Too often on KSP forum, we read about students who do exceedingly well in school and get excellent results for all their exams, be it GEP streaming or PSLE. Most likely, we read with envy and wish our kids have the study smarts too!
So, what happens if your child (or if you are a student reading this) is not part of the nation’s top 10% and bound for the premium brand schools? Instead, your child is not going to the Express stream but going to Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) instead.
We hear (and read) horror stories of the quality of students and the environment in N(A) and N(T) classes and some neighbourhood schools that are less than desirable and may not be conducive for studying. We worry about our children and who they will mix around with and the bad habits that they may pick up. And, as any parent who loves our kids, it is natural to worry as we want our kids to do well in life.
As an educator teaching students in the tertiary institutions, I am inspired and motivated to start this thread as I want to share with parents of kids who are in or going to Normal stream. I have taught many students and have come across many Normal stream students who are doing very well in poly or in the university.
In interacting with my students, I know that it has been a long and arduous journey for these Normal stream students. Their self-esteem and confidence level takes a beating. They always wondered if they were good enough. And yet, they have risen above their situations to overcome their hurdles and challenges. And for that, we celebrate in their successes.
Here is my sharing of my Normal stream students who have done well in life.
Case 1: Student A, girl, 1st year student at poly
A scored only 100 points for her PSLE exam. She went to N(T) and then ITE. It was at ITE that she realised her potential. The teachers at ITE believed in her and gave her opportunities to excel. She recognized that she is not “book smart” but is a sporty and hands-on person. She decided to work hard on her strengths and was amongst the top 1% in ITE. She did well enough to earn a place in the poly. In her own words, “Although I am struggling in poly now – things are so much more difficult – I will not give up and will continue to study hard as I want a better future for myself and to make my parents proud of me.”
Case 2: Student B, boy, 2nd year IT student in poly
B’s PSLE T-score was 158 points and went to N(T) and then ITE. He acknowledged that it was a very tough environment in N(T) and ITE as he was constantly surrounded by friends who were not interested in studying. The environment was definitely not conducive for studying. Still, B was surrounded by a loving and supportive family. Even though his parents were disappointed that he did not do well in his PSLE, they did not give up on him and encouraged him to do his best. On top of his poly studies, B works part-time to support himself as his family is in the low income range. He may not be amongst the top students in poly, but he is motivated to do well as he wants to go to the university.
Case 3: Student C, boy, 3rd year Business student in poly
C’s PSLE score was 175 and was a N(A) student. He is in poly now and is on the Director’s List (top 1% in school) and maintains a 3.6 GPA, getting As and distinctions in all his first and second year subjects. C will no doubt earn a place in a university of his choice.
(GPA stands for Grade Point Average. It is a score that reflects how well a student performs in the poly. The maximum grade a student can attain is a GPA 4.0)
Case 4: Student D, girl, final year Accountancy student in a local uni
D came from a broken family, her father was a gambler and wife-beater and her mother had to work as a seamstress to support her and her brother. When D was in primary school, she did not do well in PSLE exam and went to N(T). Her mother told her that she needed to study hard so that the relatives would not “look down” on them. When D was in Sec 1, she did well enough to be “upgraded” to N(A). She continued to do well in her “N” levels to proceed to “O” levels. D went to poly, studied very hard and earned a place studying Accountancy at one of our local uni. D should be graduating next year.
Although I have only given 4 examples, I hope my sharing will reflect that we should not give up hope and that all is not lost. I am humbled by my students’ experiences and what they shared has taught me the following:
1. Believe in your child
Don’t give up on your child. Ever. Know that he or she will succeed in life with your love, support and encouragement.
2. Have a positive attitude and mindset
We must be positive for our kids (even though we are shaking with worry and frustrations inside). When our kids see us positive and believing in them, they will believe in themselves too.
3. Build on confidence and self-esteem
When our kids start to feel good about themselves, their self-confidence and self-esteem will increase too. And when they know they can do it, they will!
4. Encourage your child to be focused and motivated
Talk to your children and keep them motivated. Students who survive and succeed Normal stream and ITE to enter poly were very focused and single-minded in wanting to succeed. Although there were many distractions, these Normal stream students were motivated to want a better future for themselves and their families. They are aware that education is the road to a better quality of life.
5. Be like the lotus
Someone commented that we need to “be like a lotus”. A lotus is a beautiful flower that is able to survive in muddy and murky waters. Its beauty remains untouched by the ugly environment that it is surrounded in.
6. Find your child’s strengths and interests
Perhaps your child may not be academically inclined. But that does not mean that your child is not talented. Nurture your child’s strengths and interests. This will give him a purpose in life. It may also increase his confidence and self-esteem as he is doing something he enjoys, and excelling in it.
7. Celebrate the little victories
Take small steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day. There is a time and place for everything. Know that one day, your child’s time for success will come. So, in the meantime, celebrate his little victories and you will celebrate his life’s journey.
I would like to share a quote that I came across, and it is something that I constantly remind myself when I worry about my children’s well being:
“Too often, we worry about what our children will become tomorrow. Yet, we forget that they are someone special today.”