PSLE – Primary School Leaving Exam


Last Thursday, the PSLE results were released. My son text me he got 171. “What about Chinese?” His Archilles heel. “Scored D and the others all B” he replied.

I then forwarded it to my brother who is a school teacher in a government school. “Alamak! Why his Chinese so weak. Or he might have gone to express class. Yelp, his Chinese pulled him down”

There are 4 subjects in the PSLE – English, Chinese (2nd Language), Maths and Science. 50 marks each for languages and 100 marks each for Maths and Science. Total 300 marks. The cut off point is 188. Those below 188 go to a normal stream (5 yrs) in Secondary school. Above 188 go to the express stream (4 yrs).

My brother’s eldest son scored 228 two years ago. The highest in the the primary 6 cohort usually scores above 280! This year’s highest is 283 a Malay girl pupil from a neighbourhood school.

My nephew got 4 normal As for his 4 subjects. To be a top student of the entire cohort of 45,000 over primary 6 students, he need to get A* – 90 marks above. Normal A is above 75 marks. That is how competitive our school system has grown over the years.

When I sat for my PSLE in 1975 – more than 35 years ago there was no marks. It was either a Pass or Fail. No streaming also. It was standard four years in secondary school. Not much press coverage. No interviews with top students. No story. It was a non event when the PSLE results were released.

It is partly my fault that my son failed his Chinese. When he was still in fetus form, we spoke to him in English. We played all kinds of English nursery rhymes to him. He was given an English name even before he was born. When he was born, I witnesed him open his eyes to look at me after I cut away his umbilical cord. I held him still dripping wet in my arms and called out his name to him in English.

I forbade Chinese in the home except when he spoke to our old parents. From day 01, he was immersed in an English speaking environment.

I grew up in a Chinese dialect speaking environment. My parents are not educated. English is alien to them. I ended up with not fluent in spoken English or Mandarin. I did not want that to happen to my son. I did not even want to put any dialect or Chinese name on his birth certificate. He is known only as “George Tang” with only the Chinese characters 陈昭融!No romanised Chinese name or pinyin.

I wanted him to at least master one of two spoken languages ie English or Chinese (Mandarin). I did not want him to end up like me “half past 6” or half baked in either languages. That was my intention 12 years ago.

My son has lost the ability to comprehend “Teochew” – a dying Chinese dialect. Of course he can converse in Mandarin. The only consolation is that he speaks English without any trace of Chinese accent – unlike me.

A good example is to hear LKY’s and GCT’s spoken English. The latter speaks English with traces of Hokkien accent. He can never speak like a native speaker.

Most parents would go bersek if their children go to a normal stream. Instead, I told my son he is doing well since he was promoted to secondary school. He did not repeat. He got all Bs except Chinese. Not that bad.

Yesterday evening (27/11/11 Sun), I brought him with my mum and brother to Changi Beach Club for a nice quiet enjoyable dinner. I tried to cheer him up by suggesting ways to improve his Chinese.

I told him Chinese is a unique and beautiful language where even the Africans and Caucasians are putting in effort to learn. We are Chinese by race so we need to know some basic Chinese. It is all in the mind. Not really that difficult. Just try your best. But you must first love the subject before you can master it. It is not impossible just to pass the subject. You need not score an A for it. Just a simple pass is good enough.

I told my son to just study hard and put in his best efforts for the first 20 to 25 years of his life and he will have an enjoyable enriching life for the next 40 years or so. He need not be a scholar. Just educated enough to lead a normal enriching life!

As a parent, my main worry is not that he cannot do well in school. I am more worried that he mixing with the wrong company and end up a delinquent social reject. I also worry about his safety like crossing the road and taking care of himself. He is such a blur that he can just langgar the tiang even as he is walking!

I always remember a short video clip from you tube emailed to me by someone. It shows four old ladies having a conversation. Three of them are boasting about their children earning tons of money but no time for them. Only the fourth old lady whose son is just an ordinary person coming to pick her up and spending time with her. Very touching indeed. Given a choice, I would definitely prefer my son to be that normal wage earner.

My brother bought him a book – “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and my mum gave him some pocket money. Straight away, he started reading it. He was so happy.

When I drove him back home, he was already fast asleep. He hugged me and said good night when I woke him up on reaching home. I …. reluctantly left.




About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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3 Responses to PSLE – Primary School Leaving Exam

  1. johnandnora says:

    Is this your son? Wow he is already so big. I remember he was small when I first met him. Hope he will do you proud throughout the years 🙂 From; Nora

  2. Sharon says:

    This is kinda late but I just came across your blog. You are so right. Grades although important are not as important as other issues in life. My parents taught me the same. And I turned out ok. Am totally not a scholar but things turned out fine, in fact, am thinking of doing my PHD now. People in Singapore judge success by two systems depending on your age – grades and/or money. That is so wrong. I too would rather have the son that came to pick his mom up. Your son is fortunate to have such an enlightened parent. If only we had more of your kind walking amongst us. 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment. The joy of learning is important than anything else. Just tell our children to try their best. No need to force them. My parents are not educated at all. But I consider myself lucky to have some education. I am grateful for that.

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