Most of us parents have breathed a collective sigh of relief now that exams are all over. My eldest is only in P2, and we are both glad that the exams are over!
Do I wish that exams never existed? Now that I am an adult, and perhaps because I’m not the one who has to take them, I can see some value in them. For starters, exams are a great way to take stock and assess what you’ve learnt.
Secondly, reviewing the last year’s work had been an eye opener. This month (or two) I realized how far behind my son was in his Chinese. Although he has tuition with Connected Learning 3 times a week, we have not been consistent in our own revision. Languages, especially Chinese, is difficult to learn as a subject, and immersion is probably the most effective means of learning, but unfortunately we are only immersed in English the whole day long.
I’ve come to realize, and here’s a tip for new primary school parents, that even though the texts look rather simple, and it breaks things down into words you need to be able to read 我会读, and write 我会写, there are actually a lot of other vocabulary words that might just sneakily appear once or twice in the text and not on the official read/write list that they will assume you will have learnt.
We’ve resolved to try and catch up over the holidays to make sure that his foundation is as good as we can get it to be. Which, given my own standard of Chinese, might not be fantastic either, but hey, at least we will try right? I’ve also resolved to acquire more assessment books not to torture the kid, but for him to have more practice, especially with regards to those sneaky words earlier mentioned. I’ve also given my husband some homework of reading through some idioms and good phrases to use in conversation and composition. I hope he will remember to do so 😀
Preparing for the exams also helped us identify where my son’s weak spots are. Some were functional, like poor memorisation of multiplication. We noticed that he seemed to grasp most of the maths concepts pretty well but was always easily careless – not reading the question properly or not copying the word correctly (ugh!).
Tired of always nagging about carelessness, I made a simple list of 4 tips he needed to work on, and made a mental note to help him with the multiplication. It seemed to help him and he scored decent marks.
Where I saw weaknesses, for example in completing the English comprehension, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak with his creative writing teacher who had some tips for us and also helped me understand what the PSLE requirements are. Study hard also have to study smart right?
Although there was some frustration and scolding especially in the initial stage, there has been a lot less after I focussed on the teaching since I didn’t feel we had the luxury of time to have any huge breakdowns or dramas while studying. When a child can’t seem to grasp the concepts or information, we shouldn’t always be quick to blame the child, the content, or the system. Perhaps what we should re-look the teaching, and try a different approach.
The exams has been a good learning opportunity for both of us. For me I have now come a long way from the newbie mum who had to figure out the whole primary school syllabus. It’s help me understand my child more, and I hope it helps him to learn more responsibility, and to be more diligent consistently, to run the marathon at a steady pace, rather than a quick but tiring burst at the end. I’ve heard that boys only “wake up” at around P5, so I guess before then they will need some shepherding and prodding.
I’m also grateful for having a few rational thinking and like minded mums who have influenced my parenting and approach to exams. I love that they are not kiasu but simply want to make sure that their children are trying their best while leading balanced lives. Universal Scribbles (also here) and Kids’R’Simple have some great thoughts on this topic.
We also believe that exams are not everything, and in actual fact, the PSLE is merely a means to select a secondary school. High PSLE scores or GEP selection by no means ensures success in adulthood. In fact, I did not do my PSLE as we were living abroad, it has made no impact in my life at all, and today I hold a Master’s degree.
“If you want to get your kid into Harvard, go home and love your wife, love your husband, love your partner,”
– John Medina, Brain Rules for Baby
(see article here)
Research shows that academic success is not solely on being a knowledge bank or having the ability to study, but most important is having a loving stable environment. You know that experiment with green beans that we all do when we’re young, seeing if they need permutations of water and sunlight? Well in the case of children, all they really need is love. And perhaps a little bit of prodding sometimes. Even plants need pruning and Professor Zhou Hong likened children to that of a farmer tending his crops.
If that’s not enough convincing, this article by a CEO on the relevancy of academics in today’s world – it is a great reminder for all parents that grades and schools aren’t everything. With so much in the media on the stresses of childhood, I hope all parents, myself included, will be able to work together with their children not to excel, but to ensure that they have the best childhood possible.