Yen Jean (far right) having fun with classmates on a school trip in Perth to learn about Future Problem Solving.
No school work after dinner!
Such a piece of advice would stun many parents. But for Mrs Wee Pei Fong, the idea of burning the midnight oil every day for months is out of the question. Despite this unconventional practice, her daughter, Yen Jean, topped her cohort in this year’s PSLE results.
So what’s their secret?
Yen Jean, who studied at Nanyang Primary School, lives by the golden rule that consistent work to laying a good foundation is the path to academic success. According to Mrs Wee, steady progress in studying and revising not only helps Yen Jean to remember, it also gives more opportunities for her to clarify doubts and improve her understanding of difficult topics.
No surprise, therefore, that Yen Jean credits this approach for her success. “It was the consistency that helped me achieve the good results, not cramming at the last minute,” she says.
Yen Jean (back row, second from left, in spectacles) with her schoolmates in Perth.
On their part, how can parents best support their children in the nerve-wrecking months leading up to the PSLE? Mrs Wee gives full credit to Yen Jean’s teachers for their hard work in preparing the pupils. In turn, she sought to complement the school’s efforts by ensuring that Yen Jean lacked for nothing at home.
Tips from the parent of the top PSLE student? Mrs Wee sees an intangible but nonetheless real value in basic acts such as ensuring that Yen Jean maintains a good balance between schoolwork, play and rest; and eats a healthy diet. It also means giving Yen Jean steady moral support, especially when she feels discouraged or down. Mrs Wee believes parents should always be available as a sounding board for their children to talk about issues that affect them.
Adjusting to a new stream
Mrs Wee, who quit her job eight years ago to become a homemaker, puts a premium on having a close relationship with her daughter. “I try to always be around,” she remarks. “If Yen Jean has a problem, we address it quickly rather than letting it fester. At this age, she faces many growing up issues that we discuss about.”
Yen Jean was formerly a pupil at CHIJ Kellock, but switched to Nanyang Primary School at Pri 4 after qualifying for the Gifted Education Programme (GEP). Initially, she found it a bumpy ride trying to adapt to the new school. “I was a little apprehensive at first as I would be leaving CHIJ Kellock for a completely new environment, one in which there was a lot of emphasis on Chinese which was my weakest subject then,” Yen Jean recalls. But her fears soon dissipated when her paternal grandmother offered to coach her in the language. And rather than relying on tuition, Mrs Wee herself helps Yen Jean in her English, Mathematics and Science.
Yen Jean (second from right) seems perfectly at ease during an Interschool Debate.
Transfering to the GEP stream also threw up other concerns. Mrs Wee was not worried about Yen Jean’s self-motivation and desire to excel, but she saw a need to manage her daughter’s high expectations.
“It’s not uncommon for a child to falter under stress,” observes Mrs Wee. “Yen Jean did not do well in her Science Practical Test in Pri 5 despite trying her best, and naturally she was very disappointed”. In this instance, Mrs Wee sought to reassure Yen Jean that it was ok to stumble on occasion. “I told her that we are human beings” she recounts, “and the important thing is to learn from failure and mistakes and continue to persevere.”
Not all work and no play
Hitting the books takes up nearly 70 percent of Yen Jean’s waking hours. But she makes it a point to immerse herself regulaly in a whole gamut of activities. Taking after her mother, who was a lawyer, Yen Jean loves to debate. She also enjoys the thrill of thinking up creative solutions to problems and has joined her schoolmates in a trip all the way to Perth, Australia to learn about Future Problem Solving from international coaches.
With this range of experiences and the emotional support of her parents, Yen Jean is no stranger to new challenges and environments. Now about to enter Raffles Girls' School, she is looking forward to future adventures in learning. “I hope that I will be able to maintain a good academic performance,” she laughs, adding lest you think that’s all that matters, “And at the same time, have lots of fun!”