

#2’s literature assignment

#2 was chatting with me about a Literature assignment which she did well in, and I was surprised to see how progressive the curriculum is.

Fan-fic?

They sure are keeping up with the times!

The students were asked to write a fan fiction based on their reading material “Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton, a teacher who went on to become the first president of the Liberal Party of South Africa in 1953.


Fan fiction is a work of fiction written by fans for other fans, taking a source text or a prominent character as a point of departure.

Scope:

Fan fiction takes a lot of forms and does a lot of different things. Some fan fiction seeks to close loopholes in a source text or to explore character motivations. Some fan fiction turns minor characters into protagonists of their own stories, or uses minor characters’ eyes to see a different perspective on the major characters.

Assessment criteria:

  • Your story must be unique and original.
  • Your story must illustrate some form of purpose e.g. explore an issue.
Cry, the Beloved Country

The following is what she wrote, which I thought was pretty excellent!


Absalom,

We have come far. The rally at Alexandra was a success. Soon, we will have higher wages, better hours, a greater step towards justice. It all lies with the scripts now. Jarvis will have them ready tomorrow at 9am in Parkwoods. Do me proud.


John Kumalo.


.

Absalom stood over the plantation, the racing pulse in his right temple visible just below the tiny droplets of sweat beading up across his forehead. He had the letter clenched tightly in his left hand; it was the last of the many he’d received from his uncle over the years, yet was far from what predominated his mind. Of greater importance was the revolver he gripped in his other hand and the two empty spaces in its chamber that had been occupied less than an hour ago.

He dropped to his knees and started to dig, the butt of the weapon the shovel for its own grave. Ironic, but absolutely fitting, considering the entire incident had made him feel like doing something just so.

The ordeal had begun the morning of the letter. As dictated by John’s neatly inked instructions, with his partners, Matthew and Johannes, he was to meet Arthur Jarvis under the large Oak tree in Jarvis’ yard to receive the script for John’s final rally. He thought nothing of the task; bearing the secrets upon which the cause was precariously balanced had become a normality for them.

He blamed himself now for his blitheness. He should have noticed something had been amiss from Johannes’ devious eyes, the weapons he’d carried in a dark, lumpy sack over his shoulder, the too-lithe spring in his step as he walked. Johannes was only ever happy when he was in power, and power was something Absalom knew to fear.

They had been passing through the street next to the one of Jarvis’ residence, an hour early for their rendezvous, when Absalom finally built up the courage to inquire into the revolver Johannes held. The older boy had smiled secretively and reassured, “It is for safety.”

“And the bar?” Absalom questioned, looking to the thick iron rod Matthew was armed with, with what was almost nerves, for it was clear whom the superior of the trio was.

Johannes answered for Matthew as they entered Jarvis’ yard through an unlocked gate left slightly ajar for them. “It has been blessed.” His humorless tone and stony eyes told Absalom he had the last word.

Absalom had uneasily accepted his answers as the truth, but nothing could have prepared him for the next moments to come. In a spiraling whirlwind of macabre events, he was made to watch in horror as Matthew knocked an inquiring servant unconscious and Johannes shot Jarvis when he came down the stairs. The image of the fear on the white man’s face a split second before he was murdered haunted Absalom as the revolver was thrust into his shaking hands and he was told to run and meet them in Alexandra in six hours. So he had.

He stood now, surveying his work, his breathing rapid and guilt overwhelming him. His mind sped to trace back to how it all started, how all his little desires had manifested into one big pandemonium in which he was kept prisoner. From the letters his uncle had sent him from Johannesburg throughout his teenage years, detailing the racism and the protests against discrimination which had developed in the big city, he’d grown up exposed and wanting to make a difference in the lives of his people. He’d jumped at the chance of leaving Ndotsheni when the need to find Gertrude arose. His uncle needed someone he could trust to hold goods and run secret errands, and that responsibility soon came to rest on Matthew’s, Johannes’, and his own shoulders.

He shook his head at himself; he had been so naive. John’s letters had depicted their team as genuine, uncorrupted. They were the higher power with the bull voice and the intelligent brain and the pure heart. They were unstoppable. Or so John had said.

Like he had, the natives bought into their act like it was truth itself. They respected John especially, for he was the voice and the face of the movement. What would they do if they discovered that all of John Kumalo’s incredible speeches had been written by a white man, none other than Arthur Jarvis himself?

But as it was to his younger self, Absalom could not blame them for their blind innocence. Beggars could not be choosers, and they had known nothing but empty bellies and broken minds all their lives.

Absalom began the trek out of the plantation slowly. He knew what was waiting for him in Alexandra and was in no hurry to face it. The many similar meetings he’d been to had painted an image in his mind; he could picture the masses of people under Johannes’ leadership that would be gathered in one of the dirty fields out in the countryside, could almost feel the vibration of stomping feet beneath him, almost hear the chanting cries of youths begging for the overthrow of John and Dubula’s names at the top of the cause against racial discrimination. As if they knew better.

They, under Johannes’ and Matthew’s guide, would talk about fear and power. The fear of power, and the power of fear, and fear and power as its own. Absalom had to agree that the fear of power was very real, to himself more than others. He feared the white man’s power, and his own power to do harm and, most of all, Johannes’ immense power to ruin lives, for certainly his poorly thought out strategies to achieve his so-called ‘equalized revolution’ through violence and pure force would cause just that.

Absalom’s steps slowed. John’s twisted portrayal of his team had been a disappointment, but no doubt were they doing something great for the natives of Johannesburg. Principally, never once had he heard John or Dubula say a thing about equality or violence. Higher wages, better hours, a greater step towards justice, had been John’s exact words. Equality through violence? He could almost hear John laughing at the absurdity of the idea. Impracticality was a worse trait for a leader to have than empty boldness.

Yet, in spite of his irrationality, today Johannes had shown he was to be taken seriously. Today he had silenced the real voice of the movement. Today he might have just destroyed John’s chance to succeed.

With this change of thought, Absalom began running, this time towards the vague location of the police station in town that he’d crossed maybe once or twice before. A plan was forming in his mind; he had been given the opportunity to help his people beyond anything he’d ever imagined and was willing to sacrifice himself for it. They would suffer under Johannes’ ridiculous schemes to create what he thought to be equality for them all, and Absalom could only hope that turning himself in for the fatal crime they’d committed together would bring the leaders of the new aggressive resistance down with him.

He could only pray that John’s team would be able to rise above Jarvis’ death and suppress the wild schemes Johannes had left in his wake. Perhaps after he had accompanied Johannes and Matthew to Pretoria, Johannesburg would see a new justice for the natives, after their long fight against white supremacy.

For what better way to fight power, but with more power?

__________


#2 does have a bit of a flair for writing fiction, doesn’t she? But then again, most mums are biased 😉


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

The O level year. Only 1 thing matters.

Below is what a 15-year old girl tweeted to her friends overseas.

You know that the education system is a mess when you spend half your time convincing classmates who are really sick not to come to school but they insist anyway because the teachers will get mad if they miss tests, hand in assignments late or miss parts of the syllabus.

Honestly, the number of people around me in class who have been coughing and sneezing and looking like they are about to throw up resembles an endemic, yet they won’t go home because they are afraid they will get behind.

It has only been 2 months yet three-quarters of our class has already fallen ill.

The O level year

We have been brainwashed that the national exams are all that matter.

Does anyone realise that our health is just as important?

Why does it seem like I’m the only one who feels this way?

Some of our teachers are concerned, but all they can say is “Drink more water and try to rest more.” Rest? Why are they seemingly unaware of our cumulative workload?

And why do teachers still yell at students who already get less than 5 hours of sleep a night trying to complete homework and rushing to study for tests as though they are lazy? How can we fit everything the teachers dole out into 24 hours, with our CCAs, extra classes and student responsibilities?


Yet all these physical demands are nothing compared to the mental ones many are enduring.


Please, we are kids!

When did the typical day of a 15-year old become downing coffee at 2am while scribbling down the last answers to an assignment long overdue, and holding back tears when you get test papers back?


Because whenever we get test papers back, there are tears.

Grades are made out to be so important that if your best cannot achieve a good grade, you are nothing.

Who allowed that “F” on a test paper to define someone?


Who let algebra and the reactivity series become exceedingly more important than our health and happiness?

Where is the balance in our lives?

At the end of this gruelling year, what might be the outcome?

Success after pushing ourselves so hard, at the sacrifice of health and family life?

Or disappointment to our parents, that our best is not good enough.


This, we call education in Singapore.

                                 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some of you may have already guessed. The 15-year old is my child.

She spent the weekend methodically demolishing her pile of homework, feeling slightly overwhelmed and trying to make sense of the stressful environment around her.

To put things in perspective, she’s in one of the better classes in an average secondary school. I hear from parents with kids in top secondary schools that the situation is very similar and peer pressure is great.

One mum even remarked, “Once the term starts, I rarely see her smile anymore. That is the life of our kids these days.” 

I remember sitting in a parents’ information session in an elite primary school, and the Principal was touching on what to do in the event that the child was sick on the day of a test or exam.

I was so heartened to hear her remind the parents that if the child is sick, they should take the child to see the doctor and get a medical certificate instead of sending the child to school only for the duration of the test, because we want our children to know that we care about them and their health more than anything else.

Looks like the O level kids don’t have the luxury of adequate sleep and a healthy lifestyle, do they?


School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 – Tuition – First line of attack?
#14 – Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 – First day mix up!

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~