PSLE results: A test of the parents, more than the child

We think that tomorrow is a big day for the child, with the release of the PSLE results.

Actually, the role of the child in this whole PSLE business is over.

It ended with the taking of the exam paper.

The real test of the child was if they had managed to persevere despite it being tedious to study for the exams. If they had risen to the challenge, and displayed a positive attitude throughout. If they had shown resilience, and surmounted difficult family circumstances and continued to press on. If they had overcome the curveballs thrown at them over this unpredictable year.

If my child had put in their best effort, I would be happy. Because I see the PSLE for what it is.

Having had 5 kids go through the PSLE, and the oldest two now in University, I am aware that it is only testing a narrow band of a child’s overall abilities.

With a tiny sample size of 6 kids, I have observed that some children have a natural advantage in this particular testing model, while others, a disadvantage through no fault of theirs.

Furthermore, it does not test their creativity, innovation, sporting abilities, artistic talents, entrepreneur spirit, nor skills sets or character traits like adaptability, resilience, teamwork, empathy, integrity, loyalty or kindness, which would paint a more holistic picture of a child’s abilities and aptitude.

The stark truth is, ALL CHILDREN DO NOT START THIS RACE AT THE SAME STARTING POINT. So it should never be seen as a race, competition, or point of comparison. It should be taken as a sorting mechanism, for the good of our children.

Take the pressure off your child. They are only 12!

A child may wonder what is wrong with him if he scored 190 while his cousin scored 260. He may erroneously conclude that he is “stupid” or “inferior”, when his strengths lie beyond the scope of this testing mechanism.

And woe to us as a society if we dim the lights of this wonderful and varied talent pool of our young generation.

Take for example my 6 kids. They are born with different academic abilities.

Let’s use the analogy of cars. One has the speed capabilities of a sports car while another is more like a family MPV. Even if they put in the same amount of effort, the sports car will always go further and faster. But, not to say that the MPV doesn’t have lots of other advantages.

If tomorrow our child comes back with a low score, it takes courage to reflect on why we may be feeling disappointed.

Are we disappointed that we can’t brag to our friends about our child’s achievement?

Are we disappointed that this transaction which we paid for and put in so much effort over the past 6 years in sending them for extra tuition did not yield the returns we thought it would?

Or are we disappointed that our children did not put in their best efforts? If your child was not bothered, had a poor learning attitude and did not study as hard as he should have, it should have been addressed in the run up to the exams. Not now. They are already feeling the sting, and they need your assurance and love.

Even if my child came back with an excellent score, we must also be mindful of what we are praising, especially if there are siblings around. Because there are sports cars who win the race without even trying. And that is not an attitude we want to applaud or encourage.

We need to root our children in the fundamentals of what is important as they step into the future. Strong fundaments of resilience, drive, purpose, hard work, adaptability and discipline.

If we say that we love them unconditionally, our response should be no different if they get 210 or 250, if they had tried their level best.

I will ensure that the child who scored 210 knows that I see her effort, witnessed her resilience, and applaud her for her determination.

I have had 18-year olds ask me, in all seriousness. “Does my mum think I’m a grades machine?” She is only happy when I come home with a good grade.

Tomorrow, the spotlight is on you, parents.

When your child shows you those 3 digits, and they are upset because it is the lowest amongst their circle of friends. Are you able to sincerely support your child? Knowing that he tried his best?

How are you going to frame your child’s results for him? Whether he did “well” or “badly”?

The lesson and the message that a child gets from his parents during moments like this is what shapes his thinking and view of success and achievement.

I remember to this day, that my parents said to me when I went to collect our PSLE results, “What matters is you tried your best, and know that we are behind you always.”

Those words of unconditional love and unwavering support was what kept me strong despite all the daunting challenges I faced in my adult life.

Can your child say with confidence that “My parents love me for who I am.”

If they can, I say, you have passed the test with flying colours. And remember, this is just the beginning. Let their light shine!

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 co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function. She is a Parent Coach and her signature Mummy Wee: Parenting Secrets courses help parents navigate this challenging journey. She has been regularly featured on national TV, radio and print media.

A tumultuous O level year!

My daughter’s O level exams has just started and it will last through the next 4 weeks. She is a slow and steady learner and drew up a timetable system to work through the chapters one by one for the various subjects.

She decluttered her room and tidied her desk to create a conducive study environment. She was all set to give it her best in this last spurt. Little did she know that her plans were going to be shattered.

An unfortunate situation cropped up, as grandpa had a fall at home. Our repair works had to be brought forward and undertaken immediately as the wooden flooring in his room had rotted and popped up.

We thought that replacing floorboards in 2 rooms wasn’t such major works, and the contractor said it would take A WEEK.

We could deal with that.

Well, it is obvious that we have never done this before – living IN the house while rooms are BEING renovated.

The first two days was deafening! Non-stop drilling and hacking, and the house felt like it was vibrating. In the end, we couldn’t take it anymore and escaped to the nearest eatery to do our work.

The siblings packed their stuff and bunked in with each other, and we reminded them to take EVERYTHING they would need for a week because there was no walking into the room when there was wet cement!

There was a quick shifting of furniture and the one who’s supposed to be revising for her major exams seems to be getting distracted by the others who are on holiday and I hear more chatting than studying.

The first night was like a fun sleepover but soon the contrasting sleeping and living habits started becoming a problem. She had to sleep early for school the next morning, while the others are on holiday. And she got annoyed as the rest are not as tidy as her. Rooming together takes a lot of compromise, understanding and acceptance!

The hubs decided that since the floors and walls have already been taped, it was an opportune time to get in the painters to repaint parts of the house plus do bits of repair works and not have to go through this again. So the living rooms are also out of bounds, and the kids are confined to their rooms because there is so much dust and debris all around as workers are walking in and out hauling cement and planks of wood.

Kate stepped off her school bus and exclaimed, “Why is there a safe entry in MY HOUSE?!”

Morale of the story, DON’T RENOVATE your house while still living in it, especially if you have children. Do it while you are on vacation or let the kids bunk in with their cousins for an extended holiday sleepover! (no one will take our entire troop though haha). We have planned a staycation to celebrate Kate’s birthday and are literally counting down the days till we can escape.

If any of you have done it successfully, please share any tips to survive this! The timeline is never what they promised and it looks like another week or so of chaos.

It is indeed crucial to guide our children to be adaptable and resilient because life is unexpected and things do crop up.

This poor child had a never-ending emotional rollercoaster this year. The sister who roomed with her left for the UK in January, and she cried when she left and it took her awhile to get used to her closest sibling being away (plus the empty room syndrome!) Just when she settled down and rearranged the furniture to suit her own needs, the pandemic hit and her sister was recalled home suddenly!

On top of that, her cohort had to adjust to remote learning in their crucial year, and lost the face-to-face support of their teachers and peers as they moved to a new normal. Then now, this topsy turvy house. What a year it has been.

I can only hope that she continues to hold up, as she tries to find the best way to cope with this year of constant changes!

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 co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function. She conducts small group parenting courses to help parents navigate this challenging journey, and has been featured on national TV, radio and print media.

FACEWEDGE: Fun, comfortable masks

We’ve tried many different masks, and these are our family’s favourite masks! Here’s why my kids love and support FaceWedge.

FUN DESIGNS

Now that mask wearing is here to stay, it has become a fashion accessory! My teens like to match their masks with their outfits, and have received lots of compliments from their friends. I thought the cute designs would spur Kate to wear her masks happily, but the teens and their friends were even more excited than Kate! Now you know what to buy your nieces for Christmas 🙂

Besides the fancy prints, there is also a range of plain coloured masks for a professional look, and which may suit the dads better.

Jungle Tropical Mask $12.50

3D SHAPE

Some masks cling to your nose and mouth, and the kids find it uncomfortable to wear them for 8 hours at school. This one has a 3D effect which makes it more breathable.

LIGHTWEIGHT AND COMFORTABLE

These cotton masks are so far the thinnest and lightest ones we have tried. Each piece is individually handmade using sustainable fabric that is suitable for our hot weather yet providing adequate protection.

Cool designs

FITS WELL

FaceWedge masks come in 5 sizes (Kid S, M, L / Adult & Adult XL), and the elastic bands are easily adjustable to fit everyone! All you have to do is to pull out the original knot, re-knot it at the right place and tuck the knot back in and it’s hidden! Simple.

REUSABLE

These masks are made from premium material and you can throw it into the washing machine on a gentle cycle, or hand wash if you prefer, and hang to dry.

MUMS & KIDS

Some designs come in both adult and kids sizes and the whole family can walk out looking real snazzy!

I ordered Kid M for Kate as she is 8 years old, and the measurements are 10.5 x 17cm, which should fit kids aged 4-7 years old. However, her face is really tiny, and she wears the same sized mask as her 4-year old cousin!

Twinning with Kate

ECO CONSCIOUS

This was the main reason we supported FaceWedge initially, before trying out their masks. The founders, Tom and Mel, have lived in Singapore for more than 7 years, and as avid divers, they are very passionate about the environment, and in particular, the oceans. They realised that many people were still using disposable surgical masks and thus decided to create a range of masks that were comfortable and pretty so that people would actually want to wear them.

Tom & Mel Reid of FaceWedge

DIRECT IMPACT

They have also partnered with Seven Clean Seas, a Singapore-based team that physically pulls plastic from the waters around Singapore. For every 5 FaceWedge masks that you buy, 1kg of plastic is removed from the ocean. To date, they have pulled out over 1000kg of plastic from the waters surrounding Singapore!

Did you know that there are 150 million metric tonnes of plastic in our oceans today? Their goal is to clean up 5 tonnes of plastic by Christmas. Every mask you buy counts!

Seven Clean Seas Team

FREE SHIPPING

Good news! Key in the code “Choose2ReUse” (not case sensitive) at check out for free shipping in Singapore.

Here’s MORE good news! {GIVEAWAY}

We are delighted to be giving away masks to 2 LUCKY families!

All you have to do is hop over to Mummy Wee IG to participate in the GIVEAWAY! And stand to win masks for your whole family! (immediate family members)

Giveaway ends 5 October 2020.

Check out FaceWedge’s wide range of Adult and Children’s masks, and follow their socials as new designs are added every month!

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 co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function. She conducts small group parenting courses to help parents navigate this challenging journey, and has been featured on national TV, radio and print media.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

The most Hilarious ‘ting xie’ episode

Keeping up with Chinese has been an uphill battle for Kate. She is doing Higher Mother Tongue and the standard is very high for kids who come from English speaking families.

She has been very diligent since P1, and tries her best to read her textbook, cover the words and test herself. However, her teacher has already hinted that I should either make time to tutor her myself or consider tuition.

I don’t mind getting her a tutor if I find a passionate educator willing to come to my house to teach her in creative ways, by doing craft or even baking, at a reasonable fee. Till then, adding a weekly chore of sending an 8-year old for Chinese tuition just to keep pace with her school work doesn’t make sense to me.

I have long come to terms with this, and know full well that it takes more than one or two periods a day in school to learn a whole new language. I am happy so long as she keeps at it, and gives it her best, and is able to converse with our elderly relatives.

Now, the problem is, week after week, she comes back with more than 20 words wrong for her ting xie, and I can see that she is wondering how she can do better.

I suggested she find one of her sisters as they may have some time to spare now that they are home a bit more.

Armed with her textbook, she eagerly seeked out a sister, and the latter was more than happy to give her a hand.

Kate had jotted down the han yu pin yin for the difficult words, and they went through the chapter together.

After learning all the words, her sister tested her. They did this for 3 consecutive days until she scored 100%!

She was exuberant and looking forward to going to school for ting xie!

After school, her sis checked in with her, and they were both confident that she would get 100% for the first time!

They patiently awaited the day when Kate would get it back.

The next week, Kate alighted from her school bus and looked absolutely dejected.

I asked her what had happened?

She blurted out something about her ting xie, about how she got it all wrong, how the words were wrong to begin with…

I couldn’t quite understand what she was going on about and had to slowly break it down and get the story straight.

As it turned out, she did write everything correctly as her sis had tested her. However, it was all wrong because the words were incorrectly learnt to begin with!

When her Chinese teacher taught them, Kate wrote down the han yu pin yin, but perhaps her teacher was teaching too fast, or she could not catch it properly, and wrote the wrong han yu pin yin!

She had mis-matched the words to the prounuciations!

Kate ended with a plea, “Mummy, can I please have a REAL tutor?”

I had to hold it in and not burst out laughing. Poor kid. I can imagine her great disappointment. In fact, she was much sadder than all those previous weeks when she didn’t put her heart and soul into learning her ting xie.

I told the older girls the story and we had a good laugh. And THAT sister guffawed and said, “I knew it! I had a feeling that something was not quite right. But I was pressed for time that day, and since she had it all written down nicely, I assumed she had copied it from the board. I’ve not had to read Chinese for many years!”

She had a good chat with Kate, and promised her that for the next round, they would double check the words with google translate.

In fact, Kate didn’t want to chance it, and brought up her own dictionary!

Let’s see what happens when she gets her paper back next week! 😉

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 co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function. She conducts small group parenting courses to help parents navigate this challenging journey, and has been featured on national TV, radio and print media.

Yoon Salon Reviews: Top hairstyles for Busy women

As busy women, what we want is a fuss-free hairstyle for our crowning glory which makes us look our best, taking into account our individual features and the texture of our locks, right?

If you’re looking for a professional hair salon which offers a wide range of services and experienced stylists to give you a make over, or just want a day of self-care to pamper yourself, look no further!

I took my daughter to try out their services and we are both very satisfied with the outcome and the whole experience at this leading hair salon located in the heart of town.

professional consultation

We were warmly welcomed, and her stylist, Ethan, started by analysing her crowning glory and face shape and they had an in-depth discussion about the look she wanted to achieve and he recommended a soft layering for her. He asked if she had box-dyed her tresses before this, which she did during the circuit breaker! Her locks are rather damaged at the ends, and she decided on going for a cut and perhaps will consider a perm another time.

the “before” pic

She was in the good hands of award-winning hair stylist Ethan Pon, who specialises in Colouring and Cutting. He was Shiseido Singapore’s Top 5 Finalist 2018 and clinched Goldwell ColorZoom Singapore Silver Award 2019. As he went along, he gave her lots of tips on how to take care of her crowning glory properly.

wash and scalp massage

Currently, they are having a very special promotion where you can trial any of their services at an extremely affordable price of just S$28!

Beyond the standard cut, they offer hair colouring, highlighting, rebonding, perming, and a range of specialised hair and scalp treatments. You can count on their team of dedicated professionals to advise you on the perfect look whilst keeping your precious locks healthy and luxurious.

All you have to do is to book your session via their website to enjoy any of the following services at the special discount:

Snip Your Way to A New Look

Even a basic cut is an experience here. A stylist will first assess your face shape and recommend the best style that suits you. Your locks will be accordingly cut and styled, for a look certain to be professional and stylish.

premium hair cut

Spoil Yourself

Don’t we busy mums deserve to be pampered with a good hair wash and massage? This service includes a deep cleansing wash for your hair, a relaxing massage for your head, neck and shoulders, blow dry, and professional styling of your locks. The deep cleansing wash helps to remove dirt and excess oil, achieving a luxurious, sleek look.

blow dry

Add A Splash of Colour

If you are looking to colour your tresses, rest assured they use exclusive dyeing products from L’Oréal to Artic Fox to achieve high-quality and vibrant colour for your locks. The stylists are experienced with techniques such as balayage and ombre to create the most beautiful shades and gorgeous gradients. Colouring services include Multiple Colouring, Highlighting, Ombre and Balayage.

Hide Your Greys

As we mature, those first shoots of grey or white strands will make their appearance. Fret not! Their experienced team welcomes questions on any product’s purpose to clear up any concerns you may have. The different colouring services include one shade colouring, coverage for grey hairs and retouching of those pesky roots.

dry cut and layering

Salon Grade Bleaching

The products used in Bleaching are personally selected for your crowning glory by the stylist. Finding the product most suitable for your locks keeps them healthy and shiny, and ensures that every strand is lightened evenly for long-lasting and fade-proof colour. Premium products used include brands such as L’Oréal, Jolen Creme, and Wella.

Curls for Days

Try out the latest Korean styles or go for a classic look with soft and natural-looking curls that last. The experts will recommend you the best conditioning products and clue you in to tips and tricks to care for your new wavy tresses.

Choose from a wide array of trendy techniques including Korean styles such as S-Curl perm, C-Curl perm, and wave perm, and Japanese styles such as the Japanese perm. Aside from that long list, Yoon still offers other perming treatments such as root volume, pin curl, twist, or a classic perm.

beautifully curled, ready for the night out!

Straighten Your Strands

Here, they offer both Straight Rebonding or Soft Rebonding techniques and both processes guarantees moisturised and nourished tresses with minimal breakage.

Best of Both Worlds

Preferable for longer locks, the two types of volume rebonding techniques (S-Curl or C-Curl) involve straightening the top of your tresses and shaping the ends in either a chic inward swirl, or to achieve beautiful-looking waves.

a happy customer!

Now that you’ve achieved your desired look with your beautiful new tresses, don’t forget to take care of the health of your locks.

All kinds of factors – stress, poor diet, heat styling, dyes and even wearing your tresses in tight styles can damage them, causing loss of strands and split ends. Professional hair and scalp treatments address these problems by tackling the issues from the roots, promoting blood circulation and revitalizing the follicles.

Protect and Repair Your Scalp

Their Premium Scalp Treatment works to exfoliate the scalp and treat oiliness, dryness, sensitivity, and hair loss. And the best part – you get to sit back and enjoy a relaxing head and scalp massage for some much needed R&R.

Heal Your Tresses

Opt for their Premium Hair Treatment to get your luscious locks back in order. This treatment promises to bring out the best in your crowning glory: defrizzing, strengthening, gloss, repair, and smoothening.

This premium salon prides itself on using quality products and they believe in providing an excellent customer experience, so once you step in, you will be given that special one-on-one attention and care.

When we went home, the older girls gave their nod of approval and they are keen on trying out the other services for themselves.

Go ahead and book your trial today!

For your convenience, they have three established outlets located at:

All of their outlets are open from 11am to 9pm for the entire week, inclusive of eve of public holidays and public holidays!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

6 reasons why we love Polytechnic HBL

My daughter’s Polytechnic course went online at the start of Covid-19 and full HBL is still ongoing. She is studying Marketing and tells me that online learning is not very different from being in a huge lecture hall where the lecturer is way up front, and the students are behind their computer screens.

In fact, she is enjoying off-campus learning because she doesn’t have to wake up early to get ready and spend an hour getting to school. They have a lot of gaps between classes and she can use it more productively at home.

I noticed a huge difference in her lifestyle, and the pace is more healthy and balanced. Here are 6 reasons why HBL has been a positive experience for the family.

We see her a lot more

Previously, she would leave the house at 8am and get home after dinner. Although she has empty slots between lessons, it doesn’t make sense to come home. She hangs out with her friends or they do their assignments in school. We see her during the weekends and have to pre-book her.

With HBL, she is home everyday! Besides the fixed lectures, she is on zoom with her group mates as they work on their projects together, and she can eat her lunch while keeping tabs on what is going on.

green curry, yummm

Healthier home-cooked meals

At poly, they usually eat at the food court. Home-cooked food has less salt, sugar and MSG and she can have freshly cut fruits and salads. She also helps me prepare lunch for Kate and Kate is overjoyed to have her sisters at home when she gets home.

appetizer

Bonding with siblings

Once they enter poly or Uni, they have an active school and social calendar and you hardly see them. Just by being at home more, the in-between pockets of time allows them to spend time with each other. These are the simple memories of home they will remember and which will keep them close. Kate said that the best thing about this period is having her siblings at home!

sisters are the best

Taking elderly relatives for errands

My teens seldom get to visit their 90-year old grand aunt and she quipped that during these past 2 months, she has seen them more than in the past 5 years! She only goes out during the weekdays to avoid the crowds, and they are now able to drive her for her medical appointments and to take her to the wet market to buy from her favourite stalls on days they have free blocks of time between their lectures.

Teaching Kate Chinese

Kate is doing higher Mother Tongue and the work that she comes home with is beyond what she can cope with by herself. I personally do not agree with this philosophy whereby parents are expected to coach them with their daily work or resort to tutors. I’m glad the teenagers are home now to help out because her Chinese teacher has been dojo-ing me!

Saves time, saves money

HBL has freed up a lot of time, and she is able to save money on transport and extras like starbucks, snacks or bubble tea when out with friends.

She is hoping that online learning will continue to be tapped into as much as possible, with a hybrid of on-campus classes only where necessary. I do hope so too!

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

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.

Recommendations to maximize happiness and minimize suffering in Singapore’s education system

That was my daughter’s philosophy assignment topic. I do agree with her ideas, and happy to know that she scored an A for this paper!

Here is a short excerpt:

A Holistic Approach to Happiness

Happiness is determined 50% by genetic set-point, 10% by external circumstances, and 40% by intentional activity (Salzgeber, 2018). Given the importance of intentionally changing one’s behavior to being happy, the education system should teach the practice of happiness as a core aspect of the curriculum, from Primary to Tertiary education, to maximize happiness. This can be done by implementing modules of empathy, philosophy, and mental wellness.

Teaching empathy

The value of teaching empathy has been affirmed by some of the happiest countries in the world. Danish schools, for example, credit their standing as the second happiest nation in the world to their weekly empathy lesson for students aged 6 to 16 years (Newsroom, 2019). To maximize happiness, Singapore should similarly incorporate empathy classes as a fundamental subject and hone the skills of real learning and understanding in students.

Benefits

Cultivating virtue ethics. Numerous philosophies can be reconciled in their recognition of virtuous activity as happiness. Aristotle declared happiness to be the final aim of virtuous activity, inter alia. (McMahon, 2013). Similarly,  Stoicism proclaimed that the cultivation of virtue was essential to a happy life, through the embracing of four cardinal virtues: wisdom, temperance, justice, and courage (Saunders, 2019). Empathy lessons cultivate these values by teaching students of all ages to recognize and respect others and their emotions, thus teaching happiness.

Kate doing her chinese homework

Developing interpersonal relationships. Seligman (2004) propounds that developing relationships is essential to feel satisfied in life. In my experience, all good days share one thing in common: a connection to others. Such days are a reminder that, as social creatures, we are not meant to exist in isolation. Further, developing meaningful relationships is key to reaching Attunement;  a connection to others enforce stability and balance and can help us feel ‘settled’ amidst the fact-paced rat-race to the end. The effect of interpersonal relationships on happiness can alternatively be explained by Desire Theory. Following the Desire Theory, if happiness results from getting what we strongly want, and building connections to others is an intrinsic desire, then having strong interpersonal relationships is pivotal to attaining happiness.

Moreover, having empathy promotes prosocial behaviour (Newsroom, 2019). Being prosocial is important to happiness as helping others genuinely makes us feel good. Personally, I enjoy doing works of charity and putting effort in friends and family as making others happy results in a sense of fulfilment. The benefits of being prosocial finds parallels in doctrines positing that happiness is contagious; in spending on others, we spread happiness, and correspondingly experience happiness in giving it.

Feasibility

The effectiveness of empathy lessons may be limited in Singapore. Nordic countries attribute their happiness to upbringing: “happy parents raise happy children who grow up to be happy adults who raise happy children” (Newsroom, 2019). Given that Singapore still places considerable importance on academic performance at the expense of character development, Singapore may experience difficulty in changing the mindset of parents to value and promote empathy in their children.

On the other hand, taking one step in the right direction is better than taking no steps at all. Further, that parents may not prioritize empathy is an even greater reason that schools should. My own exposure to the importance of empathy in a ‘Virtue Ethics’ class in Junior College was valuable. There, I observed first-hand the importance of being more understanding of my peers, which made school a happier place to be in. The existence of such classes demonstrates that teaching empathy in schools is both feasible, and has practical benefits.

Philosophy as a core module

I propose that philosophy be implemented as a core module from Primary to Tertiary education.

Benefits

My experience approaching philosophy for the first time in my university’s ‘Big Questions’ module was eye-opening. Prior to the class, happiness seemed fleeting and elusive. Studying philosophy introduced productive ways of evaluating my mindset and implementing practical changes to my lifestyle that truly helped me feel more at home and happy.

Cultivating philosophical reflection and intellectual virtue. Studying philosophy has been correlated with happiness. As mentioned, both Stoicism and Aristotelian philosophy declared happiness to be the final aim of philosophical reflection and virtue. Thus, studying philosophy is instrumental in teaching one to maximize happiness for oneself, and can help one reach Attunement.

Finding meaning in life. As observed by Victor Frankl, humans are motivated to find meaning in life (Frankl, 1992). A person who has meaning is likely to be more passionate in living, and thus find happiness in the state of Engagement. Studying philosophy exposes students to fundamental questions about existence, reason, and mind; it thus contributes to happiness in guiding students to finding meaning and satisfaction in life.

Feasibility

Implementing philosophy as a core module is likely to be feasible in conjunction with the other proposed measures, as the decentralization of academic performance as the primary focus of education enables more leeway for non-academic modules. Although younger students may not fully grasp the more complex philosophies, concepts can be simplified for their benefit. As Aristotle eloquently put, “Let no one when young delay to study philosophy … for no one can come too early or too late to secure the health of his soul” (Epicurus, 1954, para. 1).

Mental wellness modules

Teaching the practice of mindfulness, meditation, and positive psychology supplements the effectiveness of the above propositions in maximizing happiness. Killingsworth propounds that true well-being depends on the state of our minds and the quality of our consciousness (Bradt, 2010). Thus, mindfulness, meditation, and positive psychology have similarly effective outcomes in contributing to well-being, including a greater sense of coherence, empathy, and more satisfying relationships.

Conclusion

Institutional measures alone cannot guarantee happiness. However, happiness and education are intimately connected and quality education can and should aim to maximize happiness and minimize suffering where feasible. Thus, Singapore should implement the proposed changes to assessment methods and curriculum to overturn the excessively competitive mindsets of students and parents today, and strike a holistic balance that is the formula to maximizing happiness.

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 also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

Social and political views of our young people

#1 will be voting for the first time and has been following GE2020 closely. At that age, my peers and I were apathetic about politics as it didn’t seem to directly impact us and we took a stable government and the peace and prosperity of our country for granted.

Gen Z, however, seems to be a socially woke generation, hyper aware of social injustice and prejudice. When #1 was 16, she took up photography and ventured out on foot to capture the local streets. She came home disturbed, and showed me her photographs. This scene in particular, stirred up unease in her.

Who are these fellow human beings? She mulled over the fact that it is on the backs of these men’s hard labour that our shiny buildings are constructed, yet they are sitting under the hot sun on the side of the roads they have built for us, with cars zooming past them. They contributed largely to the foundation of our city, but are we treating them with dignity or we simply look away because it makes us uncomfortable? What could she do for them? Invite them home for a meal? Tell their story? Acknowledge them? She gave them a smile, waved and left with a heavy heart.

So what are some of the issues that our youths of today are concerned about?

#1 took this photo in 2015

CLIMATE CRISIS

Earlier this year, they watched in horror as bush fires swept across New South Wales and wildlife perished and became extinct. 2 big questions they couldn’t comprehend: why wasn’t the Australian government doing more? and if climate change was at the root of this and many other problems facing the world, why is the climate crisis not an even higher priority for all governments? They read how some countries are banning single-use plastic, proposing sustainable green recovery packages post-covid, and hope that our leaders are doing their part in minimising the carbon rebound while reviving the economy.

They believe that every individual has to be the solution, and have stopped shopping fast fashion and switched to eco-friendly brands, are against consumerism and buy reusable, sustainable and ethical products where possible.

They are also not afraid to speak up. During her Secondary 4 year, #2 had a session in the hall about environmental issues. Wrapping up, the HOD asked if anyone had anything to say. She stood up and gave an impassioned speech about how it should be everyone’s shared responsibility, that she was confused as her teachers did not walk the talk and the amount of paper churned out by schools was significant and she pointed out scenarios where they could do better. Her teacher shared with me that because of my daughter, she now thinks twice before printing anything and would consider other options first.

The covid situation heightened their environmental awareness and as factories were shut and air travel halted, statistics have emerged about carbon emissions. They discovered that aviation and fast fashion are the two biggest culprits in environmental pollution. They want to rethink our vacations as air travel leaves a huge carbon footprint, and it is better to move to a country for a year or two to study or work and explore that country, instead of flying to a destination just for a week or two.

The tables have turned. They are thinking through big issues which concern their future and getting us to re-evaluate many areas of our lives which we have stopped questioning.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Gen Zs have grown up with a lot more connectivity to the world. #2 used to write fan fiction and made friends with teenagers from around the world and became close friends with a few. With technology, they were privy to each other’s daily lives, homes and classrooms.

They chatted about the differences in their school curriculum and discussed issues such as the LGBT movement. For example, her friend from Canada explained about the controversy surrounding their revised sex education curriculum, with different groups holding different views on gender identity and sexual orientation.

It got them thinking about the laws in their own country. They asked questions like why is Section 377A which was enacted in 1871 still valid and upheld in the 2007 review when people should have freedom of choice? While they understood that we are a conservative Asian society, they questioned the point of it being a criminal act if it is between consenting adults.

SOCIAL INEQUALITY AND MARGINALIZATION

They jokingly call our helper “our expat” because they tell me that by definition, an expat is anyone who lives outside their own country. Why should there be double standards and they be termed “foreign workers”? As a family, we do our part to take care of the workers around our street, and my kids would hand them biscuits and cold drinks.

They were proud of their dad when during the circuit breaker, he needed to separate his foreign workers and made the decision to put them up in a small hotel instead of letting them rough it out in temporary holdings. They saw the hubs interact with them and exclaimed, “Dad talks to them nicer than to us! And he treats them so kindly.”

While everyone was forced to figure out how to work from home, my daughter lamented that isn’t it sad for people with a physical disability? These are things that employers could have implemented ages ago, but sidelined. She feels that more needs to be done before we can become a truly inclusive society and a level playing field for all, especially for vulnerable groups.

Once, I took her to the market to take photos as I was writing about markets around Singapore. She was drawn to this sight of an elderly uncle with piles of neatly tied cardboard boxes, and wanted to capture his facial expression, but felt it might be disrespecful.

Methinks she has a flair for photojournalism. Her first publication – Scenes of Singapore as seen through the lens of a 16-year old.

#1 took this photo in 2015

Last weekend, the grandparents came over for dinner, and they had a robust discussion about the coming elections. They wanted to know who their por por and gong gong were voting for.

Immediately, my pro-PAP parents said, “PAP!”

“Why, por por. Please explain your choice.”

Their 80 year-old grandma went on to tell them how the government has been pivotal in building Singapore up, that they were born just before WW II, went through war, hardship, poverty, and experienced the transformation right before their eyes. From days of water rationing and eating rice with soya sauce, to having the opportunity to go to school and being able to make a good livelihood by working hard, saving up, and providing their children with an overseas education. “When gong gong was hospitalised, even in the 8-bedder, it was comfortable and the the bill was covered by medisave.”

“Yes, por por, we know the government did a good job for the past many decades, but what about now? When I graduate will I be able to get a good job? The cost of living is one of the highest in the world. And HDBs are so expensive we won’t be able to afford it. What about the foreign worker situation? Inequality? Minimum wage? Global warming?”

Grandma looked at her, confused. I could almost see the generation gap.

Gen Zs are far from being apathetic about social issues, and we as parents need to have open conversations with them, to guide them to hash out discussions in an objective and respectful manner.

It is too easy for them to get swayed by information shared by their peers, and I tell them not to simply accept everything they read or watch, be mindful of things being taken out of context, and to do their own research and look at things from both a micro and macro perspective before making conclusions. Pointing out the faults in systems and other people is not difficult. But to understand the full complexity of the problems, consequences, impact and trade-offs requires greater depth of deliberation.

I emphasis that there are multi facets to any issue, and beyond the elections, the real value of them as vocal citizens is not by being keyboard warriors, but by contributing meaningfully and working together to better Singapore. We tell our staff at work, when you come to us with a problem, please bring along some possible solutions you have brainstormed and we can improve things together.

We need a generation of young adults who are able and willing to stand up and steer Singapore into the future successfully. While it is a positive thing that they are taking an interest in the political scene, it is imperative that we give them a solid foundation of strong values, good character, open-mindedness, maturity and commitment to continue to build up a democratic Singapore, based on truths and sound judgement, not falsehoods, groupthink or rash emotions.

Our young people will soon be a force to reckon with, and their idealism and passion must be directed well.

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 also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.