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!
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.