Everyone who attended it had a child who went on stage to collect award(s) for academic excellence in 2012. The youngest pupils are those of M's cohort - the current Primary 3 - for their Pri 2 results. (Pri 1 kids do not sit for exams, only several ongoing 'surprise' assessments.)
The first thing that struck me when I arrived at the hall was the number of familiar faces I saw all around. I just can't believe how many mothers I recognized there!
To begin with, I am not even active in this school. I am not a parent volunteer and I certainly don't socialize with any parents or teachers. But I do recognize those mothers who dutifully brought lunches for their kids every Monday, two years ago, when I was doing the same for M. Everyone of these women is a stay-at-home mum (SAHM).
Besides these mums, I also spotted 4 other neighbours (just think of the chance of that, especially since we aren't exactly that close to the school!), though their kids are older than M. Again, all these women are SAHMs.
Is it a sheer coincidence that so many of the SAHMs were in that hall or is there a more obvious correlation between the two variables (SAHMs and hall attendance)? I mentioned this to E, who just uttered a nearly silent 'ng' and shrugged. But I am still intrigued.
Of the 9 parents I spoke to after the awards, during the tea reception, I learnt that everyone of them send their kids to tuition. Usually for multiple subjects. A boy, whose family I know for years, was there for outstanding PSLE results and is now studying at Raffles Institution. He had tuition/enrichment since he was 4. From Primary 3 onwards, he was tutored for all 4 subjects. I remember his mum being the one who ferried both his younger sister (now in P4) and him all over Singapore for the best tuition classes.
On my way to school, I was sandwiched between two groups of parents. The group ahead of me was discussing a court case, which led me to conclude they must be law practitioners. Those men behind me were talking about epidurals and how to insert the needles, through which part of the spine etc... Both groups ended up in the same hall, cheering their kids. I already knew the parent-body consists of a high percentage of PMEBs......
Such observations and discussions at the tea reception, coupled with our experience in the past week with M's teachers, reinforced my long-standing beliefs that we can't depend on schools to prepare our kids for national exams. Not even the school-level exams.
Take M's CA1 as an example. A week before the Science CA test date, the class had only been taught 2 out of 3 chapters. The kids were expected to learn the biggest topic of the three in four periods (2 hours) and remember all at first exposure. So little content was taught in the previous 6 weeks and no extra notes were given. Pupils who depended on just their super thin textbook that contains incredibly vague and basic introduction to the topics would not be able to answer half the questions found in the mock CA test handed out by the teacher, which requires one to possess very specific knowledge pertaining to the topics and critical thinking skills. Even my well-read boy with excellent general knowledge had a bit of trouble at first as he had not come across those facts before.
When M brought back the mock test paper (it was to be completed as homework) it was parents-to-the-rescue! M is fortunate that we are science buffs, able to help and he has a strong foundation in English and Science to begin with. We provided the right resources and he was able to read up and attempt most questions on his own. Even those that require higher order thinking skills, he could tackle with ease because he was already exposed to such way of thinking, as a result of his upbringing and experience in my lapbooking classes. So we only had to check his work.
I can't help but wonder the plight of those who aren't as fortunate. Most kids probably can pass the subject, but what chances do they have to excel?
It was the same with the other 3 subjects. Most content was glossed over ONCE in school. The revision and explanations are all done at home. Again, luckily (or not, depending on one's perspective) he has a tiger mum who would slog willingly for him.
Going forward, the next big issue that I have with the school, as I can see, is in their lax programme on composition writing for both languages. How much can a child learn if he only writes 6 compositions a year? I can't believe the teachers will be able to equip the kids with the right skills and techniques to write an excellent piece by year-end exam, especially looking at the way the written work was marked. So I must step in.
Like it or not, this is the reality of schooling in Singapore.
During the week when I was preparing M for his CA1, E saw some of the school work that M brought home. At one point, he went, 'how can they ever expect to produce excellent learners with such teaching?' Exactly.
I hope E gets a better picture of what to expect in the coming months/years.