Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tears and fears


A mother’s behaviour on results day prompts another to ask what we really want for our children.

THERE was excitement in the air. Parents were busy chatting but they could hide their anxiety. Amidst the laughter, I could see the worry in their eyes. They say the eyes show your real emotion. Well, there sure was a lot to worry about.

It was the day the UPSR (Year Six examination) results would be released. Sleepless nights, pounding hearts, unfinished chores ... These exam-results syndromes are normal for kids and their parents.

The hall was abuzz with activity. Pupils laughing with their peers or talking non-stop as their eyes searched for their parents. Some pupils sat looking at their busy friends. They looked pale, as if someone had squeezed the air from their lungs. Some parents stood outside the hall, preferring the fresh air to the “stress-tinged” air inside. Couldn’t blame them.

Now I was among the anxious parents. I sat way behind my daughter, who was seated in the middle row with her friends. She looked back, saw me and waved. I nodded. Half an hour earlier, she had called me frantically on the phone to ask what time I would be in her school.

As the teachers walked in with papers in their hands, the noise subsided. A brief analyses of the year’s results was read out by the coordinator for Year Six and there was applause from the parents. Then came the moment of truth ...

Pupils who had scored straight As were called out one by one and each of them stepped up on stage grinning from cheek to cheek. When my daughter went up, I felt just fine, but she was crying madly. I wondered why; maybe she did not expect to score 5As. Anyway, I said a thankful prayer quietly.

After the last name was called, what I saw made an impact on me. One mother just dashed from the back of the hall to the front, crying. For a moment I thought she was parent of the last pupil on stage, but I was wrong.

She hugged her daughter seated in the front row and consoled her, saying it was all right that she had not scored all As. Her kid was crying. This mum kissed her daughter’s forehead and walked straight to the back of the hall, wiping her tears as she walked. She did not care about the other parents looking at her.

I was thinking: How much pressure do we put on these 12-year-olds? Why must they endure the stress of trying to achieve perfect grades?

Is it wise to push them to the limit? All they did was study, go for tuition, and do endless homework and countless practice questions. Where was the joy and fun that they rightfully needed?

I don’t remember going through all that in Year Six. I ran, played and learnt how to cycle. I rode my mum’s big bicycle till I fell and hurt my knee. And I still can laugh about that. My parents never put pressure on me to score. Whatever the grades on my report card, they just smiled and signed it. They knew I studied hard and played like mad, too …. just like my peers then. I didn’t have any tuition.

Comparing my days and now, I see so much has changed. Society looks up to top scorers without realising we are actually creating unbalanced pupils. At Primary level, why can’t we just let them enjoy their life, like we used to?

To those who got straight As, congratulations. But what about the others who did not? Their self-esteem would have dropped a notch and this would affect with them throughout their Secondary school life. And we’d start blaming them again. Is that fair?

My daughter did not want to go for the school tuition before the UPSR. All she did for the past nine months was watch TV. Ask her about the Indonesian, Korean or Malay dramas and she could relate them as if she was the writer of the scripts! Ask her about school work and she would say it was somewhere in her bag!

I told her that if she wanted 5As, she would have to work on it herself. She just gave me that innocent grin and I often wondered what she was thinking about.

As a parent, I think scoring top marks is not the main thing in life. How you cope with problems that may crop up throughout your life is more important. Survival skills are more important than just chewing school texts and regurgitating them in an examination.

So, let your kids be kids. Let them play, run, cycle and climb trees. They will be children only once in their lifetime, so don’t rob them of their childhood. Don’t send them for tuition from Year One or push them away from us by telling them to score all As or else …

Let’s teach our kids how to be human, how to interact with others, how and why they should obey God’s rules, how to help others and recognise “bad people”. Teach them how to survive in this cruel world! Reflect on how things were in our young days and ask, “Are we being fair to our kids today?”

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