Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

My Alma Mater

One way that we engage our boys to learn more about us is to walk with them, down our memory lane.  Children are not patient to hear our long grandmother’s story but certainly they are keen to see and hear some of the interesting ones…those experiences that we had gone through and likewise, those similar paths that they would tread on one day.

As our boys grow older and are more able to appreciate our reminiscing tales, we drove them to where we stayed during our childhood, played with them the games that we used to spend hours on, shared with them some of the lovers’ cards that we used to exchange and not leaving out all the schools that we have attended. So the 4 of us would drive to NTU to show our boys the hostel that Papa used to stay in, the favourite greenery path that mummy loved to patronise during my NUS days and my favourite school that I will never miss out is still my secondary school.

My alma mater - Cedar Girls’ Secondary School, the place that makes my growing up years so much more enjoyable and memorable. So, while Papa Ed proudly showed off his photo in a yearbook when we combed his Secondary School during an Open House, I was proud to present my alma mater to our boys during the Cedar Fiesta in March this year.

Darren: “Wah! So many sweet “jiejie” (sisters).

Mummy: “Mummy once looked so youthful and pretty too.” (pardon me for my thick-skin, haha)

Darren:”Really? So sweet? Aiya, mummy still pretty lah.”

Comparing sweetness? Haha..our boy is still the SWEETEST talker.

A happy Darren at the Fiesta.


It has been decades since I last visited the school. Despite a school refurbishment, the familiar estate, the school, the bus stop - everything seems to bring me down memory lane.  Once I stepped into the school gate, I was behaving like an energetic youth, proudly presenting my favourite alma mater.

The new building after the touch-up. I miss that nostalgic touch.


The trees that have witnessed us grown into pretty young ladies, haha….are still standing tall in the Cedar estate.


Admittedly, this is the origin that has much significant impact in shaping the current me.  This is why I still have a strong belief that besides academic excellence, the school’s belief/mission is a key consideration when we select a suitable school for our boys. This is especially true in the teenage years when peer and school influence also play an important role, partly in their character building.

[Here, I enjoyed (what is to me) the most conducive learning environment which enabled my successful admission into my desired junior college. Here, I used to lament over the strictest school rules that one would ever encounter. Now, I am appreciative as it has taught me the discipline in life and shaped me into who I am. Over here, I was complaining over the daily jogging that we had to go through. Then, I was wondering which school would torture all the students to jog everyday in the full school uniforms and with a tie.  Now, I appreciate that those 4 years of daily jogging has boosted my physical stamina till even today.]

Papa and mummy have a story to tell when I walked on the school track.  I recalled how unique it was as we girls had to jog on the track almost everyday.  That is also the track that creates wonders, grooming many great athletes who do Cedar proud in many Sports’ Meets. FINALLY…….On a more romantic note, that is also the track where mummy first met Papa Ed when he came over with his schoolmates for training:)

When we got married, I was wondering whether I could request for permission to shoot my wedding photos in that track. Though it didn’t happen, perhaps, it’s not too late to shoot our 20th wedding anniversary photos there, this time with our boys:)


Papa and son were ready to take a short race down that familiar track. Somehow, the field seems to have been downsized (or relocated?):(


“Once a Cedarian, Always a Cedarian at Heart.” Our school moto “Nurturing Leaders of Characters” - I have never forgotten to remind myself that though our boys will never be able to be part of Cedar (being a girl school), I will place character building as a key consideration in their schools’ selection. Till now, I remain proud of my alma mater which continues to be outstanding in academic, sports and other fields. I will never forget the roots where I belong.

[All of us have our beautiful experiences in our different schools. I guess it is still how well we want to make the best purpose of our stay.]

Gifted Education Programme

What is Gifted Education Programme?

Tomorrow is the Gifted Education Programme (GEP)’s Screening Test for the cohort of primary 3 students in Singapore. After which, about 4,000 primary 3 students will be shortlisted to go through the selection tests in October. At the end, only about 500 primary 3 students will be admitted into the Primary 4 GEP.

During the screening test, these students will sit for English and Mathematics papers. As for the selection test, students are tested on English, Mathematics and General Abilities.

It is certainly not easy to be among the final 500 being admitted. So, I am aware of parents who send their children for private lessons to prepare them for the GEP tests.

So, what is it in GEP that appeals to parents?

Elite teachers? Smarter cohort? Better future? Distinctive curriculum? Higher emphasis on social studies? A more secured way into integrated programme in secondary school?

For this, I can’t comment.

For sure, I know Bren made it into the integrated programme in secondary school too without being in the Gifted Education Programme  in primary school. In fact, I did not even sign him up for the GEP screening test years ago. Maybe, it was a right decision then because it at least boosted Bren’s confidence as he excelled academically and topped the class in the mainstream.

If you ask for my view whether we need to let our children go through preparatory classes for the GEP tests…

Now, that it is Darren’s turn, we decided to let him sit for the GEP screening test.

However, no. We don’t embrace the rationale for pre-training for GEP tests.

As  it is defined, GIFTED means “being endowed with high general abilities” or “having exceptionally high intelligence”.

Naturally, the eventual cohort in GEP will be made up of exceptionally bright students, the curriculum will be tougher and the competition will be intense.

If my child makes it through the selection (due to forced or rigorous preparation before the tests)…

- is he able to cope well under that educational system?

- will it too stressful for him if he is not endowed with that exceptional intelligence?

- am I causing my child to end up with a low morale at the young age of 10 years old, striving everyday to catch up with the smartest lot and building early disappointment in his education life?

I decided. I would rather let Darren attempt the tests and let nature take its own course. If he is successful using his inborn abilities, then certainly he will be more ready to survive in the cohort.

Furthermore, now that Bren is in the integrated programme, I fully understand the challenge a child faces when placed with the cream of the crop and I do not wish to give Darren the undue educational stress.

Do most parents let their children go through the GEP screening test?

I do not have the statistics but in my own social circle and at least in Darren’s class, most of his classmates are sitting for the GEP screening test.

What is this General Abilities Test (GAT)?

Though our elder boy had never attended the primary GEP screening test or selection test, he has a try of the General Abilities Test (GAT) during the Direct School Admission Test to some top secondary schools. On his experience, he had to attempt many questions (which include identifying tough picture patterns) within short time frame.  I can imagine that small mind thinking smart, fast and accurate and yet  remaining calm as time ticks by. Though Bren fared very well for the GAT, there is no way that he could prepare Darren with the model questions/answers. Again, I emphasize that it depends on individual’s abilities.

So, what I am going to do is : let my child get enough sleep the night before the screening test to better focus during the test and not give undue stress. Hmm…Yes! I will let nature takes its own course.  No pressure on him or myself.  If he succeeds in being the final cohort in the GEP, I guess he is ready and able to manage.  If he does not, I believe he will enjoy his mainstream education as much as Bren did too:)

“All the best my boy!”

Overcoming Anxiety for Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE)

Primary School Leaving Examination in Singapore is round the corner and it is the final examination in the primary school that many parents place high priority on and send their children for tuition and any other help to ensure that they excel for this examination. In schools, students are also emphasized the importance of this examination and students are geared early to prepare for it.

Hence, in a way, students are given the pressure of going through the PSLE and needless to say most would feel the tension even before they sit for the examination itself.

I have been asked by friends on how I helped Brendan to overcome the PSLE stress, how I prepared him for his successful admission into the integrated programme in the secondary school, and my personal views on tuition to aid in achieving academic excellence. So, I will share this post on my personal experience. As for our personal insights on integrated programme and views on tuition, let’s share it in a separate post. In fact, this post can be applied on any examination and not only PSLE.


As I have mentioned before, I never believe in last minute preparation or burning midnight oil for my children. As PSLE syllabi cover that of earlier years too, I advised Brendan to revise early the P3-5 syllabi at his own pace. The key is to UNDERSTAND and not MEMORIZE without understanding. Understanding the concepts allow them to be able to handle the questions even if they are phrased in a different manner.

Paying attention in class and clarifying doubts as soon as new topics are taught are useful. Understand our children’s weaknesses in certain subjects earlier and work on it. Even when I was holding a full-time job, I have always made it a point to constantly review our boys’ progress and learning aptitude without leaving it to a third party.

[As primary 6 syllabi are often taught in a fast pace, in view that school preliminary examination is held early, students are often given not much time to revise their complete syllabi for PSLE if they do not practise regular revisions or ask/find out as soon as they do not understand the approach.]


A healthy mind is critical in helping our children to focus and think.

- Encourage enough SLEEP and short nap (20 to 30 minutes) in between revisions to ensure an alert mind and better health.

- Stop what I call as “harrassment of the mind”.  Avoid imposing additional pressure by making comparison about academic progress with peers.

- Introduce more fresh air and greenery to the eyes. Morning nature walk or evening nature walk after a hectic day of studies really does wonder to the tired mind. Simple exercises like kids’ yoga helps too.

- Give the mind a break. Despite his hectic schedule then, I allowed Brendan to find some entertainments for his brain by taking some breaks to pursue his movie trailers, read on movie synopsis, draw on his board and any short activities which he enjoys. If background music helps in soothing their mind, let it play!

Remember that young mind is not a 16/7 study machine.


I came across this book on “Feeding the Body, Nourishing the Soul”. To me, I agree that “nourishing the stomach  - nourishes the soul”.

I also believe in the importance of “being present” as an important source of motivation for our boys.  After leaving my full-time job, I had the advantage of personally preparing food that Brendan loves, making everyday meal an enjoyment for him, something he could look forward to amidst the revision for preliminary, preparation for direct school admission exercise and then PSLE. He was racing against time then and I could not relieve the amount of knowledge he has to digest but I could ensure the healthier diet that he digests and provide spiritual support.

pic31Source: Inspiration from MOE Excel Fest 2012

For Brendan, he always looks forward to the new food that I learn to prepare and so I started to cook, bake and prepare desserts, yet not forgetting not to overload him with unhealthy food.

More fruits, vegetables, homemade yoghurt, green tea, honey, salmon and other healthy diet, with chicken essence as a booster.

I guess by rewarding his stomach in a delightful and healthy way, his mind was rewarded too. In a way, it was my method of showering him with unspoken encouragement.


Since P4, Brendan has been among the top 3 in class for academic performance.  I am thankful that he takes initiatives to put in constant effort to revise and achieve personal improvements without me having to nag at me in this aspect.  Understanding that he has weaknesses in certain subjects, I avoid stressing him with unreasonable expectations like achieving A* for all  subjects despite him coming from one of the top primary schools in Singapore. Seriously, when he shared with me that his teacher openly told him that he had to score A*s for certain subjects since he topped the class, I had to “undo this unnecessary pressure” on helped him set reasonable expectations instead.

I allowed him to understand his weaknesses in subjects and guide him in setting achievable targets for his different subjects since P4.
[Eg. if he used to achieve 70 over marks in his Higher Chinese, he would set next targets of improving himself to achieve 80 marks and put in additional efforts in comprehension if that was his weaknesses. He had high confidence for his Math, wanted a breakthrough and worked towards achieving A* for his Math, and we helped facilitate it.]

He was encouraged to voice out his priorities and decided to stop pursuing his music advancement for a year so that he could still find time to enjoy studies and play, without having to sit for more tests. By listening and cooperating with him, it helps.

Through discussion and understanding our children’s progress, we allow our children and ourselves to make reasonable expectations, review them and work towards continuous improvements. I know of parents who load their children with tuitions on weekends and after school with expectations of them to achieve 4 A*s in primary school and all band 1.

Personally, I feel this might not be useful and understanding our children’s learning aptitude and constraints might bring more benefits. So, as parents, we need to understand our own children and consider “are too many tuition sessions” really necessary for our children? In fact, it might end up adding additional stress.



pic21Source : Inspiration from MOE Excel Fest 2012

Learning should be an enjoyable journey. As a parent, I understand that it is unavoidable for parents to exert pressure on their children to perform well academically in a meritocratic education system.  Unconsciously, we might have instilled examination fear in our children through our constant emphasis for them to obtain excellent grades. In a way, we end up being discouraging and it might take away the joy of learning.

From my personal experience, our boys tend to fare better in subjects which they enjoy. The method of teaching and teachers play an important role in building the interests in the students too.

It is natural for our children to feel anxious for examination. Learn to listen and help them overcome.

Next time, instead of breathing down their necks, try doing some simple massages on their tired shoulders, shower some motivating words and encouraging smiles or hugs. It is more effective! Even if they return home and express low confidence for any paper that they have sat for, do not be quick to condemn or discourage. If they start comparing themselves with friends who perform better, help them build their self-esteem and give affirmations over their strengths.

I am not an education professional but my experience teaches me that individual child has his/her own learning style and ability. By understanding our child better and “not exerting unnecessary pressure on them just to blindly follow their peers” might create a better learning atmosphere for our children.


Before I end my post, here’s wishing students who are sitting for PSLE this year -  Good Luck and Stay Calm.

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