Let’s not hide behind the convenient “late bloomer” narrative

My son had his first Edusave Award.

Many would call him a “late bloomer”. However, I feel we should not use the “late bloomer” label loosely, because it blind sides us to the potential we could have provided for him.

Being a “late bloomer” suggests that either a child finally “wakes up” and studies hard in secondary school, polytechnic, or University, or a child’s “intelligence” kicks in at a later age. Both of which are not true in his case.

Let me explain.

My son has a learning profile that does not match our current education system. He was a very active preschooler, outspoken, curious, and the type of child who thinks out of the box and always asks “Why?” and “Why not?”

He does not do that out of defiance, but because that’s how his mind operates. He genuinely wants to know the reason why something is the way it is, or why something can’t be done. Can we find a way to get around it? Has it been proven? Only after he has tried all sorts of ways to get around it without success will he conclude that he hasn’t managed to find a way yet. Many a times, he stumbles upon new discoveries while figuring things out.

However, this does not sit well with formal education as teachers have a syllabus to get on with, and they can’t manage a class of 40 with random kids piping up constantly, even if their questions or observations are legitimate. I understand, because I am an educator myself.

From the time he was young, we could tell that he is a bright child. He had never-ending questions, all logical, but it took a lot of patience to answer them! He easily picked up the rules of games quicker than his older siblings, and was doing advanced puzzles which he found around the house.

At 4, I sent him to Act 3 for a week of speech and drama holiday camp and the teacher said that he could memorize all his lines as well as the lines of every other child in the play in one morning.

When it was time to enrol him in preschool, I was in a dilemma. Having peeked into the kindergarten classrooms of my 4 girls which were of the traditional model, I was certain that my son needed an environment that was more hands-on and developmentally appropriate. Despite the logistics hassle, I decided to put him in a school with an experiential learning philosophy with a lot more outdoor time.

As expected, his preschool teachers commented that he talked a lot, moved non-stop, had lots of big ideas, was a natural leader, was curious how things worked (yes, a nightmare for most teachers) and was very creative. His creations and designs were very complex, always symmetrical, and had detachable parts that could “fly out”. Only when he was creating could he sit for long periods, fully focused, and he had the patience to dig through the entire box to find the pieces that he needed. He could conceptualise things easily in his mind, and could visualise them vividly before they take form.

They understood his learning style, and could accommodate them without compromising the curriculum outcome.

However, once he entered Primary school, all I heard was complaints from his teachers. His education journey went downhill from there. I had a lot of calls and texts from his form teacher.

Feedback from his P1 form teacher:

He talks a lot and asks too many questions when he should just listen to the instructions and obey them. He’s unable to sit still at his desk and pay attention and gets easily distracted and ends up distracting his classmates.

His perspective as a 7-year old:

When I questioned him about his “bad behaviour” that his teacher kept complaining to me about, he was surprised. He said that she kept repeating herself and taught the same concept 3 times so he tuned out and was thinking of his own stuff. The lesson was boring so he chatted with his friend next to him. It was hard for him to stay put on the chair and listen to her talk. He wanted to walk around the classroom and find something interesting to work on.

This kind of “out-of-the-norm” classroom behaviour earned him a reputation of being a “naughty” boy, and it became a self-perpetuating prophecy.

His P6 science teacher even told me at the PTM that he should save all his questions for when he goes to secondary school. Right now, just keep quiet, conform and focus on the PSLE and regurgitate the “key phrases”.

The one and only teacher who told me that he was not a naughty boy like everyone made it out to be was a male teacher. He shared that my son was actually a sweet boy when you spent time to get to know him and to hear him out, and he admitted that an international school would have suited him much better.

With the wisdom of hindsight, of my 6 kids, this child should have been homeschooled so that he could reach his potential and not feel like a misfit.

The turn around finally came when he entered an all-boys school in Secondary One. For the first time, he didn’t feel judged or labelled, and the teachers were more accepting of their different learning styles.

Not surprisingly, his favourite subjects in school is Design & Technology and Art. The other subjects with a content-heavy curriculum are still not ideal for his learning profile, and I’m looking forward to checking out the options in Polytechnic, where it is practical based and industry relevant, which would suit him much better.

There are indeed many more pathways now after the O levels. MOE has done a lot to widen the options at the tertiary level and I love asking my kids’ friends what courses they are in! The most unexpected one I’ve heard so far is a perfumery and cosmetic science course, and other interesting poly courses include game design, sports coaching, vet science, animation and film production. More importantly, the opportunities for our children to enter University via other routes besides the A levels or IB path are also increasing.

All of that is excellent, as we nurture life long learners, but what about the precious first 10 years of their formal education?

If my son’s primary school education was of a different model, one of exploration and experiential hands-on classroom activities, he would certainly not be a “late bloomer”.

It is too late for him to turn back the clock, but not too late for us to look ahead and take this group of children seriously.

These are the mavericks who have the potential to chart new horizons for the future of Singapore in a progressively disrupted world. Let’s not systematically kill the spirit of such kids but let their unconventional genius find root and take shape.

The sad thing is, my son is now very quiet, school is uninspiring and uninteresting, and his only creative outlet is in digital games, where strategy, creativity, and innovation is called for.

I can’t wait for him to finish his secondary education and to move on to something more relevant which sparks his interest, and where he can finally bloom.

Why a co-ed school was wrong for my son, and more school stories.

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 is an Award winning blogger of Mummy Wee Blog and has been regularly featured on national TV, radio and print media.

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.

#22 – My Best Parent Teacher Meeting EVER
#23 – My daughter created a winning exam strategy

~ 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 ~

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 ~

No appealing if you miss PSLE cut-off point

During the December holidays, MOE passed a new ruling that secondary schools are not to take in transfer students with PSLE aggregate scores lower than their official cut-off point.

So what exactly does that mean?

Basically, students who did not make it into a school via the Secondary 1 posting exercise need not bother to appeal.

Even those who miss by 1 or 2 points, just too bad. The sorting process is going to be more cut-and-dried.

Photo source: The Straits Times online

As one principal shared with me, this was the best Christmas present ever.

It takes the onus off principals to have to make the very tough decision of letting one student in over another based on arbitrary criteria.

Although it seems like a move backwards towards unrelenting meritocracy, I can see the rationale behind this. Transparency, objectivity, stopping the unnecessary hopping, minimising principals having to justify to pushy parents why another student was offered the place instead of their child.

I remember during #1’s time, she missed by 2 points to get into the school of her 1st choice.

During the decision making process, she had studied the book, looked at the various cut-off points, weighed the pros and cons (distance/friends/CCAs/perceived image of the school) and convinced herself that it was the best choice.

Lo and behold, the cut-off point increased by 2 points and she did not make it in.

Experienced friends told me, “Don’t worry, go and appeal. Got chance.”

I made a trip down early in the morning and easily spotted the “Appeal Box” placed on a table at the entrance of the school, and it was already filled to the brim!

Feeling extremely daunted, I went ahead and asked for the appeal form as my daughter really wished to enter that school. We had to answer questions on her achievements and awards, and not surprisingly, we did not get a call.

#1 was admitted into the school of her 2nd choice. I felt it was an excellent school, but she always had the “what if” thought at the back of her mind.

With #2, her aggregate was lower than #1’s even though she had better overall grades.

This time, I was wiser.

The image of the burgeoning appeal box stuck in my mind. As my kids have hardly any awards, I decided to play it safe.

For her 1st choice, we shortlisted a few schools and finally chose a school with a cut-off point a few points below her aggregate.

She got in comfortably even though the cut-off point had increased.

With #3, I was very keen on her following in #2’s footsteps as I was impressed by the way her principal helmed the school. Full of heart and very student-centric. It was obvious that they put values above academic paper chase.

Even though her aggregate was barely scrapping the bottom, we decided to try our luck as the siblings were looking forward to being in the same secondary school.

Guess what? The cut-off point rose again and she missed it by 2 points.

This time, I was very disappointed. The hubs said, “Go and appeal. She missed by just 2 points. Say her sister is there too. Valid reason. And next time if they need, let’s go and help out.”

I stared at him. He thinks we are still living in the old days, kampung spirit and all.

The girls were devastated and I told them we would try to appeal.


When I submitted the form, I was told that it could take anywhere up to the 3rd week of school to get a response while the musical chairs went on.


As the days drew nearer to the start of the year, #3 said that if she does not get a place before school starts, she does not want to transfer anymore. She would be happy to stay put, make new friends and start fresh with everyone else.

I could also tell that the uncertainty was unsettling. To write her names on the books or not. To alter the uniforms to the right length or not. To familiarise herself with the bus route and neighbourhood of which school?

Based on her sporting abilities, she was called in for the try-outs a few days before school started and got accepted immediately via the DSA vacancy with the understanding that she would participate in their niche sport and would not be allowed to transfer to another school for the duration of the 4 years.

As fate would have it, she sustained an eye injury in her first friendly match and is now unfit to continue in her CCA. The twist and turns of life can be stranger than fiction!

So, what now, for #4?

With this new directive, I would have to be more careful in selecting the school of her 1st choice after the PSLE results are out. It would be prudent to give a 2-3 point buffer from the previous year’s cut-off point just in case it increases due to demand.

Well, that’s just me, being the ultra chill mum that I am.

However, I can already hear the buzz going on.

Last year’s batch of parents were literally caught off-guard. They will be sharing their war stories with the next batch of parents and we can expect the latter to take it up one notch.

Now that there is no more room for showcasing their childrens’ CCA credentials via appeals nor any arm twisting, what are they to do?

Probably put more pressure on their kids academically as the PSLE aggregate becomes more critical because even 1 point makes a difference whether the child can make it into their school of choice.

The DSA route would also be more fervently pursued since the appeal option has now been choked off.

For the sake of the children I hope that the DSA initiative would be scrapped soon as the impact has become contrary to what was intended, and that our new education minister would push through more details with regards to replacing the PSLE aggregate with grades, as promised by our PM 3 years ago.

I was tempted to do my homework and start asking the parents I see around my neighbourhood to recommend some good schools with values which align with mine, with a more modest cut-off point just in case.

But as I thought about it, I can see that with her abilities, #4 should be able to make it into #3’s school if she goes in with a fighting spirit and gives it her all this year.

I have confidence that she will rise to the occasion. Sometimes, our believe in them is the little extra that they need.

To fellow mums with P6s, we are all in this together! It is going to be a year of challenges, excitement, and joy of watching them set targets and strive to achieve them. Jia you!

Based on past experiences with my older 3 kids, here are 6 things I will do for #4 in her PSLE year.

Here are 6 tips to choose a secondary school that is right for your child.

More related posts on school & such.

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



We are getting 2 new acting ministers for Education

I read with great sadness that Mr Heng Swee Keat is no more our Education Minister and has been appointed as the new Finance Minister.

Great sadness for 2 reasons.

One, because he has been student-centric and we are starting to see the fruits of his labour and two, because 4 years is simply too short to see real changes as the education cogwheel is so complex. Another term helmed by Mr Heng would have been good.

Source: Channel News Asia

After reading the article MOE to get two new acting ministers in today’s Straits Times, I feel even worse.

“PM Lee had said two years ago that the Primary School Leaving Examination would be revamped, but no details have been released since.”


I raised this issue with Mr Heng about a year ago when I had a chance to speak with him at a dinner. I shared with him some sentiments on the ground. I told him that after it was announced that the PSLE aggregate score would be scraped, kiasu parents have been scrambling to sign their kids up for more enrichment classes in the creative arts to boost their portfolios, in the void of further information on how all the A students are going to be differentiated.

Just when we thought things are moving forwards, would it be back to the drawing board? Besides the PSLE aggregate problem, there are many more issues at hand.

When I attended a dialogue session at the MOE 2 years ago, they shared with us that with some policies, it is one step forwards, two steps back. Many a time, it is the parents who need convincing.

I totally agree that the ministry can’t work alone and that parents play a huge role.

However, to build a good relationship, doesn’t it take time and trust?

Over the past 4 years, we have come to like and respect Mr Heng and his views, and parents are more open to the directives coming from his office.

There’s another aspect of the re-shuffling which unsettled me.

Mr Lee said yesterday that he has known Mr Ng and Mr Ong before they joined politics and that they “have potential but need the exposure and experience. I’m able to supervise and oversee and mentor them.”


Commentator Ho Kwon Ping described the education portfolio as “one of the most important ones and is usually a prerequisite for someone en route to being a PM”.


Why do I get the sense that it’s politics before people?

I thought it strange that some teachers who had been teaching for decades had this to say about the Education portfolio, but now I understand their acquiescence.

“We are like a ball. Always passed around.”

Finance needs Mr Heng but we need him too!

I can only hope that the 2 new ministers work fast to get a feel of the situation on the ground and address the pressing problems facing our children, as the education situation from pre-school to tertiary not only affects their future, but also has a direct impact on the lives of families in the here and now.

On a brighter note, something to cheer about is having two new acting ministers.

Mr Ng Chee Meng will oversee pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, and Junior Colleges. He has served for three decades in the Singapore Armed Forces, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed as to his direction.

Mr Ong Ye Kung, who has served as Mr Lee’s principal private secretary and was NTUC deputy secretary-general, will be in charge of ITEs, polytechnics, universities, private education, and continuing education and training.

We wish Mr Heng Swee Keat all the best in his new appointment, and warmly welcome Mr Ng and Mr Ong in their new positions and hope that this change in leadership will bear much fruit for Singapore in the coming years.

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