PSLE Survival Guide

PSLE Survival Guide

The Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) is just around the corner.  Whether your child is sitting for this year’s PSLE or is going to sit for the PSLE in a few years, I hope this post will help you and your child maintain sanity when the world around you is going crazy over this much dreaded exam.

1. Pace the revision to avoid burnout.
Burnout is a very real issue that even school teachers are concerned about it.  If your child is sitting for the PSLE at the end of the month, this is not the time to turn up the heat and pile him with endless hours of revision and mountains of work.  In fact, this may be a good time to scale back the revision to give your child some breathing space.  

If your child is in Primary 5 (which is considered the ‘PSLE Year’ together with the P6 year), you should make sure there is consistent revision all the way until P6 Prelims.  Consistency is more effective than bursts of high-intensity revision just before examinations.  Towards the P6 Prelims, the heat will definitely be increased but it is very important to keep things on a slow burn after that to avoid burnout.

2. Avoid Parents Chat Groups or Forums (if necessary)
Even if your child is not taking the PSLE yet, I would still recommend that you avoid parents chat groups or forums if you are the kind of person who gets easily affected by what other people say or do.  Nearing major exams like the PSLE, it can get really crazy with parents getting all stressed out.  Having other parents constantly asking for help with solving maths or science problems may get you panicking. You may start wondering: how come other people seem to have so much time to spend on so much extra work outside school and whether your child is doing enough compared to them.  You may start getting alarmed at the the perceived danger that your child is not getting quite enough exposure to the kind of questions other kids are getting. When you realised that every other parents (seemingly) are sending their children to famous tutors which you know you cannot afford, you may feel compelled to at least start something even if it is not with some million-dollar tutors.

Parents in these groups and forums do not set out to show off but the comparison trap inherent in such settings may not be the healthiest thing to get into if you know you are susceptible to be affected.  If you have friends in real life who are hyper tiger parents, it may also be good to keep them at a distance during this period to save your sanity.  Instead, surround yourself with friends who are encouraging and will cheer you on and cheer your child on.  They may not even need to be parents or parents in a similar position as you. Hang out with balanced, positive people.

3. Be the Encourager and Cheerleader, not the Coach
It is necessary to instill discipline and diligence in our children.  As I mentioned earlier, consistent work trumps sporadic burst of effort.  However, instilling the right work attitude should have been done over the years, day by day and not right before a major exam. By the time your child faces the PSLE, ideally, he should at least be able to be independent in his learning to some degree. At this time, your role should switch from being primarily the Coach to being primarily the Encourager and Cheerleader.  This boost of morale and confidence will go a long way for your child.

4. Even if you are panicking, put on a calm face
Suppose, for some reason, your child is not faring well in school right before the PSLE.  Perhaps, in your own assessment, he is far from being ‘ready’.  Even if he is ready, perhaps you think that he is not likely to get the kind of results that will get him into the schools you think he should get into.  Perhaps inside you are panicking big time and are even having sleepless nights.  Chances are, if you are not careful, you are going to take it out on your child.  You may become easily triggered by simple things like just seeing your child just sitting around ‘doing nothing’.  You may resort to incessant nagging, using threats and anger to make your child conscious of his ‘dire situation’.  What this will get you is a very discouraged and very stressed up child.  Even if you say nothing, children are really good at picking up vibes from their parents.   Stress and panic is your child’s worse enemy when it comes to performances at the PSLE.  So even if you are panicking inside, stay calm and look calm so that you can project some sense of calm and assurance to your child.

5. Convey Love even more
Real story: a boy told his school teacher that he was very stressed about the PSLE because he thought his parents would not love him if he did not do well in the exam.
I am pretty sure the parents of this boy will love him even if he did not do well.  But as parents, we often unconsciously send the message that our love is only conditional, contingent on our children meeting our expectations.  Every day, we need to be conscious of what we say to our children and how we convey our expectations.  When nearing exams and major ones like the PSLE, it is all the more time to convey love.  If you are a Christian parent, this is the time to put the gospel into action.  God loves us unconditionally.  We are, in many ways, a model of God to our children.  This is a really good time to show them what God’s love is like.

6. Fear Not for God is with You
You may be truly stressed out for all kinds of reasons. You may be so influenced by what you hear from other parents or see other parents and children do.  Your child may actually be struggling in school.  Perhaps your child happens to be going through the teenage boundary-pushing phase at this point in his life and this adds to the tension and stress.  

Be conscious of the fact that God is in your life and in your child’s lives.  “Fear Not” (or “Do not be afraid“) is a command that appeared so many times in the Bible. Some said 365 times, one for each day of the year.  First of all, remember that He is our ever present help in times of need (Psalm 46:1).  So He will be there for you and your child during this period and during the exam.  However, even if your child did not do well in the PSLE, remember that God is still faithful and He will make all things work together for your child’s good (Romans 8:28).  Other parents may believe that it is a matter of do or die, and that not doing well in the PSLE means that the future of their children is doomed.  With God, it is not game over. Spend more time in the Word meditating on verses that speak of His faithfulness and the promises He made. Share them with your child. Take this as an opportunity to stretch your faith and learn to trust Him.  At the same time teach your child to have faith and learn to trust Him too.

We are called by God to love and care for our children, body, soul and spirit. So while we continue to teach them to work hard, help them to revise, coach them in their school work, or even push them a little when they need some pushing, we must keep in mind that we also need to take care of their hearts. It is too easy for one exam to cause us to focus so much on achieving good results that we lose sight of the fact that we need to nurture them with love and assurance too.

I think if you ask around, most parents who have gone through the PSLE will tell you something along the line of it is really not such a big deal. It most certainly will not determine the fate and future of your child. I know first hand that doing very well in the PSLE does not mean that the child will continue to do well in school. Conversely, a child who does not do well for the PSLE may go on to excel in school later on. The road is still long ahead and the game is not over yet. As parents, we need to take a long view of things and not lose our perspective. That’s how we can go through the PSLE without it dominating the whole of our hearts and minds.

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