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. 

Sunday 1 May 2016

Preparing for exams

The mid year examination is looming over our heads (for the parents of primary school going kids). Some are starting this week or have started or going to start. I am going to share on how to prepare for the examinations. I know today's topic may be a tad too late but oh well. I have been meaning to write this earlier but mummy duties kept me away from this blog.
I dare not profess myself to be an expert in this area since I have seen my son gone through only one exam so far (this would be our second).  But like most moms out there, I have picked up a few personal tips and this time round I am more armed than the last time. So today, I am sharing my personal tips on how to prepare for the exams. Here goes:
1) Check the school's exam format
Every school have different exam format. Some may have similar format as that of the assessment books, others have a totally different format altogether. I suppose for Math and English and Science are generally the same. But if you compare your school's Chinese exam format it greatly differs from school to school. Don't believe me? Just download the free test Chinese papers online from the various schools and you would know what I mean.
When I started revising Chinese with my son, I made him learn how to write the words on vocabulary list on every chapter. But one day, I got hold of his school's format and lo and behold, I found out that not a single section on the exam paper requires him to write the words. After studying the format, it soon occurred to me that it is more important that he knows the meaning of the words in the textbook. It is also paramount that he is strong in his word recognition, sentence structure and learning the Hanyu Pinyin. Imagine if I had spent the whole time revising with him on writing and lesser time on understanding the words, he would probably have struggled in the exams. So immediately, I changed our revision tactic and went through with him the vocabulary from each chapter and making sure that he understood what the newly introduced characters.
That's why studying the exam format is important because it helps you to know how to revise. Like the example given above, the exam format would have given you an idea what areas to focus on and what not to.
2) Find out what is going to be tested
I have shared above on how to revise, now the next tip is to find out what to revise for. This is obvious right? We need to know what chapters and topics are going to be tested for there is no point studying chapters that will not appear on the exam paper.
One thing I wish to highlight here is English revision. I assume some parents would shove English assessment books to their children to do as a revision. However, I have a different view on this. Your child can do the assessment book from cover to cover but it may be a waste of time in the end. Let me explain by giving an example.
In every English paper there would be a synthesis and transformation section. Now, there is a wide range of synthesis and transformation questions. I have done a quick research and realised that there is not a single assessment book that has all the synthesis and transformation questions; it is quite impossible for one book to cover all the topics- there is just too many. So let's say you gave your child an assessment book on synthesis and transformation which she completed it. But it may be a time waster because the school may not be testing any of the questions she practiced on the assessment book but some other questions instead. Same goes for grammar and the vocabulary.
Instead of  blindly throwing a myriad of assessment books to them, look up what the school would be testing and then sieve out the English assessment books that covers the same areas that the school papers would be testing. Giving them stacks of assessment books does not necessary help them better their school exams. We need to strategically give them the right resources.
3) Identify your child's weakness
Another no brainer tips- spend more time on areas where your child is weaker at and just run through those that he is strong at. For instance, my son is pretty strong in word recognition (for Mandarin) but weak in comprehension. So instead of spending his time on revising his word recognition, he spent more time in learning the meaning of the words and practising on his comprehension.
One of my quickest way to identify my son's weakness is to look through his school worksheets. From there I not only know what he's weaknesses are, I would also be able to detect which areas he is most careless at. I looked through his Math worksheets, I was able to tell that he tends to copy the wrong answer from his working to the main answer. With that knowledge I am more equipped in knowing how to help him improve.
4) Practise on past year papers
I think the best is to get hold of your own school's past year papers. For one, the child would be able to familiarise himself with the school's testing style. Also, sometimes the schools have a habit of asking the same questions year after year. Hence, practising the paper may somewhat give the child a head start.
If not, then download the free past year papers from other schools online. It may not be similar to your school papers but by practising the papers, you would be able to identify your child's bad exam habits. Thereafter, helps you to correct them.
From marking his work on these papers, I have discovered that Sonshine has a bad habit of answering comprehension questions out of his own experience and understanding rather than according to the passage. Sometimes he's answers make a lot of sense if one does not read the passage. But if one refers to the passage, you would know his answers are not drawn from the given story. The other thing I found out was that he likes to assume that the answer to the last comprehension question comes only from the last paragraph of the passage. It is true MOST of the time but not all. Good thing is that I am now aware of it and I can correct his bad habits before the actual exams.
So here are my 4 tips on how to prepare for exams. I may have more but for now I'll make do with these. Of course, the number one rule for revising exams is to start early but often very hard to do. Better yet, make revision a consistent and everyday ritual rather than waiting at the last minute.
As they say, the students have to study smart. Remember it is not about the hours put in for revision or the number of assessment books one does. He can clock the highest number of hours and assessments books completed but still do poorly; mostly because he didn't study smart i.e. focusing on the wrong areas. Like I said, as parents we cannot simply hand them a stack of assessments and what-nots for revision. We need to be strategic in giving them the right resources to help them in their revision (I know I am repeating this but its so good that its worth saying it twice).
So all the best to all the students taking the exams and all ye parents too. May we keep calm and mother on come what may! O_O
Disclaimer: I will be the last to claim that these are fail-proof tips. Heck, I am not even confident about my son's performance this exam. Ultimately, it depends largely on them, their mental capacity, their desire to perform, their mood and so on. But we can still offer them what we can.