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Friday, November 23, 2012

Little Boy's PSLE T-Score

In the early morning, concerned friends were already asking for Little Boy's PSLE t-score. I tried to dial down everyone's expectations. "Hey... I am seriously considering a lovely school near my place called Yishun Town Secondary.", I said to stunned silences, "If Little Boy does not do as well as you expected, please still make sure he feels like a worthy individual".

When we climbed into the car in the late morning, I remarked tenderly "If you don't do as well as you had hoped, I will still love you."

And Little Boy replied cheerfully "I know Mom!"

I didn't know that parents could accompany the kids into the hall to collect results so I dropped Little Boy and went off with the day's newspapers to get me a coffee. The voice that came over the phone squeaked excitedly about being invited to his friends' house and that please may he go... please... and that I wouldn't need to drive out and fetch him home later because he is old enough to go home on his own. 

In that entire tirade, he hadn't once mentioned his PSLE results. Sigh! I rolled my eyes at my coffee and asked "Aren't you gonna tell me what you scored? Aren't you coming to the coffeeshop to at least show me your results slip? You can't just pop off like that and leave me here! That's so rude!"

Little Boy came by in a whirlwind, thrust his results slip at me and some greenish sealed letter. Little Boy said, "We were told not to open that till we see our parents. But now I have no time. Let's open it together when I get home tonight?" Clearly, PLAY was vastly more important than PSLE.

Little Boy did somewhat better than his sister at PSLE, despite being in a school with poor teaching support and materials... AND he had no tuition. He also did well enough to take French as a 3rd language. Of all the news released yesterday, I think Little Boy was most thrilled about French. He'll have the opportunity to learn something that he has been bugging me to teach him since forever.

We're relieved and happy. I didn't quite want to write this post at first. However, a good many blog friends (and a few people that I have never met) have emailed me and it seems rude not to at least share a little. However, there are many reasons not to publish Little Boy's t-score here. Firstly, Petunia supports MOE's blackout on PSLE results (errrr... not that Little Boy scored anywhere near the top scores). Secondly, Little Boy is not comfortable that a whole world of faceless netizens be clearly in the know of his actual t-score. Thirdly, (unlike The Daughter at A levels) Little Boy is not the only boy in our circle of friends taking PSLE, and we don't want to make too much of his t-score because it makes no sense to make this or that other child (whom we also love) feel less worthy because of one silly number. 

Agree With Shanmuguratnam
I quite agree with Shanmugaratnam that the fine differentiation of PSLE t-score is unnecessary. Do you know that the t-score is differentiated to SIX decimal places? It's quite different from the A levels where you get As and Bs. The PSLE t-score makes stark the inconsequential difference between 2 kids with 265 and 266. The latter being more worthy than the former. It has long been well known to Human Resource professionals that performance appraisals that rank order staff OPENLY, will stimulate high levels of inter-individual competition. We usually institutionalise such a manner of staff appraisal in companies where no one needs to work in teams... e.g., used car salesmen. In an increasingly interconnected and complex world, problems need teams to resolve. I believe the power of collaboration (not competition) is the way forward.

The PSLE End-All
And I can't help but think that there are children who did very poorly indeed. The lowest score this year was an unforgiving 43 printed on a results slip like a death sentence knelling "You are a loser. You have the lowest score. You'll never amount to anything in life". What kind of monstrous mind 
(1) devised the PSLE aggregate, 
(2) prints the highest score 
(3) AND the lowest score on EACH results slip
... to break the hearts of little 12 year olds?

Has anyone thought of how the child will feel... who gets 43 ... and sees also, on the same paper that he/she has the LOWEST score of the whole country? Now, you seriously expect that child to believe that PSLE is not an end-all? Bear in mind too that the child who got 43 probably doesn't have loving and attentive parents to counsel and comfort him/her. The little 12 year old is all ALONE staring at the 43 that is HIS own score, AND the 43 that is printed in the bottom right hand corner, next to the words "This Year's Lowest Aggregate Score".

Fear Motivates
The majority of kids and parents are not kiasu because there are top scorers they will never hope to match up to. The majority of kids and parents compete tooth and nail because no one wants to be at or near the 43 aggregate. Fear is an effective motivator. However, it warps the spirit, destroys the joy of learning new things and causes burnout. 

PSLE T-Score... a Non-Event
This X'mas and CNY, we intend to treat the PSLE t-score as a non-event. It's over. It was a vastly unpleasant 2 years of stressful learning and unnecessary competition engendered by a fine-grained student appraisal mechanism. We don't have fond memories of it. That Little Boy emerged relatively unscathed is every reason to not rub salt into the wounds of other children.


Rachel Tan said...

I'm glad it all worked out! I didn't msg after the results release yesterday cos I didn't wanna be too kaypoh, heh. Still, am happy for you and Little Boy!)

(And that you'll be in this part of the island pretty often from next year....hahahaha)

Blur Ting said...

Good move.

I was still surprised that scores were still the theme in today's papers but the spin was somewhat different.

I am probably too naive, I was expecting to read something different in ST.

Malar said...

Congratulation to Little boy and Petunia Lee too! ;)

pummanuel said...

Congrats. It's been 2 decades since I took my PSLE and I have forgotten the content of the result slip. When I read in ksp that the slip showed the highest and lowest score, I was perplexed why there was a need for the latter. I taught in a neighborhood school for 6 months and met many good natured children who did not have the needed family support, hence they suffered poor results. For some they really tried their best but still could not make it. For others they had given up. One thing they had in common, they minded their marks deep inside them. To make known the lowest point is alike rubbing salt on the wound of the little child, no matter how nonchalant he seemed.

Petunia Lee said...

Karmeleon - Heh! I have not published your msg because there is a number in there. Thanks for dropping by!!

Wen-ai said...

Good that Little's boy hard work has paid off! Congrats! And yes, I support MOE's blank out on PSLE top scorers too.

Open Kitchen Concept said...

CONGRATS! I'm so happy to hear Little Boy's priority of play before PSLE results.. that's actually correct since there is little you can do after the exam itself.. so might as well play first before seeing your results :P

M said...

Hi Petunia - long time no talk!

First things first - congratulations to Little Boy and his mum!!!

My girl also did her PSLE this year, and did reasonably well too - 2 A*s and 2As. Should have been 3 A*s, but she figured she made careless mistakes in her Math (she's usually in the top tier of Math in school). Her Chinese was naturally the weak spot, so we were pleasantly surprised she got the A still.

Now I'm telling all this not so much to boast (although Daddy must admit his chest does swell ever so slightly in the telling :) ), but to illustrate and support your point - that it is possible to do all this without a single hour of tuition, and with no pressure from Mom or Dad. In the days leading up to the exams, and the weekend during, she went shopping with Mom, continued with her sports training, etc...

Like Little Boy, she has opted for French as a 3rd language. She wanted Spanish actually, but that will be available only in 2014.

cheers, M

Petunia Lee said...

M - Congratulations! I am soooo happy for you! WITH tuition your child could have hit the 270s! But one must not be greedy eh? It is far better they learn self-reliance early even though it may result in a slightly lower t score than otherwise possible. I am so looking forward to our kids meeting up in French class!

livetogive said...

Congrates :-) Feel happy for you :-)

Blur Ting said...

I was talking to my younger son that day. Years ago, he did not do well in his PSLE despite going for tuition classes every single day! The other kids in the tuition class were all top students, so they did very well.

Of course he hated every minute of tuition but went anyway. Now that he is all grown up, he revealed that he learned nothing from the lessons and felt it was a complete waste of time. Obviously, the teaching methods worked for other kids but did nothing for him.

Sadly, due to our circumstances at that time, I was struggling to make a living and keep ourselves afloat to coash him personally. We changed several after-school care and tutors and thought we finally found the right one.

So, finding the right tutor is the answer. On hindsight, finding the right teaching method that works for each child is more important.

monlim said...

Congrats to your son! Happy for you. A niggling part of me still wishes mine did better but ah well, I did say que sera sera, didn't I.

I totally agree it's cruel and unnecessary to print the lowest t-score. My son's school still gives out level positions which I detest. I always wondered how the kid would feel looking at the report book and see that he was no. 369/369. Such a load of baggage to dump on a young child :(

Petunia Lee said...

Mon - Thanks so much for sharing our joy. I think though that when you've such a fine-grained rank order, few are truly happy with what they got except the one with 285. The Daughter however, shared some wisdom. She had scored less than many of her classmates at PSLE... and in secondary school she pulled out all the stops. The Daughter believes that it isn't good to peak at PSLE. That's to early says she. Don't do so badly that you get into a really bad school BUT don't do so well that you feel you've arrived... 'cos in her words, "No one cares about PSLE once you get into secondary school, except yourself".

Petunia Lee said...

Ting - I know your boys and I know what their Mom is made of. I wouldn't underestimate them...

Petunia Lee said...

Rachel - I appreciated your messages. Thanks for caring.

Petunia Lee said...

Malar - Thank you.

Petunia Lee said...

pummanuel - The most painful thing to watch is when children hide their pain. It is heart wrenching. On the surface, they seem not to care but if you watch their eyes carefully, you see it... I hate that.

Petunia Lee said...

Wen-Ai: Thank you!

Petunia Lee said...

OKC - Yeah.... Little Boy inherited his mother's priorities.

Petunia Lee said...

livetogive: Thank You!

Karmeleon said...

Ah, Blur Ting seems to have a normal enough kid!!! Have tuition also don't improve much! I can identify! My no.3 is like that. In the end, we left him and the school to handle it.

Anyway, after 2 older kids and the primary school years of "no positioning" shown, I realise for no.3 that his secondary school shows position in class/level. Not very kind I feel. This boy came close to last position in class if not for the cheater-classmate, which gives rise to another very amusing story. When we tease him about being last in class, he says "no, the other boy was", and we remind him it's bc that boy cheated. His response???? "He didn't know!!! That's why needed to cheat!!!" ROTFLOL!!!!!! (Who cheats in English paper, by the way?!).

Karmeleon said...

@Petunia: yes, it's too early to peak at PSLE. My soon-to-be sec 4 boy has friends in his year who were from GEP. Sadly, they did not make it past sec 3 this year and have been asked to leave the school.

Petunia Lee said...

Karmeleon - I know kids like that too. Not asked to leave, but limping along. Some scored 265+. We sometimes work our GEP so hard that they burn out by secondary school. Then people blame them for being of those that were "hothoused" into the program... and that they should not be in there in the first place. But actually, they underperform because they're tired and fed up.

That's a cruel thing to do to a smart kid.

Karmeleon said...

My big son's school does not have O-level track. So if they limp for 3 yrs, too bad. Some who have GPA very close to the minimum required managed to appeal to stay. But seems like those who don't suceed in appeal are those with very poor attitudes - like don't skive classes, project participation poor, preparation for presentations poor, etc, etc. But yes, it's sad.

Clarine said...

I feel like I've discovered your blog way too late, haha :)

I also took the PSLE last year, and I remember feeling stupid for telling my mum to go to work instead of accompany me to get my results on the 22nd.

I come from the GEP.

I myself never went for tuition because my family can't afford that. I did my own self-revision instead.

Somehow, I felt... cheated when I got my results. I was in the >275 range, but seeing some much more hardworking classmates score below me made me feel like I didn't deserve my score. It upset me, because while I knew I HAD put in effort, I felt like they should have gotten my score. I feel this lingering guilt towards them even till now.

When I proceeded on to an IP school, I didn't feel like the curriculum was any challenge, but those from non-GEP schools were panicking because they couldn't understand some topics. When our teacher commented on my class' scores, she went along the lines of, "I had thought you all would do better since almost all of you in this class are from GEP." Yes, there are classes were almost everyone is GEP, save a few top-scorers from other schools.

A few of my classmates asked, "Just because we're from GEP, we're expected to do better?"

Our teacher's answer was, "Of course. You have the skills that mainstream students don't have."

I was perplexed. Throughout my 3 years in GEP, I never felt like anything was different in the way of teaching, or that I was gaining anything special.

Petunia Lee said...

Clarine - Thank you for the comment. So... GEP gets taught skills that give them an edge then?

Alex said...

PSLE coming and I'm studying together with my child...
Its not easy, hope for future generations there will be some new changes to PSLE examinations.
It's so difficult to go by without getting tuition teacher or home tutor.
All the best to all PSLE kids this year!