Her mother and she both claimed that her PSLE score was 291, and that she had chosen to go to a neighbourhood school with a cutoff point of 201 because her friends were all going there too. They were attending the feeder primary school.

I admired the family’s decision because most parents would have sent a daughter like this to the best school available. Her mother also told me that they decided not to send their daughter to the gifted program because she wanted to stay in her school. They were a model family to me, until my daughter’s secondary school classmate, who is this girl’s primary school classmate told us the truth.

This girl never did make it to GEP. Her PSLE score was 219, not 291, and the school’s highest score was 280. There was no 291. In fact, she was often the bottom of the class. I felt saddened immediately. Why would a mother, her daughter and in fact, a whole family lie about a daughter’s ability and score? Why were they ashamed of her score? What are they doing to the child psychologically and emotionally?

Even after my advice that she shouldn’t expose this girl, my daughter went to ask her, and understandably became the enemy of this family. They started complaining to the coach about my daughter etc etc. If not for the understanding and fair coach, it would have been my daughter who quit the sport.

Five years have since passed, and we have all moved on from PSLE. I wonder if they have finally realized that 219 or 291 did not mean a thing, if this girl did well in other areas, she should be in Polytechnic or JC. My daughter has moved on too. In a few months, she will be graduating with her degree, ahead of the many 290s, 280s, and 270s.

PSLE is nothing but a placement exam, and one that is only understood in our Little Red Dot. You can wave your 290 at anyone else and he will think you are crazy. It should therefore not affect our moral fibre, our integrity or our belief system. It is also not a fair way to measure our children. It is a score that helps the system allocate schools. A poor measurement of our children’s abilities: it does not measure the child’s honesty, sporting ability, aesthetic ability, empathy, kindness, gentleness, etc etc… I can go on and on.

Ultimately, success is seldom measured by academic achievement alone – much less PSLE, there is so much, much, much more to it! So this weekend, refrain from asking a child his/her PSLE score. Talk about something else he/she is passionate about. Let him/her know you care about him/her, and not trying to measure him/her by that silly score.

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