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How to support your child so he can do his best for PSLE


Prepare your kid for the hard work ahead – and remind him that you’re there for him

At the start of Primary 5, talk to your kid about the change in workload over the next two years, so he knows what to expect, says Vyda S. Chai, a clinical psychologist at Think Kids Intervention and Development Services.

“Tell him that there’ll be more to do and learn, but remind him that you’re on this journey with him and you’ll be there to support, guide and help him along the way.”

Teach him about purposeful goal setting

Just as the new PSLE scoring system from 2021 hopes to remove that culture of tagging a child to a T-score, you should send the message that the PSLE is not just a score or band or set of grades, but a journey towards a bigger goal.

In life, you regularly work towards different goals. Similarly, the PSLE should be contextualized as a journey towards your child’s goal of going to their chosen secondary school, where there will be even more opportunities for success.

“At the beginning of Primary 6, I advise having a series of conversations with your child about the PSLE year and what to expect,” says Joseph Lim, senior director of Education at Mind champs.

“For example, invite him to think about which school he’d like to attend and what it takes to get there. This opens the door for him to take ownership of his work during the PSLE year.

“Empower him to do some research on the school so he see that it’s a shared decision. Ask questions like, ‘how do you think this school will benefit you?’ and ‘what would it take for you to get into this school and how can we help you?”

Remember to come up with a backup plan should your child not qualify for his choice school.

“It’s your job to help your child navigate through that disappointment and emerge better from the experience. If done maturely, purposeful goal setting teaches the child resilience, adaptability and the importance of hard work,” Joseph adds.


Show him the qualities and values he needs to do well

PSLE success isn’t just about following study timetables. It’s also about hard work, humility, self-reflection and openness to feedback – values and life skills that will help your child succeed beyond primary school.

Joseph recommends writing up a list of attitudes and values with your child that will help him throughout the PSLE year.

Make the list descriptive, and discuss examples of how these attitudes and values are displayed in class, at home and in the context of studying. Then, bring these different examples to life, such as setting a good timetable or making revision schedules.

“By focusing on the desired values as well as developing concrete examples, you will have a ‘document’ you share with your child – and it will be something that you and him can refer to over the course of the year as he prepares for the PSLE,” Joseph says.

Help him see that learning is a process, not a means to an end

Help your kid see that preparing for the PSLE is not a painful exercise riddled with stress, but a period of ownership and deep learning.

To this end, Joseph says not to overload your kid with too many practice papers. Instead, teach him about meaningful study.

“Having a discussion with your child and agreeing on the revision load and deadlines will help him see this as a productive process. Meaningful study teaches your kid positive procedures such as doing proper corrections and using the revision papers as a way to check on what he does not know or understand.

“He should be given time and space to do these proper corrections for learning – and not be rushed into another revision paper and just be told his score.”

Check your own expectations

“You should moderate your own expectations of your child and be realistic about his strengths and weaknesses,” says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre For Psychological Wellness.

“Discuss your expectations with your kid and also explore his expectations of himself. Very often, a kid’s expectations are based on his parents’.

“Having high or unrealistic expectations will only add to the pressure and adversely affect your child’s PSLE performance.”

Talk him through the fear

Your child is likely to be a bundle of nerves during this crucial time. He may be imagining what it’s like sitting for the exam and worrying about not being able to finish a paper in time.

This is normal, says Freda. “Let him tell you how he feels, discuss the best- and worst-case scenarios, and ask him to think of strategies to overcome his anxiety. For instance, he may suggest breathing exercises or positive self-talk.

“The preliminary exams are a chance for him to see what the real exam is like, but until that happens, he may also have to sit through mock exams and do plenty of practice papers.

“Ask him how he felt while doing these and get him to put some of his calming strategies to work.”

Reassure him that bad results aren’t the end of the world

Of course you want him to do well, but to relieve any pressure he might feel to live up to your expectations, remind him that his final results aren’t the be-all and end-all.

“Tell him: ‘Even if you don’t do well, life goes on and we will figure out the next step together’,” says Freda Sutanto, an educational and developmental psychologist at Kaleidoscope Therapy Centre. 

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