Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Mixed Feelings

I had always thought that whatever feelings parents have for the t-scores begin and end on the day the result is released.

My first experience with PSLE tells me that the 't-score effect' continues to last through the week after the release. It could possibly last through Christmas and even Chinese New Year when we meet relatives and friends.

William was sharing with me how he had gone to the nearby coffeeshop to buy his lunch when he met a parent of a child he had tutored. Even before he said anything, she told him she already know Coco's t-score.

While we are relieved that Coco has passed the mark of her school of choice, we are very aware that most parents are having a hard time coming to terms with unexpected results. If those who score 250 and above are the top ten percent of the cohort, then there are about 70 to 80% of the children or/and parents who have not got their expected results.

I know of parents who are overjoyed that their children did not fail PSLE, meaning the children get to go to Normal (Technical). Some others are happy that their children made it to the Express stream, and still others are glad that their children could go to Normal (Academic).

Most of these parents do not impose high expectations on their children. Usually, they just want their children to do a grade better than what they do in school. A child who had consistently scored 30/100 for Maths managed to get a B at PSLE. I am sure the mother would have felt immensely relieved and ecstatic. A child who had consistently got 50/100 for English managed a B at PSLE. I have no doubt the mother would be all smiles.

Most people would focus on the 'Highest aggregate score this year: 285' and think about how far their children are from the score, and who this child could possibly be. Few would think about the 'Lowest aggregate score this year: 43' and who the child could be.

I am not sure how the child getting the lowest t-score islandwide feels about his results, but it's highly likely that he already know that he would not make it before he took PSLE.

Such a child would have:
- failed all his exams, consistently, throughout his school life
- got U grade (below 20 marks) for all his subjects
- nil parental support
- nil tuition
- not studied for PSLE
- been likely a Foundation stream student

It may sound ridiculous but there are children who are not able to read at P5 and there are some who can only read 'a' and 'the' in a sentence.

There are children who cannot write at P6. I have seen my fair share of poor writings, but William told me he once read a script at an official exam which had 'A boy is a man, a man is a boy, a boy is a man, a man is a boy ...' for the whole piece of writing.

Indeed, our education system has lost these children. They slip through the holes in the system and get 'promoted' to P6 regardless of their results, and get streamed into Foundation.

After the results are released, they are retained for a year and get to try at PSLE again. Then they fail again, and are asked to go to Northlight or other institutions for students who fail PSLE twice.

It is likely that these children are from neighbourhood schools. Is it because the teachers at neighbourhood schools are less competent?

My question then would be: Are not all teachers trained by the same institution?

My take on the seemingly wide gap between teachers in neighbourhood schools and 'good' schools is that: teachers in good schools are given time to teach, reflect on their own teaching and create customised resources for their own students.

Teachers in neighbourhood schools do not have this 'privilege'. They are expected to develop children, in my opinion, more holistically than the good schools' children, to make up for the shortfall in the academic performance. And to do this, they need to turn themselves into event planners, event managers, dance instructors, story-telling trainers, scriptwriters, decorators ... I am not sure how much of these do the teachers in good schools do, but you can be sure these adhoc roles take up a huge amount of time and energy.

Teachers are only human beings. When you keep them in school for 10 to 12 hours every day for meaningless meetings and workshops that achieve little, something has to give. And if teaching is at the bottom of the list to be appraised, you can be sure teaching well would be the last thing on the teachers' mind.

From what I have seen and experienced in Coco's school, the teachers do have alot more support from parents ie. from running events to supporting the academic programmes at home. When they need help, they write a letter or email to request for support, and most of the time, support pours in. They in turn become better and more motivated teachers. Yes, over the years, they do become 'better' teachers than the neighbourhood school ones.


Anonymous said...

Hi, you might want to change "Pathlight" to "Northlight". Pathlight refers to the school for children with Autism.


Rain said...

Thanks, Isabel!