Pointing Fingers (Part 1)

One does not go through life devoid of blame. We are often called upon to take the fall of a sub-par project, failures or unwelcome news, and that’s not bad altogether. The ability  to take the blame for failure develops one’s sense of responsibility and accountability, both qualities desirable in an ideal member of society. After all, one who has blame sliding off his shoulders at every turn, only for his compatriots beside him to bathe in its pungent smell, can hardly be counted for reliability.

But then of course, who likes to bathe himself in the repugnant smell of blame? Which is hence why we point fingers at others. And it is this blame game that has been playing out in different spheres in Singapore that has me writing this article.

This is the first issue that I will write about, with the issue of “xenophobia” (I actually disagree with the term) and sports to come.

1. “Over-the-Top.” Source at TodayOnline.

MP Josephine Teo was recently struck by the decision of OCBC to allow for PSLE leave for parents who would like to help their children tide over the dreaded national examination, where, I quote, “my immediate reaction was “over-the-top””.

Certainly, Ms Teo is entitled to her opinion, and looking on the surface, one would be inclined to agree with her that a PSLE leave is excessive. Given the tender age of the exam-takers at just twelve, the institutionalising of a dedicated leave period just for parents to hawk over their precocious child’s work might be more harmful to the child’s stress levels than helpful to his/her grades. Furthermore, as Ms Teo points out, “We are quite mistaken to behave as if PSLE is THE defining moment in a child’s development. It does not warrant such special attention compared to other significant moments we parents ought to watch out for.” In short, such a move serves to fan the flames of anxiety over an exam which may not that crucial in the first place.

Her views summarised

But I disagree. Firstly, OCBC’s move to institutionalising the leave is merely a response to the high levels of already-existing workplace accommodations to PSLE-parents (Parents with child/children in PSLE year). According to this article by the same source,

TODAY’s check with several other companies – including multi-national companies, banks and telcos – found that …  most of these companies already offer flexible work arrangement schemes, childcare or marriage leave.

Sociologist and former Nominated Member of Parliament Paulin Straughan, who had previously spoken out against the pressures of PSLE, noted that many parents are already taking leave from work to prepare their children for the exam.

by Sumita Sreedharan and Ashley Chia, TODAYonline
Oct 23, 2012

So what OCBC has done, is simply institutionalise what is already an established trend : PSLE-parents taking leave to help their children is already going on. There’s a Chinese saying that goes “无风不起浪,事出必有因” (There is no smoke without fire). This is what exactly is happening here; OCBC has simply looked at the needs of its employees, and responded to what is already going on. Is it “over-the-top” to call a spade a spade? If Ms Teo would like to point the finger at anyone or anything, I’d suggest she look at the PSLE system itself, which she actually deems not ” THE defining moment in a child’s development” and “does not warrant such special attention”.

Again, I disagree. The PSLE is the first major exam for a child, which will define which school and which stream he/she enters and stays for 4 years at least for the average child. What this child is actually deciding as he carefully puts pen to paper in the examination hall is his future.

Despite all the calls for “Every school to be a good school”, we all know how bullshit that is, at least in the short term. The removal of banding and awards is not going to immediately make Raffles Institution on par with Bishan Park Secondary School. The differences in school culture, students’ work attitudes, grades all still persist. So, the PSLE-taking child is effectively deciding with what school culture he will be mixing with for the next 4 years.

Will he be at risk of being under the influence of a street gang in a notorious secondary school, or will he mix with peers at an institution known to churn out successful scholars? These are worries that pester not just the students, but the parents as well; The following years will be his formative years of teenhood, where the child will start to define his own morals and attitude. Wouldn’t you want the best chance for your child to grow right?

Of course, we can leave our children to their own sagacity and teach them independence. But as a loving parent, knowing that all other parents are giving their kids a boost, would you stand aside and watch your child struggle in the deep end while others have their parents’ hands to hold? Ms Teo might, but not many would. And with the stakes so high, I wouldn’t blame them for not wanting to.

Hence, by pointing the finger of blame at OCBC, Ms Teo has not just unfairly heaped the blame of the stress of PSLE examinations onto over-worrying parents and their employers, but she missed out on a golden chance to address the undue importance and stress PSLE plays upon Singaporean parents and students. She should have done better in my opinion.
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3 thoughts on “Pointing Fingers (Part 1)

  1. […] – DUM FATA SINUNT, VIVITE LAETI: PSLE – What do parents want? – If I may speak: Pointing Fingers (Part 1) – The Accidental Mom Blogger: Why Husbands Should Spoil Their Wives – My Singapore […]

  2. […] – DUM FATA SINUNT, VIVITE LAETI: PSLE – What do parents want? – If I may speak: Pointing Fingers (Part 1) – The Accidental Mom Blogger: Why Husbands Should Spoil Their Wives – My Singapore […]

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I think parents should honestly chill about their children’s PSLE. If they do well, so be it. If they don’t, isn’t it an accurate representation of their abilities? The fact is, most parents are stressing their kids to go to a top school where they may just flounder because of the immense pressure and frenzied pace of teaching. That, or the kids may simply fail there.

    I don’t deny that PSLE is stressful. However, to blame PSLE for all the stress that kids now suffer is erroneous. After all, I think parents are crazy to insist on their children on aiming only for the top schools.

    Of course, I concede the point the the introduction of the IP programme makes kids more stressed at PSLE. After all, their PSLE grades may well determine their JCs which in turn may be indicative of their university spots. Though I’d like to emphasise here that this isn’t always the case.

    Still, parents really should chill. I don’t think reprimanding OCBC is warranted-because if parents want to take a couple days off to take care of their kids is entirely their free will, but I just think everyone should relax about it. 🙂

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