Competition inevitable but we can reduce the stress for kids

There has been a bit of disquiet recently due to the announcement that the Primary School Leaving Examination aggregate score system will be scrapped from 2021.

Parents are rightly concerned about the stress levels their children have to cope with.

Stress is inevitable in modern city life. But where does stress really come from?

Many parents seem to believe that the main triggers are school rankings, PSLE aggregates and the publication of the top pupils' results.

I beg to differ. Stress is a direct result of competition.

Pupils need to compete with one another for limited spaces in their desired schools. Then, as adults, they need to compete for the best jobs in our country. There is also competition at the international level.

Therefore, it is clear that removing the PSLE aggregate score system and school rankings, and not publishing the scores of top pupils, do not reduce stress as they do not eliminate competition.

Rather, stress is created when parents use such information to make decisions that are detrimental to healthy learning and add unnecessary pressure on their children.

I recommend that the Education Ministry take steps to educate parents on how to embrace competition and raise happy, healthy children.

Parents should use information on rankings and so on to make better decisions for their children, such as picking a school that suits the child's learning profile.

In doing so, they help their children attain better grades in a healthy manner.

Darren Chow Weng Kin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Competition inevitable but we can reduce the stress for kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe