Dear School Children

[Bear with me. I’ve just visited Alvan’s blog and I began to leave a very long comment before I realised I could actually write it here. I hope it makes sense before I fall asleep on the keys.]

Alvan’s post talks about PSLE scores, or Primary School Leaving examination scores – I had to look the acronym up. While I know nothing about the systems in Singapore, school children everywhere are subjected to a nationwide scoring system which allegedly determines their further education or career opportunities. Australia is no different.

I understand why we need this and I understand why it’s useless.

They have to create a comparative measure – a measure that judges you against your peers and judges schools against schools. Hopefully, it makes the schools and their students work harder and be better. Maybe this works sometimes. Unfortunately too (and YAY!), everyone is different. Exams aren’t necessarily the best way to determines a person’s capabilities. Some people are better at showing than explaining. Some people are better at drawing than writing. Some people are better at dot-points than essays. We don’t fit neatly into a one-size-fits-all education system but this is what we’re offered.

During my time as a teacher, often my biggest challenge was to differentiate between those who didn’t understand and those who simply couldn’t express themselves. During university, a section of my psychology exam was multiple choice because a recent study had determined it was a better way to convey understanding. I hated it. The choices were so similar they only served to confuse me and it annoyed me that students who hadn’t bothered to study still had a 1/5 chance of getting it right.

Sometimes we receive our education before we’re really ready for it. My husband, for example, wished he’d paid more attention during metalwork class. He took that class twenty years ago – the thing is, he’s only interested in it now.

The further you travel through life the more pointless these systems feel. Unfortunately, when you’re in the them, living them – they feel like failure or success.

Recently, I read through a résumé and while I believed they were qualified for the job I wondered if they were actually nice. This thought was probably my mother’s fault who always said she wanted two things from her children, to be our best and be good people. Mum valued the latter more.

I was one of those kids who wore myself out being my better-best. This was mostly because I wanted to be as intelligent as my brother. He told me years later he wished he had my practicality and people skills. I went through university only to find work in a totally different field. My husband dropped out of university and took on vocational training to (economically at least) get a better job than me. This is fact, not failure.

Success would be better if it were measured in kindness but the is the system is more analytical. Numbers on paper. Crosses and ticks.

All you can do is be your best, work hard for what you want and be a good person.

You’ll be okay.



4 thoughts on “Dear School Children

  1. Success is measured in kindness – I like this idea very much.

    Actually, I had the impression that Australians are far more relaxed about exams and academic qualifications and the occupation-social status linkage, not that I know much about the education system or social structure down under. At least when compared to the rather ridiculous culture here which starts testing and streaming kids from age 10 (though I think this was scrapped some years back) and then again at age 12, and at 16/17. From age 12 at least, once you are placed in a certain stream, it’s like being marked for life. And we can see all the problems with such a system.

    • I get the same impression. I know very little about your system, but it certainly seems more hardlined. It’s getting worse here though as schools vie for more funding and the expectations and pressures of life appear to be increasing. It’s an unfortunate progression, and not one necessarily in the child’s best interest. Thanks for the thoughtful post and comments.

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