17 January 2016

A tip for parents accompanying their children to collect O-level results

The O-level results came out on Monday.

I can empathise with all you students and parents waiting for those results.

I got my results over three decades ago and I have yet to fully recover from the emotional trauma.



More recently — two years ago to be exact — I accompanied my son to his secondary school to collect his O-level results.

We were naturally quite anxious to find out how badly he did in the exams.

But before we could get the results, we, along with the other students and parents waiting in the school hall, had to suffer through seemingly interminable slideshows presented by the school.

The first presentation was about the Joint Admission Exercise (JAE) conducted by the Ministry of Education for students to apply for admission to schools after O levels.

Next, the principal talked about how well the school did in the O levels relative to previous years and all the other schools in the country — subject by subject.

This just went on and on.

Then it was time to give out the results. Finally!

But before the results were released to everyone, the results were first given to the school’s top students — individually.

So we were forced to wait as one by one, the name of each top student was announced and he or she would scamper onto the stage to shake hands with the principal and get their picture taken.

This went on like forever.

The school seemed to have an infinite number of students who scored a gazillion distinctions in the O levels — and yet my son wasn’t among that infinite number. Not that we expected him to be.

Why was the school doing this?

Why was the school torturing us with this endless ceremony?

Why was the school prolonging our agony by delaying the release of the results?



Wasn’t the school aware of the majority of less stellar students and their parents right there in the school hall waiting anxiously to find out if all that time and money spent on private tuition was a waste of time and money?

Why should we care about these other freakishly overachieving students who aced the O levels?

Were we supposed to be happy for them?

Were we supposed to applaud their success at taking away the places in the schools that we could be applying for?

By highlighting their accomplishment, the school was only underscoring our failure.

Eventually, the name-calling and photo-taking ended and it was time to distribute the results to the rest of us plebs.

My son got 16 points for his L1R5, which was a pleasant surprise considering he barely studied for his O levels.

Two years later, I had to go through it all over again.

On Monday, I accompanied my daughter to her secondary school to collect her O-level results.

But I had learnt my lesson.

Having gone through what I went through two years earlier at my son’s school, I decided we should go a little late to avoid the presentations, but alas, we weren’t tardy enough.

We still had to sit through part of the presentation about the JAE.

Next, the principal talked about how well the school did in the O levels relative to previous years and all the other schools in the country — subject by subject.

This just went on and on.

Then one by one, the name of each of the school’s top students was announced and he or she would scamper onto the stage to shake hands with the principal and get their picture taken.

Wait, that second name sounded familiar.

Isn’t that my daughter?

I was taken aback to see my second-born scampering onto the stage to shake hands with the principal and get their picture taken.

What was this strange sensation coming over me? Could I actually be feeling proud of my child? How gauche.

So this was what it’s like to be a parent of one of those freakishly overachieving students.

I no longer minded that the ceremony was going on like forever. I already knew that my daughter kicked ass in the O levels.

Oh, so your kid wasn’t good enough to have his or her name called and go on stage?

Who asked you to be such a failure as a parent?

You’ll just have to wait a little longer for the results like the rest of the plebs.

That’s not me saying it. It’s the school.

Now that I have survived it twice, here’s my tip to parents accompanying their children to collect their O-level results — go late.

And it helps if your child is a freakish overachiever.

- Published in The New Paper, 17 January 2016


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