Don't let CCAs contribute to children's stress

I am sure Ms Maria Loh Mun Foong had good intentions when she called for children to be assessed in a holistic way ("For holistic assessment, CCAs need higher weighting"; last Wednesday).

However, these good intentions will inevitably lead to added stress for our children and may rob them of the chance to be creative.

Before, academic learning took place only during school hours, and co-curricular activities (CCAs) after school were added when children reached a higher school level.

Children had time to rest, play and find projects and objects to tinker with.

Supplementary classes and private tuition were only for those who were failing their subjects.

Subsequently, supplementary classes became compulsory for upper primary pupils, while tuition evolved to help not just those who are weak, but also those who are good, to secure distinctions.

The academic syllabus is not going to become easier or less intense.

At the primary school level, at least, children should be encouraged to play various sports for enjoyment and health, and not look upon CCAs as another subject they are forced to take up.

It is more likely to grow in difficulty and intensity, as other countries catch up with better education.

Time, however, is not elastic.

On top of an already demanding academic syllabus, supplementary classes, tuition and private enrichment activities all compete for children's time.

Thus, if CCA points are introduced for the calculation of exam scores for the Primary School Leaving Examination, every child will be pressured to take up a CCA and spend more time in training, even if he does not enjoy it, just for the sake of CCA points.

At the primary school level, at least, children should be encouraged to play various sports for enjoyment and health, and not look upon CCAs as another subject they are forced to take up.

Children need the time to feel a little bored and start to doodle, tinker with things or invent silly toys.

Therein lies the creativity much sought after in today's world.

If much of their time is occupied by activities set by adults, how can they ever discover what they want or enjoy doing?

Children don't need more holistic ways to be assessed.

What they need is for adults to assess them as children, whose childhood is fast running out.

Grace Chua Siew Hwee (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'Don't let CCAs contribute to children's stress'. Print Edition | Subscribe