My 5th PSLE child – My Son

Somehow, I feel like a new PSLE mum. After #1, it was more or less the same with the next 3 girls as they were on auto-pilot and there was no need to micro-manage their school work.

For #5, after a horrific showing at his P5 year-end results, I need to monitor him closely this year. We gave him a serious pep talk and I think the severity of the exams have sunk in. At least a little.

It helps a lot that there is the Class Dojo app, a lifesaver for parents like me with a boy who is still not getting with the system at P6. I can easily send any of his teachers a quick check-in text and vice versa, and follow up on the reminders they post almost daily.

So far, he seems to be pretty upbeat and on top of things and he has been putting in effort and handing up all his homework on time. I was most glad to hear from his Chinese teacher that he is trying hard but Chinese is still a subject he really struggles with. His aunt has taken on the very daunting task of tutoring him and we hope that he is able to lift himself from a miserable ungraded mark to at least a pass this year.

We attended the talk by the Principal last weekend and 2 things caught my attention.

One was the flip classroom model whereby students are to be more initiated and learn at home via Google Classroom so that when they come to class, there is more time for discussions and customised learning (whatever that means in a class of 40).

I was pleasantly surprised to hear of this transformation from the traditional method to one where there will be more opportunities for discussion and individualized attention. I was wondering if my other kids are also using it as they have never mentioned it before and asked them at dinner. My older girls giggled to themselves and tried to explain to me that it is nothing fantastic. “Mum, it’s the same as google docs. Everyone can see the lesson and questions. That’s all.”

Oh. I thought it was some kind of interactive online learning portal from the way it was explained at the talk. 2 of them have been using google classrooms, in poly and in sec 1, while the other 2 girls in sec 4 and JC 2 have not come across this as yet. I guess it will be rolled out in all schools soon enough.

Let’s see if this new method is effective, though I wish the students had more time to get used to it before the PSLE year.

The other thing which I was dismayed to hear, was the Principal explaining that this year the focus has shifted from quantity to quality, that there is no point piling them with a whole load of extra work with no real understanding.

This was the exact feedback I gave to the Level Head 2 years back after #4’s PSLE. Many students from her class and the next class fared between 180 and 220 which is disappointing for a top school, and we parents were lamenting how many of them were burnt out from doing stacks of past year papers yet there was not enough time for the teachers to go through with them the corrections to learn from their mistakes.

Yes, I’m glad they take our feedback seriously, but why does it seem like it’s still a matter of trial and error. It was disconcerting to know that there isn’t a solid system to prepare the cohort well for the national exams.

I’ve seen this swing in my other kids’ previous primary school as well. If there was an alarming case the year before, there would be a call to step down on the PSLE workload given to the point where up till March, she still had almost no homework at all until I explained to her teachers that she did not have extra tuition outside and her teachers gave her individual homework.

The more I go through the PSLE with different kids having their own learning footprints, the more I feel a better way of sorting them at 12 is needed.

The kids are stressed, the parents are stressed, the teachers are stressed. I honestly can’t tell who is the most stressed!

I’m not overly bothered about the grade he will eventually get for his PSLE (yes, I’ve reached this stage after going through too many PSLEs) but it is sad that for a child like #5 who is creative, bright, and able to think out of the box, but weak in Chinese and not keen on memorizing key words and composition formats, he may very well end up in the technical stream which is not suitable for him.

I can totally understand many parents’ fear and drive to push their children to accumulate awards and do up impressive portfolios for DSA and such.

We need to relook this PSLE game.

Is it really achieving its objective about educating the next generation and sorting the kids suitably according to their natural aptitude and abilities into the different pathways or has it become a system gamed by the adults with our kids feeling like pawns?

There is no easy solution, but not addressing it head-on soon enough is like letting a bullet train derail at high speed.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

7 Replies to “My 5th PSLE child – My Son”

  1. I am so fascinated with the PSLE and the environment surrounding it. In the Netherlands we have a similar test in P6, the CITO score. It's a national test for all p6 students in three subjects (Dutch, maths, general knowledge) and students are scored against their peer group (which is why I scored higher than my brother two years later did even though I made more mistakes). It counts for half the recommendation for secondary school, the other half being the recommendation of the class teacher. These are generally the same, and if they're not, they do not diverge more than one level.

    So, here's the big difference: no homework, maybe a little in P5 and P6. Almost no tuition (it is happening more and more often in P6, to make sure the kid "reaches their true potential".). No tests that need to be studied for. I recently discovered that apparently my P2 kid does have tests every once in a while (still hazy on the when). I don't know what the outcome is – they don't bring home test results (the results are for the teachers to monitor the kids' progress). Admittedly, I am a bit hands off – but I talk to my kids' teachers regularly, outside of PT conferences, and they tell me the kids are fine. Not great, not bad, just generally okay.

    So, same test, totally different environment. I know if we had stayed in SG I would have been much more on top of it, and pushed much harder and there would have been at least two sets of tuition (Chinese and Dutch). We grappled with the schooling decision for a long time, but ultimately, we chose to go home (there were of course other factors, but schooling was definitely a big part of it).

    I would love to know your thoughts on how similar policies work out so differently in our countries!

  2. I agree that the PSLE needs a relook. The only ones well sorted are the cream of the crop. Those with 240 and below can have a wide range of ability.

    God bless you and your son with peace and joy as you prepare for the exam.

  3. Hi Katrijn,

    Fascinating is a really positive way of looking at it šŸ˜‰ Wow, no homework and no tests? That is my dream education system! That the kids learn well enough in school, and in the long hours they spend there not only in the aspect of knowledge and content, but interaction with their peers and teachers, they are suitably assessed and sorted into secondary schools.

    The difference is that here, parents are able to train and coach their children to ace the tests and exams, especially with outsourced professional help in the form of tuition classes, hence the unrelenting push to get top marks as this determines fully their options for secondary school.

  4. Hi
    Is the system really wrong? Or is it parents' expectations? If the kid is "it is sad that for a child who is creative, bright, and able to think out of the box, but weak in Chinese and not keen on memorizing key words and composition formats,", why would technical stream not be suitable for him? Unless one can get exemption in sec sch chinese, it ain't going to get any easier. But the gd news is, one does not need cl to go to poly.

    If psle is only to reward the creative and smarts, what then happen to those who work hard to drill and memorise stuff to score well?

    This being your 5th psle and your first 4 being nicely sorted to the schs that realise their potential, how did the system fail then?

  5. Dear ZF,

    Our education system definitely has its merits, but there is no doubt that it does not suit every child. During his P5 PTM, looking at his poor grades, his teachers said that it would be a pity for a child like him to go to NA or NT stream as the pace would be too slow for him. Already in class he picks up new concepts faster than his peers after which he would be distracted and ends up doing his own thing. There are children like him who suit the international system better, where there is more room in the curriculum to experiment and question.

    Take a look at the MOE website and while we all know that there is a pressing need to move away from the drill and test model, equipping our children with crucial 21st century competencies, we need to see real change. It is unfortunate that mavericks like my son, creative, inventive, able to take risks and have it in them to be leaders in this new landscape, yet they are unable to cross the first hurdle, the PSLE.

  6. Hi Mummywee,
    I can totally relate with ur #5 struggle in Chinese. My #2 is only P2 this year, but I think he is very similar to yours. I already have nightmare how to prepare him for psle, we have private tutors and class tuition, but they didn't help much. We are hopeless in trying to motivate him in learning chinese, and had even thought of trying to get him exempted but it totally against our belief to try ur best and not take the easy way out. But I see that he really has difficulty to study chinese, and would like to get him assessed. Can u where did u go to to get him assessed? Many thanks!

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