What do you do if your child doesn’t do as well as expected for PSLE?

Marcus Goh

By Marcus Goh and Adrian Kuek

Grade Expectations is a weekly feature on education in Singapore. Expect fun activities, useful tips and insightful news on learning. It’s not just about your child’s grades – it’s about raising a great child!

PSLE results were out on Friday, 24 November, finally ending the nervous anticipation of this year’s Primary 6 cohort. After all, they’ve spent six years preparing for this watershed exam – and their T-score is the fruit of their labours.

Whether or not it’s fair to base six years of education on the results of a single exam is a debate for another time. However, a child’s PSLE T-score directly affects what secondary school they are eligible for, which is where they will be spending another four to five years of their education. The impact is undeniable, but what happens if your child doesn’t do as well as expected?

What if your child’s T-score doesn’t allow them to qualify for the secondary school of their dreams? MOE’s proclamation of “Every School A Good School” may ring hollow when a child can’t get into the school that they want. After all, not every school is equally desirable, otherwise there’d be equal cut-off points for all secondary schools.

A reassuring hug. Photo: Pixabay
A reassuring hug. Photo: Pixabay

Most of the time, the previous year’s cut-off points would serve as an indicator of whether a child would be able to enter the secondary school based on their T-score.

It’s a harsh but undeniable reality that some students may not have done as well as expected. So here’s what you can do as a parent to help your child if this is the case.

1. Reassure your child

First and foremost, you should reassure your child that you love them, and not blame them for their results. Some parents may resort to caning and physical punishment if their child doesn’t do well, but the finality of the PSLE results is much higher than that of their previous primary school exams. There are avenues to appeal, but it’s unlikely that a child’s PSLE score would be modified except in very extenuating circumstances.

Your child already feels bad for not doing as well as expected, so don’t make them feel any worse.

2. Accept your child’s PSLE T-score

Harping on your child’s score or comparing them to their peers won’t change anything. You have to accept their PSLE T-score, otherwise your child won’t either. Help your child to acknowledge and accept their score, so that both of you can make decisions with a clear head.

3. Protect your child from being bullied for their grades

In unfortunate circumstances, your child might be bullied for not doing as well as expected for their PSLE. This bullying may be verbal or online, and they may come from peers or adult relatives. The bullying may not be overt, but could come in passive-aggressive forms – so watch out for this, especially when it comes from relatives. They may not have malicious intentions, but it will still be just as hurtful. Your child has enough to deal with for not faring as well as expected, so don’t let them endure this as well.

Comfort your child. Photo: Pixabay
Comfort your child. Photo: Pixabay

4. Explore and research alternative routes and possibilities for your child

Help your child to lay out all choices available to them. For example, if your child qualifies

  • for the Normal Academic but not the Express stream in a school with higher cutoff points

  • the Express stream in a school with lower cutoff points

then place such options side by side for them. Remember that choosing a secondary school should not be all about academic prowess, as other factors like the CCAs and programmes available would also affect their secondary school life.

School Picker may have the critical flaw of not listing down cutoff points, but it does show other information about secondary schools, such as the CCAs and programmes available. Since students may spend longer hours at the secondary school level, location might play a greater role in their decision.

5. Explore other, non-academic skills during this period

After six years of focusing on academics, help your child take his or her mind off results by letting them explore non-academic skills. This can be a new sport, physical activities like parkour, or even just learning more about the different aspects of culture. For all you know, this may be the time when they discover a new talent they never knew they had. It’s time to look at other areas of education instead of just examinable subjects.

6. Most of all, be there for your child

Your child will need your support, so making your availability known to them is important. Sometimes, knowing their parent is there is all they require to get through this period, so that they know this too, will pass.

The PSLE is important, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of a child’s education. Look towards their future options in education, and remember that education is more than just about academic achievements.

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Adrian Kuek runs Joyous Learning, an enrichment centre that specialises in English, Mathematics, Science and Creative Writing for Primary. He previously served as the academic director of one of Singapore’s largest enrichment centre chains for over seven years.

Marcus Goh runs Write-Handed, a creative writing studio. At the same time, he teaches Secondary English at The Write Connection. He has been a specialist tutor for English and Literature (Secondary) since 2005.