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Sunday, February 13, 2011

PSLE Panic!!!!!!

Yesterday, Little Boy's school ran a Science and English workshop for the parents of Primary 5 & 6 students. It was an eye opener. The Daughter took her PSLE 7 years ago and the demands were rather different. Or perhaps, I was just blissfully ignorant back then because The Daughter's (very famous) primary school never once organized such Train-the-Parent workshops.

What I did not know, could not cause me panic. Now that I do know, I have this urge to reach for Little Boy, enfold him in my arms and apologise for waiting so long to have given birth to him.

The comprehension passage I had to do in the workshop was challenging enough that I got 2 questions wrong... well, not exactly wrong but not exactly right either. And that's terrible because Petunia's GMAT (the equivalent of SATs for post-graduate admissions) verbal scores were in the top 2% of global norms. And even I couldn't get full marks for a PSLE comprehension exercise. Whoooooooo!

To be sure, I had taken my GMAT many years ago... and I was sleepy yesterday because I had woken up late and so I had skipped breakfast... But still...

To do well in a PSLE English comprehension exercise, one needs to make logical inferences. The answers are not all found in the passage. For example, the passage might describe a blood-stained machete lying next to a dead body with its throat slit. There will be no specific mention that the knife was used to murder someone. However, one question might be "How did Sir Arthur die?" The child must then infer that "Sir Arthur died of a slit throat inflicted by the machete lying next to him" Now, if one had written, "Sir Arthur died of a slit throat", it would only be partially correct. Petunia was only partially correct. "Hey!" I thought to myself "I must remember to tell Little Boy that to do well in PSLE, he'll have to pretend to be Sherlock Holmes and draw inferences from CLUES!! He'll like that." Nonetheless, I wondered if it was a test of language skills or of thinking skills.

The Science Department teachers shared about the focus of inquiry-based learning. Inquiry-based learning is actually learning through scientific inquiry. To do well in Science, one needs to grasp the fundamentals of epistemology (specifically, the "logical positivist epistemological position"). The whole purpose of me writing all these "cheem" terms is to communicate to the reader the sense of dread so many parents must have felt at the Science workshop when the teachers began to explain the fundamentals of the logical positivist epistemological position... though they termed it simply "The Scientific Approach".

I am not sure what to make of all this. On the one hand, I quite like it that the requirements of the PSLE have evolved to reflect real world skills in English comprehension and logical thinking. To be sure, this makes the subjects great fun. It is no longer about memory work. One really needs to think and analyze. I also think it is good training for the mind. One needs to have clarity of thought and precision in language. In the PSLE of today, there is no room for intellectual sloppiness. Our primary schools truly are training children how to think, and think clearly/precisely too! This appeals to the nit-picking fuss-pot side of Petunia.

On the other hand, parents who were never trained in scientific inquiry nor logical thinking would find such skills hard to grasp and pin down. It isn't as easy as content (words, definitions, scientific facts) to grasp and remember. To help a child, you need to be able to understand and break down skills steps. Step 1, do this. Step 2, do that. Like writing out a recipe for performance. Whoooooooooooooo again!!

Many parents would be at a loss how to help their children. I also wonder at the wasted dollars that such uninformed parents give to the armies of untrained Tutors who themselves only have 'A' level qualifications, and who also know nothing about Scientific Inquiry and have not the practice in logical thinking to manage the inferential questions of a PSLE comprehension exercise. I was shocked and gave myself up to a slight moment of panic yesterday.

I am over it now though. It isn't something we cannot tackle as a family. Little Boy's school is also one where Teachers are very conscientious. We have all of P5 and P6 to get Little Boy ready. Nonetheless, it'll be a lot of work. The happy thing though, is that it'll be FUN work. Not lots and lots of memorizing.

Next week, I'll be attending the Parent Workshop on Math and Chinese. So, watch this space for updates.


Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

wow. seems like wat i'd enjoy when i was a kid, my teachers can't answer my questions of "why" and asked me to memorize instead.

the result was, i brought home some eggs tat folks didn't welcome. otherwise, the far lower medium of the double-digits.

le sigh.

then again, keep us updated! i really wonder how they teach maths these days! i wanna love it again but i guess i've lost it to Time. =(((

Anonymous said...

Impressive that the school helps parents to understand what the child is learning and how the child is learning!

Wen-ai said...

Woah, now even parents gotta workshops. SCARY... then about parents who aren't as well educated? They must be tramatised.

petunialee said...

Fry - It's fun but difficult. Aaaaaaaaaaaah! *PANIC*

petunialee said...

Theanne - That's 'cos the syllabus is so challenging that Teachers need parents' help with the kids. Am not sure I agree with that. Sigh!

petunialee said...

Wen-Ai: Yeah lor....