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PSLE Results: Tears Or Cheers?

PSLE result

For Primary 6 children and parents, this is the culmination of a six-year journey: the release of the PSLE results.

How will you and your child respond to the results? A lot may well rest on the expectations of parents and children. But no matter what the results may be, there is one thing that all parents should do, says occupational therapist Anita Leo.

“Give your child a hug. Your child has completed a milestone, and this should be celebrated.”

What’s next? Find out how to give healthy praise for good results, and how to support your child if results are less than ideal.

Celebrating Good Results

Local parents—including our KiasuParents community—are divided on whether or not to reward children for good results. KSP member Chenonceau has advised parents to “flee rewards like the plague” because “[the] higher the external motivation, the lower the self-motivation.”

For parents like her, the reward of good results is the sense of achievement that the child feels.

psle results

Other parents, on the other hand, are not averse to using treats such as a trip abroad, a gift, or a special outing as motivation.

“It is better for children to secure good grades first. Later, when they are older, parents can find opportunities to explain to them that they should not expect rewards all the time,” says KSP member limlim. “The alternative is to miss the chance to motivate them, and when they grow up, they may regret not putting in enough effort to get good grades.”

Regardless of your stand on rewards, it’s easy to rejoice over the results if your child has met or exceeded his or her targets. However, be careful with your praise, as what you say could shape the way that your child chooses to grow.

For instance, if you praise a child for being “clever,” you could be hindering the child’s ability to persevere with difficult tasks. Here’s why:

“When we praise intelligence, what we’re saying is that the reason you did well is that you have a natural ability,” says Dr Paul O’Keefe, an assistant professor of psychology at the Yale-NUS College. “So it’s communicating to them that intelligence is an entity that you have or you don’t.”

Education experts today often cite the concept of “growth mindset,” a term popularised by Stanford professor Carol Dweck. According to her seminal study, carried out in 1998, students who were praised for intelligence later avoided a challenging task, as they wanted to maintain their reputation for being “smart kids.” In contrast, those praised for effort saw the challenging task as an opportunity for learning.

If your child has received good results, be sure to focus your praise on hard work and a job well done—the message should be that effort pays off. (Read more about how certain types of praise can backfire on

Dealing With Disappointment

Imagine this scenario: your child has consistently scored well in primary school, but receives a lower-than-expected score for the PSLE.

psle results

KSP member Gisten experienced this several years ago when her daughter received her PSLE results. Her daughter had been in the top class since Primary 3, and the expectation was for her to score above 240. However, her daughter’s score was 210.

If you should find yourself in a similar situation when the PSLE results are released in November, here’s some advice from occupational therapist Anita:

“If there is disappointment, ask yourself, ‘Who is feeling it?’ It is not uncommon to find children worrying about their parents’ expectations, rather than their own. If you must express disappointment, make it clear that you are disappointed with the result, but not with your child. ‘You did badly’ means something different from ‘Your results were not as expected.’”

As for school placements, Anita’s advice is to leave this discussion for later.

“Wait till your child has had some time to let the results sink in,” she says. “In the meantime, equip yourself with information. When your child is ready to talk about secondary schools, you can ask, ‘Would you want to look at what schools we can apply for?’”

A positive mindset is essential for helping your child to move forward, and a resource that you can consult together is the School Information Service website, which helps you in your search for suitable schools based on criteria such as programmes and co-curricular activities.

Remember: there will be many challenges for your child to face in life, and these experiences will help your child to grow. As parents, our role at this stage is to help our children put events in perspective, so they don’t lose hope in themselves, or in the future.

“There is no evidence that the PSLE matters in the long run. Not everyone from an elite school will become part of the crème de la crème later in life,” says Anita. “A parent may argue that if one does well in school, one will have more educational and career paths to choose from. But these choices will never dictate your life unless you allow them to. It is when you have confidence in yourself, and are intrinsically motivated, that the world becomes your oyster.”

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