Dear Ian,

On your PSLE ‘graduation’ you got your certificates and there were some performances as well. Back in my days, there weren’t such fanfare, but I guess over the years, we have learned a couple of things along the way in encouraging our children and developing a healthy self concept in a child. Well, I am not a qualified child psychologist, so I won’t go into that kind of mumbo-jumbo.

Usually with every graduation, there will always be a continuum of recipients, this case long line of Primary Sixers going up the stage, and while the line snake, the claps from parents waned, with ups and downs like the sound of a never ending rain.

One thing that caught my attention was on the big screen, flashed each individual kid’s ‘asiprations’, from what I gather, a lot of kids, still wants to be doctors, lawyers and engineers.

There were also some who wants to be arty, and aspire to become a singer, I guess this is no thanks to those reality TV singing shoes, like the American Idol, and UK’s got Talent. It is nice to see some deviant amongst the mainstream.

And yes, Ian, you wanted to be a film-maker. We’ll see about that.

You protested that it wasn’t your initial choice, but what was flashed there, serves as a testament.

'I aspire to be a Filmmaker'
‘I aspire to be a Filmmaker’

There is nothing wrong aspiring to be that, and certainly nothing wrong either if you fail to become one. Life is fill with success, as just much as it is filled with failures, they are both impostors of the same thing, experiences.

Other Aspirants

A Doctor
A Doctor and an Investor 
Tennis Player and Computer Engineer
Philanthropist and Teacher
Engineer and Doctor
Lawyer and Teacher

Pardon the natural born skeptic in me, who happens to double up as a parent.

We all know there is noting wrong with aspirations, but does the kids knows how to get there? What steps to take? And sometimes, being a Lawyer isn’t as big-shot as one thinks, life as a Lawyer is T-O-U-G-H, sames goes for doctors. Life is never one sided, the good side, you have to roll with the punches, taking the bad as well. Just saying it here, for everyone to see does nothing constructive for the children.

There is a lot of hot air

It is a shallow affair, and our culture as become such. We all want our children to become somebody, and being a nobody is a terrible existentialistic problem. From young, we ask our kids “What do you want to be?” There were the usual policemen, doctors, soldiers, and other roles.

While we grow our kids, we need to understand that the children just needs to be children, that’s all. If you have a dream to take to the sky, we can work on your Aeronautical Aspirations. We can push you to do that, and you are motivated to become one. Film-Making? Not yet. Not even close.

So why did the kids say what they say?

We all need to fit into roles in society, and we start that young. Singapore is small, I have yet to see a kiddo’s aspirations being flashed as “ I aspire to bum around. LOL.” That would have been entirely unacceptable and brings shame to the parents.

Don’t ask me how I will react if you put that up, I guess I would laugh it off, and I guess you would have told me before you do such an ‘audacious’ thing.

But it is perfectly alright to bum around, my policy for you boys is the same. You can be a minnow food hawker and earns a decent living. The only thing that will make me come for your blood is when you cheat, lie and steal, becomes a sociopath, becomes a thug of society. That I cannot condone, it is not so much about throwing away my face, it is more about you being a responsible person, and even if you cannot be a responsible person, you do not turn into an irresponsible one.

Life is not always about doing

While aspirations is a lot about doing, it is also a lot about dreaming. By all means bum around. Your aeronautics dream might be work in progress, while you are at it, it is okay not to be at it. Sometimes not chasing your aspirations could be the best blessing, so that your aspirations can catch up, or other dormant aspirations can surface.

One sided affair

The crux of this is, these are just labels, doctors, engineers, lawyers, and all. Doctors are medical engineers, and Lawyers need to diagnose a case. It is all word play, and being fixated to the singular role and title, will makes us a very narrow-minded, task oriented organism, no different from machines. We’re better than machines, and learn to realise that we are unique because while we aspire to be one, we can actualize to become many.

So learn to cross-aspire. You can become an Aeronautical Film-Maker, and shoot films in the sky, in places airborne. Learn multiple skills and do many things, sticking with one is fine, just don’t lose sight of the bigger life.

The Big Day of your PSLE results

The Big Day of your PSLE results

Dear Ian,

You have finally move on and upwards, from Primary School to Secondary.

In our life here in Singapore, it is a big deal, the private education industry is a large one and it ‘preys’ mostly on the parents’ insecurities and aspirations for their children to get good grades. Of course, hopefully that leads to a better future, riches and wealth. It is all done in the best intention, albeit the intense stress and pressure.


You did well for your PSLE. “Well” as a matter of context, as you are not one of the 25 students who scored above the magic ‘250’. In fact you’re not even close, but you set a target and you achieved that. Which is more important than being one of the smartest lots in your school.

In fact, you did even better than your dad, who failed his maths, score “A” for English and Science, and a “C” I think, for my Chinese. You have a better score, I went to a normal stream and you are going to the express.

What’s the big deal?

Personally I am not a big believer in the PSLE score, My bottom line is either you pass or fail, you pass, how well? Well enough for express stream, okay, fine. Good for the normal stream? That’s fine as well. Life goes on, the sun will still rise and set.

But of course, that’s just your dad ranting, it is a big deal. Children went home crying, because they were 5 points shy from their target. There were some who thought they could get like 240, but end up with an odd-210. There are those who did well in prelims, only to falter in the actual exams. Well, there are some outlier even, they failed, and have to retake.


All the credit goes to your mother

Really, she did all the work, your dad really didn’t cared much about your academic grades. She was thrilled that you made your mark, and achieved what you said you set out to achieve.

She helped you, drives you, work with you, bear all the pain and angst of your studies. When you did badly, she was affected the most, and when you did well, she’s the happiest. She worked the hardest and rightfully deserves to shed those tears of joy today.

After PSLE

So right now, after this first big hurdle in your life, your life will have to go on. You can reward, and cheer and after all the jubilation, you will have to hunker down and work hard, once again, as Secondary School education is another new environment that puts you to the challenge.

You friends in Horizon Primary, will become your old friends. You will make new friends in your new environment, and your might be pleasantly surprised that some of your Horizon friends might end up in the same Secondary School as you, and that friendship will continue; or it might not.

Some of your old ‘nemesis’ in Horizon, will no longer be relevant, once everyone moves to their respective secondary School. Those quarrels and grudges in your primary school, will cease in relevance. Suddenly with so much to look forward to in your new environment, you’ll lose track of what happened in the Primary school. You’ll have so much new things to do, learn and friends to make, there is no time to relish on nostalgic past. Stay present and look into the future.

Your future

Your future will be a heck a lot different from mine, and it will be a very asymmetrically challenging future, no one will be sure about anything in. So now that your Primary School education has come to an end, charge ahead and learn new things in your Secondary School.

Your dad is excited about your prospective new environment, and it heartens me to see you gain independence in character and confidence in personality.

Going to school, Primary One and PSLE

Going to school, Primary One and PSLE

Dear boys,

I don’t know what the fuss is all about. On hindsight, I think we were ‘lucky’ in a way, because when we enrolled your 大哥 into Horizon Primary School, the school was new and there were slots. We choose Horizon Primary School, not because it is well know, in fact it is a new school, it is unknown. There are ‘better known’ schools in the neighbourhood and they are all over subscribed, people are fighting tooth and nail just to get in. We chose Horizon, simply because it is nearer, in fact, nearest. 

Primary One

It was no frills affair for us, since the school is under subscribed, we do not have to ballot for anything. When it is time for the little brother to go to Primary One, he just have to follow the elder brother. Wayne, please thank your brother for getting you into a school without having to ballot. That’s the beauty of having siblings, okay? So stop, getting on your elder brother’s nerve!

Anyway, I’ve been telling you boys from day one; in any school work, test, whatever, you boys write? Your own name. You don’t write my name. Well our Indian friends do often have names like “ABC s/o CDF” the s/o typically means ‘Son of’ even that the Indian child still puts his name, not his parent’s name. The point is whatever results you get, they bear your effort, or the lack of it. I have nothing of it. You do well, it is your glory.

…as a stressed up parent will transfer the stress to the child. 

It is not the biggest milestone of your life

I’ve read in so many social media posts that going to primary one is the biggest milestone of so and so’s life. This is typically a comment made by the parent, children as far as I can see, couldn’t care less. Both you boys didn’t cry during your early days in Primary One, and adjusted to the changes like fish to water. How did we do it? We didn’t stress ourselves firstly, as a stressed up parent will transfer the stress to the child. We showed you the school, told you how exciting it will be, becoming a ‘big boy’. There was nothing to fear as we are always there for you, our confidence perhaps rubbed off some on the both of you.

We didn’t make a hyperbole out of it. It was an easy affair, we knew that school life need adjusting to, so we didn’t want to make it such an exaggeration, to further stress you boys. Primary one is to be spent adjusting, going to do things yourself and learning to be independent, and also adapt to a new social ecosystem as well. The school will usually the Primary One babies cruise, and this takes the entire year. Primary Two is where things picks up pace. Then again, it is still not a problem, yet.


This year, the 大哥 is taking the PSLE, which seems to be so dreaded, children and parents kill themselves over it. I know there are stress we cannot avoid, the school has already started piling work since last year. But we still let you, Ian, take it all in, the best you can. 

There are time you got so bogged down with studies you barely have time to take a breather, that is normal. We let you be you, without us coming over to pester you on things. So far, you’ve been motivated on your own. Sure there are some slack, and you took it well, and responded when we urge you to keep pace. We can still see the Ian in you, come home, still find time to play with your 弟, and do all the silly things. That is great, life has to go on, PSLE or no PSLE. 

No Tuition

The both of you have no tuition, except for Chinese. Which is even a weak subject for your parents; but your mum is learning quickly, she is picking up the curriculum, the best she can, so that Wayne can be helped with in this subject. the rest of EMS (English, Maths, Science), no tuition. You boys go to your mum, when you need help, she’s great.

I think it helps that knowledge is just the next room or the kitchen, since going to tuition takes up a lot of time, and money. You need to get dressed, travel to the tuition centre, sit there, wait for teachers, while your classmates play. While we are willing to pay, tuition centres does not guarantee 100% absorption, they always promise results, but none of them promise learning. It depends also on the teacher’s chemistry with students, there are questions perhaps Ian would like to ask but couldn’t and hence didn’t ask, and miss an opportunity for learning. The pace of the tuition might not suit individual students as well, the teacher will not slow down for slower students. Having your mum at home, teaching the both of you, she can speed up and slow down. She can go deep into a specific subject so that the both of you can fully understand the topic. She knows the both of you and so she can adjust her method accordingly.

Having your mum as the teacher also helps to build the bond, I’d rather you bond with your mum than to bond with the tuition teacher. It has always been the case for our family, we are always internally resourceful.

Open to face the challenges

Personally, I wouldn’t consider the PSLE a major challenge or milestone as well. As always we want you boys to put in your best, the results, really don’t matter much. As long as the both of you tried, and fail, we can live with it, but what aches us is when we know that the both of you, being clever, could have done better, and didn’t.

So PSLE is just that, a “Primary School Leaving Examination”. The examination you take when you leave your primary school, it is not SAS selection, it is not the Navy SEALs BUD/S course. It is just a paper exam and where you go in your secondary school, is dependent on the marks. That said PSLE, good or bad results does not prohibits learning, you will learn something not getting the results you wanted, you will also learn something if you do well.  Whatever happens you boys will still go to a secondary school perhaps not of your choice, and continue your learning path. The Government encourages life long learning, it didn’t sanction focus on examinations, so we as your parents, hopefully gotten this right for the both of you.

Have fun

At the end of the day, I still want the both of you to have fun in school I know that Ian, in Primary Six, there is a whole new level of evolution in social norms and how students treat each other. While every one is feeling their way around building their identity, don’t let that distracts you, the ultimate goal is still to have fun, learn and tackle your PSLE as it comes, do your best, don’t let it stress you.