How Are Students Surviving Disruptions Leading Up To PSLE?


How Are Students Surviving Disruptions Leading Up To PSLE?

Learning to roll with the punches

By June Yong | 12 August 2021

It is the time of year for national examinations. Across Singapore, Primary Six students are hunkering down to catch up on their revision for PSLE.

This is the second year where PSLE will be held amidst COVID-19 social distancing protocols and examinable topics have also been trimmed to compensate for the disruptions in school that children faced during Singapore’s Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) in May.

Some children – like my 12-year-old daughter – experienced a loss of motivation and momentum during home-based learning (HBL) implemented during that time.

Others have found it challenging to learn and master concepts taught virtually via zoom or the Student Learning System (SLS).

Alexis Tan, 12, said, “It has been slightly more challenging as we were unable to ask the teachers questions we had about the topics covered during HBL. Even though we can email them, it may take a few days for them to get back to us, and I feel it is easier when the teachers explain concepts to us face-to-face.”

There are also physical restrictions that students have to deal with.

As Sophie Tay, 12 expressed, “For our upcoming oral examinations, we have to keep our masks on and sit 1.2m away from the examiners. This makes it harder for us to hear each other so we would have to speak louder.”

For my daughter who is quite introverted and tends to speak in a small voice, this aspect of the oral examinations may be daunting and could place students like her at a disadvantage.

However, this could also be a valuable teaching moment: We may not like all the new rules that we have to abide by, but we can focus on what is within our control and make the best out of what we have.

New Rules, But Also New Skills

The rules have been put in place for safety reasons and for the most part, students know that they are there for their benefit. Yet this doesn’t cancel out the feelings of stress or discomfort that they might feel.

Perhaps one thing that we can point out to our children is that while the disruptions may be uncomfortable, they have also shown some adaptability and resilience in coping with them. They have essentially learnt new skills that will serve them well for life!

For example, Alexis reflected that she has grown in her ability to manage her own revision. “I've learnt to be responsible for my own learning as my teachers were not there to monitor my work progress [during HBL] and I had to do everything on my own (printing out worksheets, doing my corrections). I also had to log in to zoom meetings on time, so I did not miss out on any content my teachers were talking about,” she said.

For Claire Chen, 11, the disruptive PSLE experience has taught her tenacity. Claiming the famous Nike tagline – Just Do It – as her motto for this season of her life, she said, “PSLE may seem like a daunting task to us but if we just bite the bullet and let go, then the examinations will be over faster than we think. [I’ve learnt that] tenacity is really important and not just for school but for life itself.”

We may not like all the new rules that we have to abide by, but we can focus on what is within our control.

Some Silver Linings

This pandemic hasn’t been all bad news. As my daughter articulated, “It feels like there is slightly less stress overall, as the focus isn’t just on our studies, it’s also on our wellbeing and safety during this time.”

The recent news of the removal of last common topics for Math and Science was also met with a collective sigh of relief.

As Claire described with gusto, “This was the best thing that has happened to me in relation to PSLE. It was reassuring to know that the teachers would not have to pull off a Usain Bolt and bullet-train through the remaining subjects, like Mans' Impact on Earth, for Science.”

Alexis agreed that the removal of topics was a helpful move. She added, “Now that we have less topics to revise, we can spend more time brushing up on topics we are weak in.”

The attitudes and emotional intelligence that our children learn through the challenges that have arisen out of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought will serve them for life.

Believing In Our Children

In a recent CNA commentary, Dr Fung Fun Man and Kim Yongbeom expressed concern over the continued high emphasis placed on academic performance by parents.

The writers put it aptly, “Childhood is a time where children build social skills, learn values and emotional intelligence. These developments should not be sacrificed to pursue grades, especially in a pandemic when it is easy to succumb to signing up for ever more classes.”

At the end of the day, PSLE is just one checkpoint in our children’s journey of life-long learning. Regardless of the grades that they receive, the attitudes and emotional intelligence that our children learn through the challenges that have arisen out of the COVID-19 pandemic will serve them well for life.

As parents, we will always worry over how our children will perform (particularly in the middle of a long and widespread pandemic), but perhaps the best thing we can do is to simply believe in them.

As Sophie asserted, “I’d like my parents to know that I am trying my best to achieve the grades that I have set for myself. I also have my goals for PSLE and which school I want to go in. I want my parents to know that unhealthy levels of stress is not good but having too little stress is also not good so they should give me the right amount of stress. I want them to have faith in me and trust that I can study hard.”

So let’s be our children’s greatest supporter and cheerleader. With our presence, assurance, and belief, this long academic marathon that our children are on – starting with the PSLE – will be run, and finished well.

© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.


Friends may have shared the inevitable negative pressures of exam and PSLE preparation on the relationship with their children. Instead of fearing what's ahead, we can equip ourselves to be positive and compassionate in stressful situations, protecting our relationship as our tweens head into adolescence and secondary school. Find out more at our interactive PSLE Special: Empowered to be a Parent-Coach webinar on 9 July 2022!

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