Witnessing my elder daughter take her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and receive her results was my rite of passage as a Singaporean mum.
I can still remember the results day jitters in 2019 well. This was pre-Covid, but that year had been a difficult one as my daughter had been hospitalised multiple times for infections. Being in poor health for almost half a year, she had struggled to cope with her studies.
Two years on, how does she remember that experience? Are there takeaways for students receiving their results soon? Plus, any tips for mum to make better parenting decisions when her next major exam comes around? I sat down for a chat with J.
Mum: What did you learn from your PSLE year?
J: As I missed many months of lessons that year, I barely passed my mid-year examinations and got the lowest grades in class. I remember panicking but thankfully, my teachers helped me a lot. Slowly, I caught up with my school work. I learnt from that incident that you can always pick yourself up even if you are the slowest or the last. Another important thing I learnt is that health is more important than grades. Anyway, when you are not well, you cannot give your all and your best.
Mum: From your perspective, what would help this year’s graduates feel calmer?
J: I do not think students need to do anything at this moment because they have already done what they can and have completed their exams. Right now, it is their parents’ job to make them feel like they still love them whatever their PSLE results may be.
Mum: What was the one thing that really made a difference to you on your results day?
I think coming up with a plan before results day helped a lot, such that regardless of the results I got, I knew there were good options that I could be happy with. Also, I think not having an over-achieving mindset helped me (laughs).
Mum: What did you consider when going through the schools selection booklet prior to receiving your PSLE results?
J: I looked at the cut-off points of each school, how accessible the school was from home and the subjects offered. The distance mattered to me because I did not want to spend so much time travelling to and from school. Oh, I also checked out whether the schools offered interesting CCAs that would interest me for the next four years.
Mum: Why did you not apply through Direct School Admission (DSA)?
J: Some of my classmates applied for their preferred schools via DSA. While it would be cool to have a talent, I knew myself well; I had no sports or musical inclinations so there would no point for me to go through the DSA route. Also, I thought it would be rather stressful to try for DSA so I might as well just spend the time preparing for my PSLE.
Mum: What were you doing a day before the PSLE results day?
J: We were on a staycation! Besides having mild panic attacks every now and then, I tried not to overthink what could happen on results day because I knew I could not re-do my papers anyway.
Mum: How did you feel on the day of the results release … and when you saw your result slip?
J: I was super nervous, excited and also a bit fearful that I would somehow fail one or two subjects as I had missed so many classes that year. But when I saw that my results were better than expected, I was really happy.
Some of my friends were not as happy although their results were better than mine. I guess, everyone has different standards or view of what success means. To me, and to us (parents), it was not about the number on my exam results slip but that the effort I’d put in paid off. You told me that. That helped.
My advice to students who will be receiving their results soon: What’s done is done. Go have some fun – before your parents decide you might need more tuition next year (just joking!).
Mum: Name one quality that has helped you settle into secondary school.
J: Err, does loving myself count? Being true to myself and loving who I am has helped me settle into secondary school life. In the past two years, I have made friends who accept me for the person I am. Peer pressure, like not doing your homework or not revising during the exam period because all your friends are going out, is quite common among people my age. If you are not true to yourself, it will be hard to be happy even if you are surrounded by many so-called “friends” in school.
In secondary school, the workload is much heavier than what I was used to in primary school as you have to take more subjects. Having the discipline to do what is right – meaning, taking my studies seriously, when needed – has enabled me to stay true to my goals.
Mum’s Say: A new phase in secondary school
After learning J had better-than-expected results, we attended a few open houses at various schools before sitting down to discuss the pros and cons of each school.
My husband and I offered our views, but ultimately left the decision to our daughter. Her first choice of secondary school fulfilled most of her original criteria – the cut-off point closely matched her PSLE results and the school offered subject combinations she was interested in.
While the school was slightly further from our neighbourhood, she could take a direct bus there, which greatly reduced travelling time. It also offered a few CCAs that looked interesting to her.
Looking back on that whole experience – two years into secondary school – I realise that the PSLE year was only one juncture in her young life. That year is now filed and kept away in my memory bank of parenthood experiences.
J is now in a new phase of growing up and learning to negotiate the new hurdles, joys and heartaches that come with it. However, I am thankful that she has remained as level-headed as always.
Doing this mini-interview with my daughter – the first in my 16-year writing career – has been interesting and also reinforced my views on parenting.
As parents, we naturally want the best for our child’s education. But it is also important to remind ourselves that this is really more about your child’s aspirations and dreams than it is about your own idea of success.
Remember too, that there are many pathways to a fulfilling life. What is more important is to let your children know you are, and will always be, on the same side as them.
So, no matter the score printed on the PSLE results slip, we should never forget to make our children feel loved, accepted and valued.