Don't forget to consider needs, wants of the children

The outpouring of opinions from both supporters and opponents of the new Primary School Leaving Examination grading system is only to be expected ("New PSLE scoring system to have 8 grade bands"; last Thursday, and "Parents still anxious about PSLE changes"; last Friday).

Both camps have valid points. Parents, as much as pupils, should be concerned, as academic attainments very much determine one's future in a meritocratic society like Singapore.

No system is perfect. Change is a constant, and the question of how to engage young minds should be explored, to remain relevant to the needs and changing aspirations of our country and all concerned.

But, amid all this discourse, have we considered what our young truly need and want?

While we make decisions on their behalf, we often neglect their hopes and fears. We presume that we are doing what is best for our young, as they do not know better.

The system we set up for them has long-term consequences for their well-being.

Every child is unique. We should not foist upon him a system that does not match his predispositions.

A child's development is not static. While we see him grow physically, we should not overlook his psychological health. Putting him in a school that is too competitive and choosing streams that do not match his natural inclinations may backfire.

Many burn out prematurely and develop a phobia for learning. In their teenage years, some rebel against authority and drop out of the formal system.

It is not unheard of for many trained professionals, despite years of slog, to call it quits to answer their true calling.

Thus, we should not be too hasty in constricting our young by choices we make for them. We should let them find their place in the sun and at the pace they find comfortable. Let us be less presumptuous about what we think they need. Perhaps, we could ask them.

Education is a human-centric business. Let us put the child at the centre of our considerations.

Systems may come and go, but our children remain ours to keep for life. We should not pressure them or turn them into objects of vanity for our own sake. As parents, shouldn't their happiness matter, perhaps more than our own?

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2016, with the headline 'Don't forget to consider needs, wants of the children'. Print Edition | Subscribe