A Straits Times report recently highlighted the launched of the “Life Beyond Grades” campaign, a ground up movement led by five parents, who hoped to bring about a mindset shift away from the relentless pursuit of results. They felt that this paper chase is contributing to the growing stress and depression experienced by youngsters here.
So after its launch, we started seeing Singaporeans from various industries, mostly entrepreneurs, celebrities, public figures from various industries, putting out their PSLE scores on social media and telling how they also made it in life even though they didn’t get superb PSLE scores.
And if you noticed, not all of them scored poorly (else it will be sibeh fake lor), and a handful didn’t reveal their PSLE scores (maybe because results too high liao). But they all drive the same message — that they are not saying that grades are not important, but that their PSLE score did not define them, and how or who one eventually turns out to be, really depends on their attitude in life.
This is definitely good intentions lah, after all, it is encouraging to read stories of people who eventually lead well and meaningful lives despite not having fantastic PSLE scores.
But the bigger question is how does it apply to children from low-SES families, where their only chance of making out in life is to get better grades that will hopefully, help them get a better job? For most of them, they prolly don’t have parents that are obsessed with tuition simply because they cannot afford it in the first place. Their problem would probably be finding help to even cope with schoolwork.
And the fact that that Life Beyond Grades is run by people who come from middle or high-SES backgrounds doesn’t help much, because the pressures they and their parents faced are much lower since they are blessed with the means to explore other alternatives if traditional paths doesn’t work. Please lah, not everyone can go overseas to study just because they fail the Chinese subject.
The call to focus beyond grades sounds atas and noble, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all and it trivalises the hard circumstances poorer families face. Overemphasis on grades and pushing a child until they kee siao is unhealthy, but allowing ourselves to be carried away by the notion that the opportunities/potentials are out there for every child isn’t convincing because reality shows otherwise. To the lower income families, resources and exposures may not be that straightforward.
We need to ask ourselves honest questions: Can they really follow this idea of “PSLE doesn’t matter”? One cannot help buy worry that they misconstrue the idea behind this movement and say “Aiyah, study don’t matter, school dropout also can be successful one, like Bill Gates!” without putting in the corresponding amount of effort, and that what will they be left with?
Maybe it could have been more helpful if the movement first creates awareness in children from high-SES families to have greater empathy for those not on the same level of the playing field, and be more inclusive towards families who cannot afford to fail or be heck care about grades. Then talk about letting kids have fun and developing their talents.
But considering that PSLE starts next week, the Life Beyond Grades campaign is no doubt more appealing than having the Ministry of Education tell us that “every school is a good school”.