Friday, 30 October 2015

School Stories #14: Why do exams have to be so stressful?

The exam period has just ended, and as usual, children and parents were highly stressed.

I don't get it.

Before I go on, let's draw the perimeters. I'm referring to lower primary school kids. I understand the need for full revision for a high stakes exam like the Primary 6 PSLE. But what about the lower years?

To me, an examination is but an arbitrary guide to see if our children have learned what they are supposed to have picked up throughout the year, and to flag serious concerns, if present.

I like how in some other education systems, testing is done informally, where the children do not even know when it is just daily worksheets and when they are being tested.

My kids don't get tuition in the lower primary years, and I resist giving them extra 'mummy's homework'. Thus, there's no chance of squeezing in more sessions with the tutor nor piling on the home revision even when it's nearing the exams.

During the exam period, they come home and play as per normal, and er, do things like making nests with twigs found at the playground.
#5 fashioned his own nest
They are inundated with past year exam papers in school and they deserve a break to relax and unwind. I don't believe in forcing them to memorise chunks of information, only to regurgitate them and promptly forget after the exams are over. Not at this age.

In fact, I was flabbergasted when I asked a GEP (gifted education program) student, who was in my house, some P6 Science questions which #3 was stuck with and she could not answer any of them! (and this was barely a few months after she had passed the PSLE with flying colours) When I probed further, she replied rather sheepishly, "I've forgotten everything. We just cram to take the exams."

This, we call education?

I get bombarded by questions on my laissez faire attitude towards their exam scores.

What if they end up in a lousy class?

All the better!

They will be with peers who are of a similar standard, and the pace will be more suitable.

Last year, #5 was in a mixed ability class because there is no streaming after P1. He got Band 2 for his Math. This year, he was streamed into one of the lower ability classes and he scored 46/50 for CA2!
Building a lil' nest for Kate to play with
The other objection I hear all the time from my well-meaning friends is,

You have to push them, for them to do well.

Intrinsic motivation works way better, and it is a life skill for them to cultivate.

The kids had 4 extra days off from school the week before the exams. #4, who is in Primary 5, requested for some Math assessment books.

#4: Mum, can I buy a Math assessment book? I need to practice more before the exam.

Me: Are you sure you will do it? It's only 1 week before your exams, seems like a waste. But I will buy if you will do it.

When we reached Popular bookstore, they were closed for stock take. I've never seen a child so disappointed in not being able to buy an assessment book before!

So. I decided to take her to the vendors who sold past year exam papers from various schools. They sold them in bundles of about 10 exam papers, costing $18.

Me: $18. Hmm. There are 11 papers in there. How many do you think you can complete?

#4: I have 8 days before my Math paper. I will do 1 each day. Ok?

Of course I bought it for her.

I was pleased as punched that she had finally taken responsibility for her own learning and wanted to do well. Whatever grade she gets in the end will be immaterial. The battle has already been won.

School Stories:

#1 - When your son gets into fights in school
#2 - My son the loan shark
#3 - So kids can't play once they start school?
#11 - How #2 topped her level in English
#12 - DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 - Tuition - First line of attack?

~ - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

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