Friday, 13 May 2016

To that Kiasu parent

Dear Kiasu Parent

I see you mugging through your child's textbooks, writing & copying down notes for your child, revising with him from cover to cover of every subject, willingly paying tuition fees term after term. But when your child falls below par from all that effort you put in, you feel defeated, demoralised and most of all- anger towards your child. It stresses you, it stresses your child.
If only you would take a step back and remove yourself from the equation, your child could possibly be enjoying and breezing through school life a lot more. Is this paper chasing really necessary? Even if the glorious grades kick in, what other lessons have been taught to the child? You have implicitly or explicitly taught him that his grades indicate whether he is clever or stupid, better or worse than his peers. You have taught him how to fear, you have taught him how to worry, you have introduced stress into his system. All these in exchange for good grades. Does that even add up?
But you are like that because you have unknowingly or knowingly adopted the mentality that grades are everything. If only your child does well now in PSLE, he will also do well in Secondary school and that would mean he will do well in University and yes ultimately, that will launch your child into a successful career which equates to better life. Yet deep down, you know in reality grades don't matter that much.
The other belief that has silently crept into your head is that your child's grades are indicators of how smart he is. Of course, who doesn't want their child be recieved as as a smart kid? But because of your innate desire for him to be labelled as smart, you pour in a tremendous amount of your time, effort and money. All glory to you when he does well but woe to him if he fails your expectations. But truth is, with that kind of effort pour in comes along with sky high expectations and that comes with a risk of running into disappointments. And when disappointments strike you, you morphed into this furious monster. The more effort you poured into his studies, the more disappointed you will be (if he doesn't do well) and the more anger you will feel toward your child.

At the end of the day, the biggest loser is probably your child. Through it all, he would probably lose his self esteem, confidence, joy and that childhood innocence. All of that in exchange for the 'A's to be printed on his certificate and in exchange for your glory. But do you know, you will be losing more than you gain. 
You may fault this on the ministry. You may say that this is the MOE's doing, pushing you to resort to pressuring your child, that you had no other choice. But you know deep within that this kiasu syndrome is here to stay no matter what changes the MOE make to lessen the burden. You know that just as MOE need to change it's policy, you also need to change your mindset. Because no matter how many changes the MOE does, you will still be frantically clambering up the ladder as long as you don't shed that erroneous mentality. 
So Kiasu parent, cast your sight further and look long-term. The repercussions of this paper chasing, are they really worth it? Think about the long term effects it would have on your child. The effect it has on your child would be very hard, near impossible, to undo. Once that self esteem is lost, it would be challenging to get it reinstated. It would be something that you and your innocent child will have to pay for the rest of your lives. Weigh the need for flaunt-worthy certificates and your child's need to be affirmed. Which is more important?

Remind yourself that the report book doesn't unveil the other aspects of your child. His other non acamdemic talents, his curious nature, his ability to think out of the box, his street smarts, his love for animals, his kindness, his sensitivity, his spirit, his thirst for knowledge - everything that is not and cannot be measured and recorded in the report book. All that grades in the report book merely says how good he is in recalling the what has been taught. 
And lastly, bring yourself back to your own career paths and all those job interviews you went through. Did your PSLE scores matter? Did the interviewer ever ask you how many 'A's you have obtained in your primary school education? Would the interviewer select the candidate with the better grades over the one with the worse? Or would the employer choose the candidate that display the right attributes like honesty, self confidence and life experience for the job over the who has fabulous grades but insufficient experience?

Schooling is not about earning perfect grades. It is about accumulating life experiences. This journey is not just for gaining knowledge but picking up life skills like respondsibility, resilience- learning to pick oneself up and press up despite a failure, teamwork, learning about hard work, building friendships and life time experiences.

Make a conscious effort to squash all the paper chasing mindset. Tell yourself what is more important is those that cannot be quantified. Today, renew your mind and give your child a tight hug, no matter his results. Tell him nevertheless, you still love him. This alone will propel him confidently into this world more than good grades can ever do. 


Fellow comrade. 


  1. A very well-written piece which has raised excellent points that all parents with school-going children in Singapore should consider and reflect on.

    I must add though, that it is really very difficult for any parent to be enlightened and see past the grades, myself included! I have resisted tuition since my eldest started Pri 1 and he will sit for PSLE this year. It is certainly not an easy path to take, especially when my kids are in a school with crazily high academic standards (e.g. Median average of 89% for 4 subjects at Primary 4). It is no wonder so many children ask for tuition themselves.

  2. Sigh, if you read in between the lines, you would know i too have been entangled in this crazy race. Yes you are very right, it's VERY hard for us parents to renew our minds. I'm just wondering what does it take to make parents change their mindset?

    All the best to your PSLE boy, I'm sure he will do well. He's got a wonderful mama! :)

  3. Thanks for the well-wishes. We are counting down now... :)

    What does it take for parents to change their minds and focus less on academic results? Hmm.... I think it will only happen WHEN parents honestly believe that their children are MORE than just the grades they received from a few exams. Until then, nothing much will change. And that reflection and realization must come from within, and not because the MOE's moves of not publishing top scorers or changing the PSLE grading system or even doing away with PSLE, which I believe will not change much, because without the PSLE, these parents will find something else to compare their kids with.