The Straits Times
Published on Nov 27, 2012

Good grades can't guarantee success in life


AS A young parent, I am concerned that we may be missing the crux of the debate over the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

Some people believe that competition trains one to be resilient, adaptable and able to compete in the real world ("Don't throw the baby out with the bath water" by Mr Tan Suan Jin, last Wednesday; and "PSLE: Don't change for the worse" by Mr Ang Peng Seong, last Thursday).

I disagree and would argue that this is a narrow view of competition that is ultimately detrimental to our children.

Yes, our children need resilience, adaptability and the ability to compete globally. However, the PSLE has, in effect, become purely a competition for grades, in order to get into "good" schools.

Resilience, adaptability and a healthy competitive spirit are not developed through purely striving for good grades.

Rather, these are values nurtured through being exposed to hardship and failure in both the classroom and the playing field, interacting and collaborating with people from all walks of life, and getting hurt in the process.

It also means having values such as humility and a heart for service, non-academic qualities such as administrative and people management skills, and a "can-do" attitude.

I am from a good school and hold a professional degree, but I am no more successful than some of my army buddies who followed non-professional or non-degree paths - one of them has even become a hotel general manager overseas.

Good grades may guarantee a place in a "good" school, but they are no guarantee of success in life.

Rather, success is determined by an individual having a strong personal value system, seizing opportunities at the right place and time, doing something he is passionate about, knowing how to connect with a wide spectrum of people in society and deploying appropriate non-academic skills to reach certain goals.

As parents, let us not be blinded by a narrow definition of success in life.

Alvin Sim