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  • Writer's pictureOK Like Heart

How a simple question about PSLE results led to an important life lesson.

This is my 6th year as a stay-home-mum. My husband and I decided that I should quit my job before our first child entered primary school. Our son just turned 6, and our daughter was 3 when I stopped being a working mum.

Over the years, we have shared with the kids anecdotes about our lives, including our educational qualifications and professional working experiences. Now they are 12 and 9.

They know about how I was an ITE dropout, because I had no interest whatsoever in the Certificate of Business Studies (Secretarial) that I signed up for. (Which was actually just one of the very few choices of courses I qualified for with my O Levels results.) A few months into the course, I realised I just could not picture myself working in an office. (Also I realised what shorthand was!) I had to stop, look back and think about what I have always wanted to be when I grew up (while my mother nagged about how expensive the ITE school uniforms and books cost and how my father did not print money for a living) - a teacher! I have always wanted to be a teacher!

So I started working in a kindergarten when I was only 19 years old. I was offered a sponsorship to take a Diploma in Early Childhood Education by my workplace, and I took it! That is the highest education I ever achieved, a Diploma from a little private school, International Centre of Early Childhood (ICEC), And then I went on to work as a pre-school teacher for 15 years. (15 years, same qualification, save for some interesting early childhood courses and first aid courses I had to go through.)

At age 34, when I quit my job (and cried most of the whole last month of work because I knew I would miss it), I felt happy and contented with my qualifications and working experience. I never really had any goals to further my studies or advance in my career because, to me, I have achieved what I wanted to achieve professionally. In fact, the last 6 of those 15 years, I did the opposite of career advancement and went from a lead teacher in local kindergartens to a teacher assistant in an international school. I was a new mother, and that role meant shorter working hours and less responsibilities. I enjoyed my working life. However, when it was over, I was happier and more contented to get the opportunity to stay home with the kids as they were growing up.

Ok so, they also know about their dad. He started his first real job as an engineering assistant at age 23, after his National Service, with a Diploma in Electrical Engineering from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. While working, he completed his part-time studies at SIM University and graduated with a Degree in Computer Science (Unrelated to his diploma). With said Degree, he landed himself a job with a different job scope, as a software engineer.

After a few years, he ventured into a yet another different role, as a sales manager, and went on to further his studies and graduated with a Masters Degree in Business at Northumbria University. (Well we cannot say it is unrelated to his Diploma and Degree because everything is somehow related to business, isn't it?) Currently, he is managing the Asia Pacific business as a Sales Director.

And even now, at 40 years of age, if given the opportunity (read money - studying is expensive!), his next goal is to achieve a PhD! Maybe in something totally unrelated to everything he has ever learned or did for a living!

And so, this year, our son was one of the very first (lucky) people who were introduced to Ivan and Helen, even before they went viral to all of Singapore! Yes, he took his PSLE this year! And these 12-year-olds are also the first batch of students to experience the new PSLE 2021 scoring system. We are hoping it will be a great new experience for them.

Today is results day!

The simple question we posed to the kids was (not as complex as the Ivan & Helen question):

"Your Mum & Dad both took their PSLE in the same year. Who do you think did better for PSLE 1993?"

And they answered, hardly taking 2 seconds to really even think about it, and both in unison! Their answer was... (Care to take a guess?)


Their answer was, "Dad!"

Of course!

Well, they were wrong! (And so are you! Well most of you anyway! Don't kid yourself!)

Yes! I scored higher than my husband in PSLE. How much higher? Well, let's just say, if we were in the same secondary school, I would be in the way better class!

So, the important life lesson in our answer was:

Your PSLE results do not define you or determine your future.

Yes, school and exams are important, but they are not everything in life. You did well? Great! You did not? Well, you do have your whole life ahead of you. A life full of possibilities where you can make your own choices, face challenges and be presented with decision-making moments, to achieve success in so many aspects.

We have received an invitation in Parents Gateway, from MOE, for parents and students to share their stories about what success (to me) means. #SuccessToMeMeans

For my husband, success to him means achieving his educational goal (further his studies in any subject of interest at the moment), professional goal (try out a profession in a different field) and personal goal (learn the guitar chords and drum solo of that new song on the radio, or travel to a country he has never been to). He always has a drive to learn and master new things. He is persistant and resiliant. His ultimate success is actually to be able take care of his family's needs to survive the world, while ticking off boxes on his neverending bucket list.

Well, for me, as a stay home mum, success to me means my family is happy, healthy, and safe. If everyone in our home feels loved, appreciated and accepted for who they are, and at the same time be able to love, appreciate and accept others for who they are, then I would have reached the peak of my success! This does take longer than any PhDs, as it could be many many many years before I could feel I actually reached my success. However, I could simply celebrate my little successes, and learn from my many (many many) mistakes along the journey. And I do not think a piece of certificate hanging on the wall (not even my PSLE 1993 strategically placed right above my husband's) could be traded for all the photo frames of memories, on that wall, of my success over the years and in the years to come.

Success does not mean the same to everybody. And even if you could barely make it to reach that success, what is more precious is the climb to get there. And also you. You are precious. No matter what success to you means.

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