Children should not be judged for PSLE results, says filmmaker
by Wan Ting Koh
TO MR Jerome Lau, the KiasuParent controversy was “a bit blown out of proportion”.
Whether the mother chose to withhold the Nintendo DS from her son is entirely up to her, as it’s “the right of the parent”, the father-of-two said. Besides, the child’s score may not be the reason for withholding his toy.
“Whether you score or don’t score may be one of the reason but the main cause is the kid doesn’t know how to control himself. If you don’t know how to control, [even if] you score 280, I would also take your DS,” said Mr Lau.
Mr Lau is one of the filmmakers of Juanzi2: PSLE-Go, a 25-minute film revolving around two PSLE students coping with their exams. One of the students, 12-year-old Zihui, is stricken by the fear of disappointing her parents.
Juanzi2 was first screened on Nov 10, some two weeks before the actual PSLE results were released last Thursday (Nov 24). Mr Lau said he and fellow filmmaker Stanley Yap wanted to bring across the message that understanding a child is important, and that parents and educators should not judge a child’s success based on examination results.
Mr Lau is one of an emerging group of parents who feel that too much focus is being put on PSLE results and other academic pursuits. Recently, another group called 100 Voices came together to spread the message that there are more ways to achieve success outside of academics. Mr Lau joined the group in the second week of November, saying that it was sending “the right message”.
As for the film, it was a personal project for Mr Lau in more ways than one. The 39-year-old’s son was also one of those receiving their results last week. His son did “okay”, said Mr Lau, with a T-score of 243, which fell within an expected range. He added, however, that his 12-year-old son could have put in more effort in his preparation.
But beyond its message, the film gave Mr Lau an opening to talk about suicide with his kids. “It gets the conversation started and they are more aware and they know that we are always there for them and that they can always talk to us,” said Mr Lau.
We asked Mr Lau five questions about the film and what he hoped other parents can learn from it.
1. What is your takeaway from making the film, and how will it change the way you teach your children?
One of the key takeaway from making this film was that the topic of teenage suicide is a taboo subject that our society should really open up and discuss more. There are many factors contributing to the increasing trend of teenage suicide and one of which is the academic pressure faced by our children and expectations weighed on them by the parents which we covered in our film.
In terms of my own parenting, it doesn’t change how I will teach my children which is to raise them with the right values and character.
2. What do you think is needed to change the mindset of parents and children?
I think many things are needed but the important thing is to have the parents themselves see that they actually do have a choice in how they want to raise their children and not compare with others and trying to meet or better the “norm”.
3. How important do you think PSLE is for children, and why?
For all who have gone through the Singapore education system, at 12 years old, all of us knew that PSLE was the most important milestone at that age. It’s still important because it’s part of our education system and it allows our children to evaluate themselves at that point in their journey so they can choose how to continue their education journey at a pace where their potential can be best fulfilled.
This sounds like some motherhood statement but there is wisdom in the system simply because like most things in society, we have limited resources and we need to maximise what we have to benefit the most people.
4. What would you say to parents who insist that PSLE and academics are the only indications of a child’s success?
My advice is that no one factor should determine a child’s success. In fact, I don’t believe we should even judge our child at all. A child is still developing and learning things every single moment and it’s unfair to say if they are successful or a failure.
In fact, I don’t believe we should even judge our child at all.
To me, a child is a reflection of the parents yet the parents cannot be fully responsible for their child’s development. All the parent can do is to teach and guide their child and help them grow and discover themselves.
5. What advice do you have for parents whose children will take PSLE in the future?
For parents, please spend time to understand your child and their strengths and weaknesses and their interests. PSLE doesn’t mean the child has to stop doing everything and only focus on the preparation. Just like us adults, we need our own space and time to do the things that we like and enjoy doing.
No one can work for long hours, seven days a week for a long period of time doing the same thing over and over again. Balance is key to PSLE preparation!
You can watch Juanzi2: PSLE-Go for free here.