New PSLE scoring system

A chance to break vicious circle of keeping up with the Joneses

The new Primary School Leaving Examination grading method gives hope to every child to be the best he can be ("New PSLE scoring system to have 8 grade bands"; last Thursday).

Instead of a norm-referenced scoring system, where children are compared against their peers, the system has changed to one where children are compared against themselves, based on a set of predetermined criteria.

People who compare themselves with others usually end up feeling miserable, because we tend to compare ourselves with those who are better than us, especially in a high-achievement culture.

The outcome of not measuring up can be kiasuism, insecurity and feelings of inferiority.

Parents who feel this way will invariably push their children to achieve against perceived rivals, which can lead to more negative emotional lows when the child does not perform as the parents expect.

This vicious circle has gone on for too long.

Psychologists studying high achievers in sports have identified six traits that make a champion. One of the traits is that a champion competes against himself by improving his own past performance bit by bit rather than by one giant leap at one go.

With the new criterion-based method of measuring personal achievement in the PSLE, hopefully parents will recognise each child is unique and needs encouragement to be the best for himself, without being compared against his peers.

Our children will be happier and more emotionally secure if parents allow them to grow at their own pace, and if they are spared the pressure of keeping up with the Joneses, Lees or Tans.

Thomas Lee Hock Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2016, with the headline 'A chance to break vicious circle of keeping up with the Joneses'. Print Edition | Subscribe