My husband says we don’t need another banker or lawyer. What we need are more social workers, pastors and teachers. Having worked in the financial sector for over a decade, I can see where he’s coming from
PSLE looms ahead for many kids (and their parents) here in Singapore. It’s a nerve-racking time as the PSLE (short for Primary School Leaving Examination) is considered to be one of the most important examinations that a child will take in Singapore before pursuing their higher studies. The PSLE takes place towards the end of Primary 6 but getting academically ready for the PSLE can start as early as when a child turns three years old! Lee Wen Ching, Singaporean mum-of-two shares a different parenting approach, one that focuses less on academics and more on enjoying childhood and character building.
I would like to think of myself as a relatively chilled mum. My boys are aged six and three. I haven’t started to worry about their academics, much less PSLE. Outside of school, we spend most of our time at the pool, tennis court, or playing with the cousins and grandparents.
I’ve heard of parents who moved homes to be near prestigious schools once their baby was born. I know of parents who, before COVID, spent the entire weekend ferrying their five-year-old from one enrichment class to another. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for your kid, and I respect that every parent has a different approach. For us, we wanted to allow our children to enjoy their childhood the way we enjoyed ours – carefree and stress-free.
Mother’s guilt and FOMO (fear of missing out) often hit me when my mummy friends rattle the list of classes they’ve registered their children for. But my husband reins in the tiger mum in me. In his words, “We don’t need another banker or lawyer. What we need are more social workers, pastors and teachers.” Having worked in the financial sector for over a decade, I can see where he’s coming from.
Encouraging the joy of learning
That’s not to say that I am entirely chill. I believe in outsourcing to professionals aspects where I fall short. For instance, I send my kids to Berries because their Chinese teachers suggest that they need help. Coming from English-speaking families, we acknowledged that it was best to leave this with the professionals. Fortunately, the kids enjoy these classes. We have a common understanding that we would stop enrichment classes if the kids no longer found joy in attending them. After all, we don’t want to kill their enjoyment of learning.
It’s not always easy, but we try not to emphasize academics in our parenting philosophy. After all, jobs of the future will be vastly different from today’s jobs. Skills that got our generation to where we are today may not be relevant for our kids’ generation. What we can equip them with is life skills: tenacity, social skills, and critical thinking.
New PSLE system but no real change
And this is where I feel that our educational system can be more progressive. For all that talk about holistic learning and taking the focus away from grades, the revamp of the PSLE scoring system was underwhelming. Yes, students are no longer competing for that additional point. But that was never the point. We merely repackaged the PSLE scoring system to present it in a slightly different way. Outcomes remain by and large the same.
To make a change, we need to de-emphasize exams, grades and tuition. Instead, we should encourage guided curiosity and groom their public speaking skills. We should allow every child to learn at their own pace without fear of judgment and encourage them to think outside the box.
In my years of working with professionals from around the world, I can’t help but notice how locally-educated Singaporeans tend to think alike. In contrast, those who have studied abroad tend to bring different perspectives. We need to expose our children to new ways of learning if we want to equip them to compete in the global arena.
Will I worry about PSLE? Sometime in the distant future, I presume. But for now, my meet-the-parents session conversations are centred around character building.
Do you have a story to share about your experience of the PSLE (or any parenting story)? Write in to us at [email protected]!