Fann Wong’s National Day baby named Zed

From ‘It’s baby Zed for Fann Wong and Christopher Lee’, 9 Aug 2014, article in CNA

Baby Zed’s National Day (Aug 9) arrival was announced to the world via social media. A post on Fann Wong’s Instagram account @fannaiaiwong showed off the new addition to her and husband Christopher Lee’s family, with a bib saying “Worth the wait!”

The sex of the child had not been known, until now. Fann’s accompanying message on Instagram said, “Daddy and mummy felt indescribable happiness when we saw you. Our family is now even more complete. 9 August is the best day of our lives!”

Mediacorp celebrities have a tradition of giving their children bizarre names, in the spirit of international superstar choices like ‘North West’, ‘Blue Ivy’ or ‘Shiloh’.   ‘Zed’ is the British pronunciation of the letter ‘Z’, and sounds like the name of a techno DJ, if not an evil planet-raiding robot space lord. Superman’s nemesis is one General ZOD. It could also be short for the Hebrew ‘Zedekiah’, which makes me wonder if the 43 yr old Fann is going through a Madonna Kaballah phase. Maybe the happy couple will name their next kid ‘X’.

Zed, sounding similar to the more earthly Zac or Zack, is far from being the wackiest local celebrity kid name ever. Somehow only males have become victims of this nomenclature madness. If there’s one way to make your teenage kid hate your guts forever, this is it. It also makes your children instantly searchable on Facebook or Google to the benefit of kidnappers or pesky reporters (or, erm, bloggers). So long privacy.

Here’s my rundown of the most unusual celebrity offspring names ever.

8. DASH (Ivy Lee)

The ex-Mediacorp actress named her boy after the lightning-fast superhero kid in the Incredibles. Imagine if you became fat, got enrolled in the army and can’t complete 2 rounds during your IPPT 2.4km run. It’s like calling your kid ‘EINSTEIN’. Never give your baby a name that creates expectations of superhuman abilities. If you insist on something snappy, consider ‘CURT’ or ‘SPIKE’ instead.

7. WAY (Evelyn Tan+Darren Lim)

This doubles up as the Chinese equivalent of ‘HEY’ or ‘OI’ (wei) and an actual name, but gives rise to awkward sentences like ‘Way is on the way’, or ‘No way Way is doing that’. I’d imagine the parents crooning ‘My Way’ while he was an infant. I wouldn’t want to subject my kid to pun overkill. Luckily his surname isn’t ‘Ang’.

6. MAKSONN (Mark Lee)

I’m guessing that this is a cooler version of ‘Mark Junior’ as in ‘Mark’s Son’, and rhymes with ‘Jackson’. It falls under the list of names with ‘unnecessary double consonants’ (like Sherilynn, Vivvian or Alexiss), and sounds like the name of a Japanese otaku store.

5. CALVERT (Hong Huifang+Zheng Geping)

This is what I could call a portmanteau of ‘Calvin’ and ‘Robert’. It sounds like a scientific unit of measurement for how popular a name is, as in this name is 0.5 Calverts. It’s also the kind of name I would imagine an eccentric professor with a polka-dot bowtie would have. Change one vowel, however, and it becomes ‘a drain that diverts water’ (culvert).

4. RITZ and REGENT (Jack Neo)

Named after posh hotels, there was a running joke/rumour that Jack may just name his next kid ‘Raffles’. While there’s something lordly about ‘Regent Neo’, ‘Ritz’ also reminds me of the biscuit namesake. ‘Regis’ may have worked better, though it’s THIS close to just calling the kid ‘PRINCE’, or if your skin is thick enough, ‘EXCELLENCY’.

3. BRAYDEN (Zoe Tay)

Zoe was a pioneer of the ‘Something that rhymes with AY-DEN’ name craze that hit Singapore mums (Jayden, Cayden etc). According to a wiki, Brayden originates from ‘Braden’, Gaelic for ‘Salmon’. I wonder if he’s good at swimming. If I ask a primary school kid today what he thinks a ‘Brayden’ is, he may just guess a collective term for donkeys, as in ‘A brayden of donkeys were grazing on the hill’.

2. KYNASTON (Pan Ling Ling)

A name of surprisingly ancient English origins according to the ‘surname database’ website. The problematic ‘KY’ makes the pronunciation of this ambiguous. ‘KAI-NASTON’ or ‘KEE-NASTON’? Either way, it sounds like something nuclear physicists would name an exotic subatomic particle, or ‘Canesten’, an antifungal cream for the treatment of vaginal candidiasis.

1. BECKHAM (Pan Ling Ling)

The original bizarre celebrity baby name, and another Pan Ling Ling creation, one that made headlines at least 15 years ago. No prizes for guessing who inspired this name. I wonder how many times people ask the kid if he plays football. The only thing worse than calling a kid Beckham is if you use a megastar footballer’s name ENTIRELY as first and middle names. Like David BECKHAM TAN, or LIONEL MESSI CHEW. Today if you name your kid ‘Suarez’, the teachers at childcare may just decide to muzzle him before letting him anywhere near a ball.

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Parents doing grassroots work for Primary 1 priority

From ‘Stricter Primary 1 priority rules for grassroots workers’, 12 June 2014, article by Pearl Lee, ST

PARENTS who become grassroots volunteers in the hope of getting priority for their children in the Primary 1 registration exercise will have to serve twice as long as before. They will have to do at least two years of grassroots work, not one, to qualify for the benefit. They will also be restricted to schools in the constituency where they live. Up to now, grassroots leaders could get priority for their children in schools near their homes as well as in the constituencies where they volunteered.

…The scheme qualifies active grassroots volunteers for Phase 2B of the Primary 1 registration exercise, which also includes parents who are school volunteers or have church or clan associations. Earlier phases of the registration are for siblings of current pupils or children of past pupils. About 400 children enrol in primary schools under the active community leaders scheme each year, less than 1 per cent of the Primary 1 cohort, according to a parliamentary reply by the Education Ministry last year.

But long-time grassroots leaders say it is not uncommon to see a surge in the number of people who apply to be community leaders a year before their child is due to register for Primary 1. Lawyer Kenneth Au-Yong, a member of the Ulu Pandan citizens’ consultative committee who is in his 50s, said: “When you have a popular school within the constituency, volunteers will come to you. You don’t have to look for them.” The Ulu Pandan division under the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC has four popular primary schools: Henry Park Primary, Nanyang Primary, Methodist Girls’ School and Raffles Girls’ Primary School.

Mr Au-Yong said he has seen parents dropping out of activities and grassroots meetings once their children start school.

“We should not allow the system to be abused like this’.

When grassroots leader and RC chairman Lawrence Chong was caught fighting for free textbooks and shouting at teenage volunteers in 1995 like an Ugly Singaporean, he defended his right to freebies by saying that ‘grassroots leaders should be given priority’ to the books. In an interview, he said that his breed was ‘hard to come by’ and it would be a slight incentive to people willing to step up to do grassroots duty. He eventually resigned under pressure, but probably still lives in a 4 room flat plus private property till this day.

The benefits of RC affiliations extend down to kindergarten registration as well. Already in 1992, you’d stand a higher chance of scoring a place in your neighbourhood PCF if you’re a PAP grassroots leader living in the ward. Housing is another perk of the job. From 1990-1994, a total of 745 grassroots leaders were given priority allocation for HDB flats. And once you’ve earned the flat, you also get free parking between 7 am and 11pm at HDB carparks within your constituency. Not forgetting the occasional National Day Award. You also stand a higher chance of taking a selfie with PM Lee than the man on the street.

The nature of school and housing incentives for grassroots leaders tends to draw gut-level ire from ordinary folk because of the relative scarcity of these ‘privileges’. If grassroots leaders were given tax breaks, NTUC discounts or free daily entry into the Istana, few would complain. It’s the queue-jumping that gets people crying foul. Aren’t these people supposed to have a flaming ‘passion for servant leadership’? ‘Servants’ don’t go around asking for free kopi, or demand to be first in line for preschool registration, do they? Shouldn’t they be painting banners or holding car doors open for MPs or something? If parents quit their jobs to commit to volunteering full-time in schools for priority placing, we call them kiasu. If a grassroots leader does it, we feel cheated and accuse the PA of breeding a class of selfish bourgeois lackeys who’re in it only to get their kids into branded schools.

Most grassroots workers, PAP or otherwise, serve out of pure goodwill and generally like being around neighbours, have a fetish for organising events, or love meeting new people without personal ambitions of getting ahead in life like the typical kiasu Singaporean. They’re usually not PAP ‘runners’, bodyguards or elite cronies throwing their weight around. But extension of grassroots service alone isn’t going to filter out those with ulterior motives. What’s needed is a more robust screening process and a penalty for those seeking to abuse the system for personal gain, like the public shaming of freeloading black sheep like book-grabbing Lawrence Chong. After all, you may get thrown into jail for lying about where you live when applying for priority placing. Putting on an elaborate act for the sake of tangible benefits for a year or two is just prolonged, inconspicuous lying.

Perhaps the grass is greener as a RC volunteer, only because of all the shit that’s fed into it.

Parents sending kids for ‘sports tuition’

From ‘Sports tuition a growth field’, 13 May 2014, article by Adelene Wong, Today

…Introduced in 2004, the DSA (Direct Schools Admission) scheme provides an alternative avenue for P6 students to gain admission into secondary schools. Under this scheme, participating schools have flexibility to admit students on the basis of their sporting abilities. As a result, an increasing number of primary school students are taking up private coaching in the bid to be better in their sport.

…Schools administrators and sports coaches TODAY spoke to are already warning that this growing trend to take on an extra sports load is becoming a cause of concern and can work to the disadvantage of the student-athletes.

Said Nanyang Primary School athletics coach Lim Chee Min: “The primary schools’ sports scene is not just about kids enjoying their sports anymore … It has evolved into a pressure-cooker situation for some of them. Higher likelihood of injuries and the dulling of a child’s interest in the sport are just some examples I have noticed with students who can be overwhelmed by the amount of training they received.

The DSA may seem like an automatic ‘Wild Card’ selection for kids whose talents lie in sports rather than in their studies, with the intention of expanding the scope of student excellence beyond rote learning for the PSLE. From the Ministry’s perspective it’s a way of pushing for ‘holistic education’, but for years it has appeared to the rest of us that the odds are in favour of those who’re willing to pump in money to improve their child’s chances of success with tuition, for PSLE subjects or otherwise, so much so that they hardly get to see him at all.

As if staying back for CCAs isn’t enough, now there’s supplementary coaching for the very same CCAs that deprive your child from experiencing the rest of the world, a world where you don’t have to be the BEST at everything you do, a world where your worth is determined by your aptitude, compassion and integrity, and not whether you’ve won at least 4 medals over the past 2 years. The worst that could happen is if the kid starts to resent not just the sport that he’s grilled in, but loses his general interest in SCHOOL. Period.

But even with the most severe all-week long specialised coaching with companies like Fabian Williams Coaching Concepts, you still may not get into the school of your choice, because no one controls how schools select their candidates. The criteria for DSA set by some schools are ridiculously stringent, like how a Roman emperor selects a gladiator to be his champion in the arena for the fight to the death. Clearly, your achievements and past years’ report card matter far more than your character, something which the Ministry is gradually losing sight of. I mean, so what if you manage to snare the best high jumper in the nation and win some awards along the way. The kid’s just as likely to end up in a deadbeat office job with a mediocre CV, never doing any backward flipping for the rest of his life. His legacy with the school is a mere plaque on the shelf, a feather in the cap, and that prestige is all that matters.

Here’s a sample of DSA criteria:

Hwa Chong
TWO ROUNDS of DSA. For sports, you’ll have to go through interviews and sports trials, as well as submit your competition results. Good chances for those involved in Wushu, Judo and Squash among a list of others.

Dunman High
Represented school at Zonal or National Level for Softball (girls only), Volleyball, Air Rifle (for girls only). Good results for P5 and p6 Mid-year exams. Talent in Chinese orchestra (including GUZHENG).

SJI
Hockey, sailing, rugby among others. Advantage if you’re a quarter finalist in National Age-Group Individual Championship.

Such schools are not looking for ‘well-rounded’ individuals, they are drafting for their own championship teams. You could be the best baton twirler in your cohort but fail to get into a top school because they don’t have a marching band. There was a time when your fellow Wushu Club members were friends. With the DSA implementation, they’re your goddamn RIVALS.

This is why we’ve never had a reputation for producing creative geniuses. The PSLE, in spite of all the Government’s attempts at downplaying it recently, has either turned us into a tuition-obsessed nation, or physical specimens moulded and coached into performing well at only ONE SPORT. A one-trick pony machine who can sprint like hell but can’t catch a frisbee. Thanks to this overemphasis on CCAs, the line between school and ‘play’ has been blurred.  The DSA-chase also raises the spectre of some extreme scenarios, kids getting early permanent injuries from overdoing their training, kids treating the P5 and P6 Mid-year exams as if they were the PSLE itself hence getting stressed out earlier, or most outrageous of all, doping themselves with performance-enhancers before their DSA trials, like how some take Ritalin for their studies. Maybe Brands Essence of Chicken will capitalise on this and claim benefits in stamina-building in addition to being a brain tonic.

Unless your kid is exactly like the protagonist from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you can’t go wrong nudging him into Track and Field, which has the widest range of events for him to excel in. Good luck if he insists on joining the Gardening Club, or God forbid, become a LIBRARIAN. How ironic and sad that someone who the most exposure to books in all his primary school years loses out in the DSA to another who happens to be the Eric Clapton of the Guzheng.

Education Alive ad depicting a kid trapped under a truck

From ‘Tuition agency order to stop ‘objectionable ad”, 27 March 2014, article by Joy Fang, Today

The advertising authority ordered a tuition agency to stop placing an advertisement that shows a child trapped under a vehicle, after parents denounced its graphic content. The full-page advertisement by Education Alive to promote a workshop carries a picture of a child crushed under a vehicle beneath the words “Breaking news: Child trapped under 4 tonnes truck!”

It also asked “concerned parents” of children taking the GCE O- and A-Level examinations this year what they would do to “save” their child….Its intent was to convey to parents that “their child’s future is a matter of life and death” and that parents “can literally change their child’s destiny if they wanted to”, she (founder Sherina Koh) explained.

…Senior marketing executive Samantha Lee, 33, who has two sons aged two and five, said it was “very wrong to use such a picture as part of their marketing campaign”.

“What kind of message are they trying to put across? That if I do not attend this workshop, my child will die? It’s insulting to parents,” she said.

Photo credit from 'Faces of Death'

Photo credit from ‘Faces of Death’

Yes, this ad is definitely objectionable. First of all, it’s 4-TONNE truck, not 4 TONNES truck. Next, it’s ‘imagine if he WERE your child, not WAS’. The hyphen between the ‘MUST ATTEND’ is missing, and I seriously doubt the claim of ‘INSTANTLY’. It’s a child’s brain you’re talking about here, not a stained shirt treated with Dynamo. If I were a parent, I’d be more offended by the grammar and the schizo right and left text alignment than graphic violence, and this would be the last place on earth to send a child for English tuition (though it could also mean a great place for CHINESE tuition). Yes, I would risk my life to pull my baby out from under a truck in an instant, just like I’d rescue anyone else’s kids from the clutches of a company that sounds more like a geomancy consultancy than educators.

Sherina Koh explained in a subsequent FB post cum apology that the truck image was inspired by the story of a mother displaying superhuman strength by lifting a car off her trapped child, which suggests that failure to enrol your kid with Education Alive spells eternal doom and you’re a bad parent for neglecting to do so. In any case, lifting a CAR is one thing, 4 TONNES of TRUCK on the other hand, is ridiculous. She also describes a child’s ‘future’ as being ‘a matter of life or death’. Erm, isn’t EVERYONE’S future a matter of life or death? You either live or die tomorrow, or next week. Did she really mean EXAMS instead? That if you fail your O’s/A’s, it’s the end of the world as you know it? Gosh, it must terrible for those school dropouts then, especially those who went on to found multibillion internet start-ups. Their destiny must be total shit if Education Alive is to be taken seriously.

These EA folks brand themselves as ‘coaches’ not ‘tutors’. They’re also dream builders and dream ‘livers’. I have my dream liver too; I like it slightly on the raw side in a hearty bowl of peppery pork innards soup. For a bunch of ‘fun-loving’, ‘crazy’ practitioners of this destiny-changing ‘methodology’ who wear clown noses on their website, having a gruesome image in a full page ad seems out of place. But that’s not all. They used to have an ad with the actual words ‘DYING’ in Dracula font, which they pulled out of their FB page when I last accessed it. Maybe they don’t just help kids pass exams, they’re necromancers who resurrect the dead too. With their pixie dust dream magic.

And it’s ‘witness how your child COMES alive’.

SAVE THE CHILDREN OH GOD!

SAVE THE CHILDREN OH GOD!

 

Parents hiring private eyes to spy on children overseas

From ‘More parents hiring private eyes to check on their kids’, 14 Oct 2013, article by Jalelah Abu Baker, ST

A GROWING number of parents are sending private investigators to check whether their children have gone astray, sometimes even overseas. Eight out of 10 private eye agencies contacted by The Straits Times said they have seen a rise in such cases.

Mr David Ng, 37, director of private investigation firm DP Quest, said his company has seen a 20 per cent year-on-year increase in such requests. “Parents get worried when they see changes in their children’s behaviour – for example, if they get a tattoo, or start staying out late,” he said, explaining the reasons his clients usually cite. The children are usually in their teens, in secondary school or polytechnic.

…For some parents, there is even more reason to track their children when they are studying overseas. Said Mr S.M. Jegan, 61, from private investigation firm Kokusai: “Parents send us overseas as they want to see how their children are spending their money, and whether they are in relationships.” Sometimes, parents get worried when their children become uncontactable or do not return to Singapore as planned.

Sending private investigators to countries like the United States and Britain is far more expensive – it can cost about $20,000 for five days of tracking.

Our boy just said YOLO to that girl on the phone. Is that code for SEX?

Why send a child overseas to study in the first place if you need to spend tens of thousands just to make sure he’s not having orgies and smoking pot in his hostel? Getting private detectives to spy on kids is at least a decade-old practice. In 2004, an agency called Covert Acquisition was hired to plant bugs on kids’ computers to track their activity in chatrooms. 5 years later, parents are hiring PIs to spy on their kids’ sex lives. Today, you can secretly download covert apps like Handphone Spy to read your children’s Whatsapp or Line messages, which seems like a last resort when your kid refuses to be your Facebook friend.  Even our government is keenly tracking Facebook users as we speak. The catch with apps like Handphone Spy is that physical access is required for installation, which means a parent needs to snoop and deceive in order to get their hands on their kid’s phone. The solution to busybodies tampering with your phone, of course, is to bring it EVERYWHERE you go. But then again, that’s already happening. Not just kids, but adults are all Candy Crushing while pooping.

Everything a PI does to intrude into your personal life seems to be within legal boundaries. According to the Kokusai FAQs, however, it is ‘illegal’ to ‘use software to spy SMSes or track the movement of a person’, but yet you can purchase mobile phone tracking apps or buy spy gizmos to tap into computer activity freely from Sim Lim Square. Apparently there are technically no ‘privacy laws’ in Singapore to speak of, and though companies like Handphone Spy advise against stalking suspicious spouses or ex-girlfriends because it’s deemed ‘an intrusion of privacy’, it seems perfectly OK to track your kid from the moment you pack his school lunch bag till he starts logging into the Internet after he comes home, because you’re ‘exercising your rights’ as a concerned parent. Even if it means drilling a tiny pinhole in your kid’s room to peep if he’s masturbating to porn instead of studying for the PSLE. Handphone Spy even endorses bosses rigging their employees’ phones because it ‘empowers YOU to get the answers you want and deserve to have’. The perfect tool for the paranoid, the insecure, and the general dirty bastard.

Despite the technology available, there’s still a surging demand for professional stealth work by parents afraid of infringing privacy laws or who lack the time or IT savvy to DIY their own investigations. If I were a kid again I would rather my parents take the day off to track me instead of paying a hired gun to do the dirty job. Even if they fail miserably in their attempt to catch me in the act of having a life after school, I would appreciate their efforts for it, though I’d probably hate them for the rest of puberty. They’re just parents being parents, and before the Internet or cellphones they did stuff like search under your bed for secret diaries and girly mags. But when they need to pay a third party to nab me for trivial things, I’m likely to hate them for much longer for making me feel like a cheating mistress or an undercover loan shark runner. Especially when I’m doing NOTHING wrong.

Instead of sending PIs on an overseas espionage mission codenamed ‘Hostel Gangbang’, how about springing surprise ‘visits’ as a cover for spying? Or better still save the spy fees and instead send gifts, handwritten letters or up your cash allowance to make them feel guilty for drinking beer or smoking for the first time. And kids aren’t stupid either; the moment they suspect they’re being spied on, they’ll start installing anti-spyware-spyware, reading up websites on ‘signs that you’re being followed’ or better still, hire their own PIs to snitch out their parents’ PIs ala Spy vs Spy. Since most PIs are also ex-cops, you may also try dropping some Kripsy Kreme doughnuts here and there to throw your follower off the scent. I wonder if security companies offer counter-spy services at a discount rate under the table as well. Seems like a lucrative, perfectly legit business opportunity to me.

Children burning schoolwork after PSLE

From ‘Burning question on post-PSLE ‘celebration’, 10 Oct 2013, ST

(Desiree Tan): IT SADDENED me to read about a group of children and parents burning school material right after the Primary School Leaving Examination (“Post-PSLE book-burning photo inflames netizens”; Tuesday). While I agree with netizens that these items should be recycled or given to needy pupils, the more disturbing issue is the celebratory connotation of the act of burning to signify the end of a major examination.

I can understand people blaming the system for placing too great an emphasis on exam grades. I can also understand that in their quest to excel, children experience a great deal of stress sitting the PSLE.

But to use these reasons to justify the act of burning school material is inexcusable. Are we teaching 12-year-olds that once they complete the PSLE, they can burn away what they have learnt?

What is the point of achieving stellar results if our children grow up with such thinking? The damage that has been done is far more serious than just killing trees.

We did start the fire

We did start the fire

Bonfire organiser Arnold Gay said the symbolic act of destroying schoolwork was ‘cathartic and fun’. One critic of the celebration said ‘books and writings’ should be revered and are a ‘sacred part of civilisation’ as if they were magical scrolls or scripture (We were not burning textbooks, says Kiss92 DJ Arnold Gay, 9 Oct 2013).  While my sympathies go to the authors of such assessment books or worksheets, tossing educational material into the fire isn’t a culmination of resentment against the system or deliberately erasing from memory everything primary school taught us so much as a stark, dramatic exaggeration of what people actually do with their old worksheets after the PSLE.  Not many of us would laminate them and stack them nicely in a chest as an heirloom to our descendents, hoping that they would look upon our maths notes like they just stumbled upon ancient manuscripts that foretell the ultimate fate of the Universe.

During my time there were no recycling bins to speak of, and most of what I threw away would have ended up disintegrating into ashes in the incinerator anyway. In fact, the most heinous acts of violence on school material were performed BEFORE the actual exam. Wooden rulers were snapped, pages were stabbed with pens and flunked test papers were ripped to shreds, sometimes by angry parents themselves. The holiest of tomes have been vandalised by the luminous scrawling of highlighter pens, battered into tatters, riddled with stains, disfigured by ugly dog ears and left to die like they were humiliated and gangraped a thousand times over. Though sometimes that is EXACTLY how some kids feel when they’re taking the PSLE. Better we take it out on homework than on ourselves, I say. A search on Youtube will reveal the many creative ways that liberated kids around the world destroy their schoolwork, by torching it with an acetylene flame, flushing it down a toilet, or literally letting their DOG EAT the damn thing.

I would imagine kids hurling schoolwork into the flames with the hedonistic zest of one destroying the autobiography of a ruthless dictator, the belongings of a spouse’s illicit lover, or the Pope condemning to Eternal Hell ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. There is nothing ‘sacred’ about mass-produced assessment sheets, and there’s no reason to treat the act as if someone blew up the National Archives and important knowledge has been lost forever, that these book-burning kids would grow up into rebellious troublemakers who would run their bosses’ family photo through the office shredder. Still, you shouldn’t need to make a party out of it like Arnold Gay did, and any torture that you’d wish to inflict on your notes just to fulfill your wildest, sickest fantasy should be performed in strictest privacy, like how I would gyrate to Ricky Martin songs when nobody’s watching.

Arnold Gay didn’t round up some Satanists to burn bibles or the Declaration of Independence, but such tribal abandon strikes me as rather premature. Let’s hope his kids actually PASS the exam, otherwise it’s not just assessment papers, but hopes and aspirations, that go up in flames.

Parents taking courses to help their kids score in PSLE

From ‘PSLE parents take classes to help children’, 24 Aug 2013, article by Benita Aw Yeong, TNP

The subject of PSLE came up in this year’s National Day Rally, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledging the high level of stress families go through because of this exam.

Parents are getting creative, especially when it comes to helping their kids cope – they are not only sending their children to tuition, but going for classes themselves.

They are also exploring hypnotherapy to help the children manage exam stress and build confidence.

According to the Chinese press, there are at least two enrichment centres offering adult programmes, Maths Heuristics and Neuromath Academy. For $320 a couple, you can attend a Maths Heuristics workshop for 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon. Norman Tien from Neuromaths has offered free workshops with titles like ‘How to Prepare Your Child for PSLE’, which gives you handy tips like telling your kid to start cramming for the paper when he’s PRIMARY 5. Another free workshop which focuses on Cognitive Skills is pitched as ‘highly recommended for parents preparing children to enter ELITE primary schools‘. If you’re someone who spends sleepless nights trying to solve Primary School problem sums even if you have no children yourself, and your dream is to become a Sudoku World Champion, then your prayers have been answered.

Although there are seminars for the students themselves (as if tuition alone isn’t enough) – it’s clearly the parents who are targetted in Neuromaths’ workshop ads because no kid in his right mind would fork out $198 to sit through a 1 day (9 to 5pm) Maths seminar on a SUNDAY. Nevermind what our ministers say about banding, elitism, keeping top scorers hush-hush or how ‘good’ every school is.  It doesn’t matter if the exam is about applying what you learnt in school over 6 years, or a test to see how long it takes for you to conquer a maze like a lab rat. A parent willing to do ridiculous, costly things to put their kids in the ‘right’ school in this national obsession with grades would pump their kids (and themselves) with mind/body-enhancing drugs if these were freely available (Parents are already seeing psychiatrists for anxiety disorders before PSLE, like how dads experience sympathetic pregnancy symptoms). Until then, we just have to settle for Brands Essence of Chicken, or hypnotherapy.

Last year, One Hypnosis organised a $100 (parent and child) event called ‘Power Up! Kids’, which aimed to enhance focus and concentration skills in children preparing for PSLE, though it sounds like a training camp for aspiring Power Rangers. At least it involved some exercise rather than sitting around an entire day listening to maths gurus unleash your genius within, but perhaps you could achieve the same tonic effect on your well-being for FREE, like a family day at the beach for instance.  I think it may be more helpful to apply the powers of suggestion to treat the parents’ anxiety and morbid fixation with PSLE rather than on the kids themselves, who are better off being ‘psycho-ed’ into quitting Facebook games and eating their vegetables because no workshop on ‘higher order thinking’ or brain-yoga is going to help if you eat junk food everyday.

It’s not just children alone taking the PSLE anymore. Parents have become so engrossed in it to the point of quitting their jobs for the sake of their kids, short of taking the paper themselves. All this, in addition to the humdrum stress of daily living. Kids have become mere flesh surrogates to the wills of their parents, like jacked up, expensive remote control cars in a death race to the finish. We can only hope they don’t crash and burn.

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