The winds of change are blowing with a social campaign of Singaporeans sharing their Primary Six Leaving Exams (PSLE) score and stories about their lives after receiving these results.
The subject of grades and their long-term impact is close to my heart, so I buzzed my mum to ask her for my score to partake in this tide of social sharing and NEITHER OF US REMEMBER! Truth be told, I don’t have a dramatic story of the exact moment I got my results, but what I do remember is the feeling that “Oh, it was ALMOSTTTT 250.”, ie the magical number that supposedly guaranteed that you could go to a very good school.
My PSLE score and school life after
With this ‘247’ result, my parents applied me to a mid-tier school which was a direct bus ride away. Whilst it wasn’t a top secondary school, it WAS a school which introduced some key people into my life. I was in the school band where we practiced and practiced for the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) competition, where I learnt about hard work, disappointment and teamwork. My classmates were much smarter than I am and took the time to tutor me after school, since I was one of the odd balls who did not have private tuition. In this case, being a mid-size fish in a small pond helped build my confidence, whilst having the guidance and motivation from the big fish.
In university, I met classmates from different countries who had part-time jobs, hobbies in music, theatre or sports, who volunteered… They had many facets to them and were confident, well-rounded individuals. This was when I realised how limited my academic journey had been. I started learnings things “for fun”, having random experiences and figuring out what I like and don’t like. This was the early seeds of creating PositiveLeePeilin workshops, which center around building children’s general knowledge and letting them experience different skillsets.
PSLE and its impact on children now
I speak with teenage students when I give school talks and at dance class (I’m twice the age of my classmates at hip-hop class) and the concern over grades is real, as with depression and competition. I’ve seen scarred wrists and heard broken voices who measure their self-worth to the grades they get at school.
Why grades matter and why they don’t
What I’ve experienced is that our exam results provide a stepping stone to the next chapter. The higher your score, the more options you have. After that, the working world assesses you on what you can bring to the table, which is much more varied and complex.
My suggestion? Let your child try everything once. The next new thing might be scary and uncomfortable, but it might also spark something inside. This is a principle that i practice as an adult too. We don’t know until we try, and very often, we don’t know until we try and try and try. What’s the worst that can happen? We just find out with greater certainty whether we enjoy doing something or if it’s not for us at this point of our lives. And that’s ok.
Sending you positive vibes,