I’ve been mulling about this post for a while now, contemplating whether or not to write what was in my mind. I’m not sure if I have any readers from Singapore and so whether this post will be of use to anyone. But then I decided to pen it down after all, who knows who will gain from this. Also this may make me self-reflect as GG & BB go through Secondary school.
For anyone who wants their child to shine in the PSLE exam, the first thing, I would suggest is know what kind of a learner he/she is. You should know their learning style by the time they get to Primary 3 and then from then on, you need to cater to them using their learning style. Also another thing every parent should know that hot-housing a child to do well in national exams so that they get into a reputed secondary school is good and well if the child continues to excel. I feel that if you place a child in a secondary school which is far too advanced for them, then they will be running just to keep up and at some point they may get frustrated by how they are in comparison to their peers and just give up. Last, please take into account your child’s interests when choosing a secondary school. If you child is passionate about music, but the school you have chosen does not have a decent music programme, the child will not be happy there.
As a parent, you should start in earnest for the PSLE exams when your child enters Primary 4. At this point, as a parent who knows their child best, you should be aware of his/her potential, interests and passions. Also this is the point when you should build strong foundations in all the four subjects. Primary 4 is slightly more difficult than Primary 3, but is much less stressful than Primary 5 when the jump is much higher. So use the time in Primary 4 to thoroughly drill the child in the basics in all the four subjects.
For the languages, get them to read regularly. Most schools have a silent reading programme daily for both English and Mother Tongue, but please take them to the library regularly and supplement this programme with good books. I would also advise to parents to be the final arbitrator of the books their children read, and get them to read different genres, so they are exposed to different writing styles. This will improve vocabulary immensely and will help them with composition and comprehension writing as well as for the oral exams at the PSLE exams. If possible, try and get the child to read a one or two levels beyond where he is so that he is exposed to a higher standard of vocabulary early on.
For maths, make sure they have their foundation clear and understand concepts well. Expose them to the different types of questions they will have to answer and also get them to do timed question papers as this is something I see children having difficulty in – in completing their paper. Also questions about real life estimations may help – remember the infamous $1 coin question in this year’s Maths paper?
For science, I notice that there is a slight but sure shift to application based questions. So when learning science, try to get the child the real-life application for that concept. In Singapore, the science text books only teach a fraction of what they are expected to know and buying science guides is inevitable. It may help to start doing this earlier, even in Primary 3 as that is when they start science.
Direct School Admission
I wish I’d known what I am writing now earlier, it would have saved us so much heartache and who knows; maybe GG & BB would have gotten into their dream schools under this scheme. I realise many people, especially parents who are first time PSLE parents do not really know about this. The DSA scheme was started in 2004 for Primary 6 or Secondary 4 students to be guaranteed a place in Secondary school or Junior College. This is so that students who are particularly good in a subject or have niche talent can get into a school/junior college which wants them before they sit for their exams.
If you have identified a school/niche area where you want to apply for DSA for your child, the right time to start the process is in Primary 4. Every school offering DSA will have an Open House sometime in May and it may be a good idea to go to the school and see it. You will get the general idea of what the school will offer your child and you then have a good feel of whether this is the best choice for your child. Once you’ve zoomed into your choice schools, you need to start researching what they are looking for in a successful DSA applicant. Some schools have multiple entrance tests, while others give more importance to the school marks from P4 onwards. So it is important to make sure your child does well from Primary 4 onwards, especially in the subject that they will be applying DSA in. If you are applying in sports and/or aesthetics categories, you will need to go for trials and auditions, so it’s a good idea to start preparing from this point on. Of course, all this preparations does not guarantee a spot as the number of places varies by year (exceptions are NUS High, SST and SOTA who take almost 100% through DSA), but this preparation gives you an added edge over the others who only start in Primary 6.
Please join online forums like kiasuparents and facebook groups which really help. There are so many parents out there who know so much and are willing to share information which really helps.
Hope this post will be useful to people. I’m no expert by any stretch of imagination, and all this has been gleaned through personal experiences and online forums. If you have any questions, please leave it as a comment below and I’ll try and answer it to the best of my ability.