Friday, September 12, 2014

Why I Am Upset About The UPSR Leak - A Parent's Point Of View

UPSR. It is a mere entrance level exam for secondary school. The UPSR Science paper has been postponed because there was a leak while the National School candidates have to resit the English Paper 1 and 2 exams. It is a primary school exam for goodness sakes, so why should I be upset? Why should anyone be upset? Why should the paper even be leaked in the first place? I'll tell you why.

Why I am Upset About The UPSR Leak As A Parent

Its only UPSR. Why is it so important? So important that papers have been leaked? I'll tell you why. I am not speaking for parents universally, just for myself. The UPSR is a source of marital discord in my home. My husband who is the sole bread winner strongly believes in pushing the kids to do the best in this exam.

Why? He says that as parents our job is to teach our children to be the best that they can be. The kids are to be taught that they should not be mediocre.  I can't argue with that.

We're also middle income family with one sole bread winner. So we cannot "escape the system" by sending our kids to the many private and international schools that have mushroomed all over the place. So, that leaves us fewer choices for our children's secondary school education.

It's either
  • Chinese Independent Schools
  • SK
  • Homeschooling
  • SMJK
Take out Chinese Independent Schools because we do not speak Chinese and cannot give our children full support. Remove Homeschooling because we do not have the patience, know how or networking.

That leaves us with either SMJK or SK. To get into a good SMJK or SK, you need good UPSR results, preferably 7As for SJKC or 5As for SK. That's it. It is as simple as that. That is why UPSR is that important to many parents. 

I mentioned that it is a source of marital discord because I grew up in a relaxed environment. I don't even remember how I did in my primary school assessment nor what it was called back then. We had frequent memorable picnics at the beach during weekends. I wanted a carefree childhood like the one I had for my kids. My spouse on the other hand had strict parents. So with his background and the stress and pressure of being the sole breadwinner he strongly encourages the kids to do well in their examinations so they can get into good schools. We do not have the luxury to choose to go to private school, he tells me. So we cannot be idealistic and say "I want my children to have a carefree childhood and not have to worry about passing exams."

I feel caught in a corner. While understanding his stress and pressures, I cannot take away my own believe of wanting my children to have a carefree childhood. BUT this thing called UPSR gets in the way. I am forced to teach and counsel the kids towards achieving for UPSR despite my own believes.

I am told that times have changed but who changed the times? Who made the UPSR so important? I believe it is the system, the parents, the teachers, the school, all. Everyone of these contributed to "the change". It is a negative downward spiral that we have got ourselves caught in.

Why I am Upset About The UPSR Leak From The Student's Point Of View

My daughter has been preparing for the UPSR, not for the last 3 months mind you, but for the last 3 years. Yes, you heard that right. It is only the UPSR right? No. I have explained why it is not ONLY the UPSR earlier on. 

My girl is in a top class in a popular SJKC or Chinese School. We didn't ask to go to this school but was sent there when our application for a nearby Chinese School was rejected due to lack of space. The Chinese schools are overflowing. Many have 50 students to a class, some with 10 classes in Std One. So, we got rejected because we turned our application in late when my daughter was 6 years old instead of 5 years old because we couldn't decided which school to send her. SK or SJKC. SJKCs are famous for being very academically focussed. 

So we ended up in this so called popular choice of SJKC for parents in the top class because of my husband's encouragement and also her own effort and hard work. I will tell you what goes on in the top class of a Chinese School and why UPSR is so important at the school. 

Chinese School's are very competitive. They aim to show results. They stream the children and push the top classes to perform to show those excellent UPSR results. In my daughter's school, they were awarded some title not long ago because of this excellent result amongst other reasons. Because of this title, they are to maintain the good results or lose it, so says my girl. They have been told that they must meet a certain targeted stats so everyone in their class are expected to get 7As for the UPSR. Everyone of them.

Apart from textbooks, the school makes use of a lot of workbooks as supplementary materials. All of these workbooks are UPSR based meaning they are geared towards helping you to answer UPSR questions. Try going to a bookshop that carries a lot of workbooks for example, Popular bookshop. You will see many titles that say UPSR based or something to that effect. The school starts using these workbooks from Standard 3 and it peaks at Std 6. You wouldn't believe the number of UPSR based trial and sample or UPSR model papers the Std 6 child has to do leading towards that "unimportant primary school assessment" called UPSR. 

My girl has been working so hard for this UPSR she has almost no time for play. Healthy play and exercise that a child needs. From aged 10-12, she is cooped up in the study room everyday after school doing homework. She attends no other tuition accept the compulsory after school tuition by the school. That requires her to stay back in school 3 times a week. In addition she has to stay back in school on a separate day for extra curricular activities. She also has to attend extra compulsory Saturday school offered by the school in the months leading to UPSR. Her schooling hours are longer than some adult's working hours and her lunch hour is shorter.

Much to my unhappiness, my husband urged me to stop her only other activity which we send her for ie piano classes in std 5 and std 6 because she couldn't cope with all that homework. My husband said we would continue with her music classes after the UPSR. Many other things are also deferred to after the UPSR. This has become a constant source of argument, an argument that I can never win. Argument that leads to hurtful words from the spouse  like "You never support me in getting the children to the right direction in their education. You never support me in anything. You only get in the way." or "When it comes to the way the children are brought up, you shall have no say." Don't get me wrong, please. My spouse is a very loving father and husband and he would not normally say such hurtful things like that but he was just so frustrated that I could not see his point of view and come to an agreement. Also, sometimes that is just how married life is when you clash but this post is not about marriage. This is about UPSR.

That is how important UPSR had become in our lives. This is how a poor system based too much on academics and performance can do to a family too. This is what happens when choices and opportunities become limited just because you do not do well in an exam.

My girl is always busy with homework. Homework that was supposed to prepare her for UPSR. She does her homework everyday right after she steps into the house, has a bath and tea right up to dinner and continuing till bed time. Sometimes she even takes her homework to the dining table much to my chagrin while I watch her helplessly study her childhood away. Each night it is a struggle to get her to bed on time so that she will have enough rest to go through the next day.

She has worked so hard. So I am angry. I am so angry that she was robbed of this chance of saying "Yahoo! My exams are over!" It was supposed to be over yesterday and she finally could play with her beads and rubber band bracelets and other stuff which she has and never gets to play. I feel sad when she told me "Mom, after the exams, one of my classmates shouted "Freedom!" and the rest told her "No, lah.... we still have to do the Science paper." The children had been working so hard. The teacher who had worked as hard as them had promised them that it will all be over soon and they will be rewarded.

My girl told me she went to her Science teacher and said "Teacher now we feel demoralized and demotivated." and the teacher said "Yes, I am demoralized too....."

Why I Am Upset About The UPSR Leak For The Teacher

My girl's class teacher has been teaching them since Std 3. This is her retirement year. Every time I see her, she looks very busy and stressed out. Of course she would be. She teaches the top class which the HM had said would be the "harapan sekolah" (the students the school pins their hopes on). She pushes the students hard, oh my she really does. In pushing the students hard, I know she works twice as hard. During a two week school holiday, she made the children write 14 Chinese Essays. That would mean she has to mark 14 times the number of student's essays after that and several Maths Model papers.

I can't say I agree with her ways which includes marking the paper up or down to manipulate the children's results especially the Chinese Essays. It is marked down to raise the standard so that the children do not get complacent and marked up to raise their confidence again. There is a lot of concentration on the Chinese Paper 2 or Essay because this is the one that takes away the No. 7 A from many students. 

She makes the children write wishes on a leaf which they paste at the back of a wishing tree at the back of the class. They also make a wishing box. Many of the wishes are "I want to get 7As in UPSR". The children shouts "I want to get 7As. I can do it. I believe in myself." in class. More recently, they say a little prayer first before they shout "I want to get 7As in UPSR." They do a countdown on their whiteboard where a child would erase and rewrite xxx No. of days to UPSR each day. 

She promised them she would let them do art and gym as much as they want after the UPSR. Everything is after the UPSR. In the weeks and months leading to the UPSR, there are no library periods, no art classes, no gym and no extra curricular activities. All these are replaced with lessons.

The teacher has been working very hard indeed so I am sure the poor teacher would be very upset too because she must have been looking forward to yesterday too as much as the kids have, the day UPSR was supposed to be over. 

That is how important UPSR is to the teacher and to the children.

A few weeks ago, all the students met up with the HM individually to identify their weaknesses and encouraged to work on them so that they would get 7As in UPSR.

That is how important UPSR is to the HM and to the school.

Everyone has been working so hard. Children, Parents, Teachers. Schedules had to be changed. There was time for little else accept studying and homework and the children had to wait till after UPSR for many things. Now they are told that the Science paper has been postponed and worse still for the SK students, they have to resit for the English papers. 

So, yes, I am upset which prompted this post. Even though I tell my parenting group on Facebook to stay positive and as much as I want to stay positive for my child, I am upset but I won't show it to her. She deserves a break. She really does. 

So whats the big deal?  The UPSR has only been postponed 2 /12 weeks. Yes, so what? Yet, why do I feel as though we have been robbed? 

To anyone reading this, I hope that you will not be discouraged. This is just my personal story and it is not the case for every child. My son who is standard 4 this year, even though he goes to the same school, and my husband pushes him in his studies, is not in the best class and is not so pressured by his teachers like his sister. 

Friday, September 05, 2014

School Holiday Programmes In The Klang Valley - Selangor And Kuala Lumpur For September 2014

The September 2014 school holidays is almost upon us. I'm looking forward to this one because it means UPSR is just over. Yahoo! However, I still have another kid in Standard 4 so, it also means that year end tests are coming again soon. Tests. Tests. Tests. Seems like that is all parents of school going kids have to think about these days. There seems to be an endless array of school tests. Entrance exams, LINUS, UPSR etc.

Anyway, let's forget about tests for a moment and talk about holidays. Here are a few school holiday programs that have been shared in my parenting group on Facebook. I do not know how good they are because I have not tried them. Just posting them here for the benefit of those who are searching for this information but who are not in the group. If you would like to join us to network with other Malaysian parents, then feel free to request to join here: Malaysian Primary And Secondary School Parents On Facebook.

Right, so here are some September 2014 School Holiday Programs in the Klang Valley if you are looking for some activities for your child this school holidays.

Sept 2014 school holiday programs

Course Provider: Radiant Retreats 
Contact: 012-281 0877
School Holiday Programs: Experience Nature Camp and Eco Conservation Camp

Sept 2014 School Holiday Programs in KL and SelangorSept 2014 School Holiday Program

Course Provider: Le Kidz Learning Land (Kuchai Lama)
Contact: 012-230 3873
School Holiday Programs: Baking, Farm Visit, Making Hand Soap, Cooking, Speech And Drama, Financial Management and more

Sept 2014 School Holiday Programs in KL and Selangor

Course Provider: Globby Kidz (Mid Valley)
Contact: 603-2201 2811
School Holiday Programs: Dancing, Baking, Art, Harmony Music, Baby Ballet, Frozen Theme Talent Makeover etc.

Sept 2014 School Holiday Programs in KL and Selangor

Course Provider: The Learning Club (SS24/26)
Contact: Michelle (016-2730219)
School Holiday Programs: Science With A Difference

Sept 2014 School Holiday Programs in Klang Valley

Course Provider: Global Art (Desa Jaya, Kepong)
Contact: 012-779 5717
School Holiday Programs: Drawing, Coloring, Clay and Handicraft

Sept 2014 School Holiday Programs in KL and Selangor

Course Provider: Hobby Hop In (Bangsar)
Contact: Ms Valerie 016-635 6469
School Holiday Programs: Life Cycle Of A Bee

Sept 2014 School Holiday Programs in KL and SelangorSept 2014 School Holiday Programs in KL and Selangor

Course Provider: Brick's 4 Kidz 
Contact: 012-339 2126
School Holiday Programs: Super Heroes Academy Holiday Camp or Mix & Match Programs (Call For More Info)

Sept 2014 School Holiday Programs in KL and Selangor

Course Provider: Twinkle Art Studio (Jln Setia Alam Prima)
Contact: Mdm Lee 019-2361310 
School Holiday Programs: Art Therapy

Sept 2014 School Holiday Programs

Course Provider: MnM Academy (Taman OUG)
Contact: Mdm Lee 013- 3941041
School Holiday Programs: Abacus, Kids Yoga, Memory Enhancement Workshop

Hmm... that's quite a lot of courses and I am sure there are a lot more. This list is certainly non exhaustive. There are many holiday programmes these days because there is a demand for them. Hopefully you will be able to find one that is suitable and near  your housing area.

The school holiday programs featured here are just a few that were shared with me in my group which I in turn would like to share with my readers. Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Chinese Mooncake Festival Activities For Kids

Happy Mid Autumn Festival. The mooncake festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. That means in 2014, the mooncake festival or Mid Autumn Festival is on 8th September, 2014. Too bad this year, my girl will be having school examinations the very next year, so we won't be staying up playing with lanterns till late in the night.

Anyway, for those of you with  younger kids, here are some excellent resources for some fun filled Moon Festival activities for children.

1. From British Council Schools Online check out the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival Resources and Education Pack. I particularly like the Design and Make A Mooncake activity for kids who like baking and the free Mooncake Box Template for kids who like designing.

2. From Childbook.com, check out the Chinese Moon Festival coloring pages. Plenty of cute designs to choose from here including mooncakes and teapot, family enjoying mooncakes together and Hou Yi & Chang Er and the Jade Rabbit. When you are on this link, do note that the Mid Autumn Festival Coloring pages is not the only activity you can find. Make sure you check out the Chinese Moon Festival Powerpoint Slideshow For Teachers. You can find the link to that just right after the Moon Festival coloring images. I recommend that you download it and watch it together with your child. The Mid Autumn Festival story featured in the slideshow utilizes the coloring images. After you watch the slides and learn more about Mid Autumn Festival, your child can color the Chinese Moon Festival graphics she sees in the slideshow.

That's it. I'm just going to review two sites this year because I think they are incredible and worth visiting. You may also like to check out my hub on HubPages: Teaching Kids About The Mid Autumn Festival.

Happy Mid Autumn Festival 2014 everyone!

Happy Mooncake Festival 2014 Greeting Card
Image Source: The greeting card shown was illustrated by the author for her Facebook Parenting Group

Quick Tips For Parents With Kids Just Entering Standard One

I have made several tips to share with parents who have kids who are just entering Standard One for the first time. I have shared them either on my Facebook page for my ebook Banana Mom's Guide To Preparing For Chinese School or I shared them on my Facebook Group, Malaysian Primary And Secondary School Parents On Facebook or sometimes I shared it on one of my several blogs. They are scattered all over the place and I can't find them when someone asks for the tips. So I decided to write this post to put the ones that I created so far on a single page for easy reference.

So here are my Quick Tips For Parents With Kids Just Entering Standard One, in pictorial form.

1. Tips For Buying School Bags - Parents with kids who are entering formal schooling or 'big school' for the first time ask this question over and over again. This is one of the very first few tips you will need when your child enters primary school.
Tips For Buying School Bags
2. Tips For Buying School Uniforms - This is another Frequently Asked Question by parents. So here are my quick tips on buying school uniforms. Just like buying school bags, you will need tips for buying school uniforms just before your child enters primary school.

Tips For Buying School Uniforms

3. Ten Tips For Talking To Teachers - You'll be doing a lot of talking to teachers during the first few days and after that less frequently during parents teachers day or whenever there are any issues to deal with. So here are my quick tips for talking to teachers, said in a poster.

Ten Tips For Talking To Teachers


4. Tips For Teaching Young Kids To Study - You'll find that your child who has just entered school will have difficulty understanding the concept of "studying", so here are "7 Tips To Teach Your Kids To Study" to help you along.

Tips For Teaching Young Kids To Study

These illustrations and images are free for your private use only. Commercial use not allowed. You may print them or put them on your site for private use but please remember to give credit by linking to this page. Thank you.

If you are interested in any more tips, please feel free to comment here or on Facebook and I will illustrate them for you. 



Good Luck UPSR Candidates 2014

Good Luck UPSR Candidates 2014

It is exactly one week away from UPSR 2014 which starts on September 9 and ends on September 11.

I am surprised that the teachers are still giving the kids a lot of homework. Compulsory after school tuition is still on too. Seems like the school will be pushing the kids all the way right to the exams. They have been organizing seminars for the children. The kids have also done a lot of UPSR model papers. I think the idea is to get them to do it till it is almost like second nature. Besides the numerous workbooks they had been doing since the beginning of the year, my girl's school bag is filled with photostatted and printed sheets of UPSR model papers.

Many online sites have uploaded the UPSR trial papers of every state. There are also many tips circulating around and some videos on last minute UPSR tips as well as the "soalan ramalan UPSR" (UPSR forecast papers). I wonder whether everyone really takes note of all these? Some of the videos look interesting too but I think a bit late in the day. If I were to let my girl watch all these or try all the papers, it will only make her confused. The teacher teaches one thing, the video another. Besides, she still has loads of homework and has to stay back after school.

I am really glad we had the long weekend where she could catch up with a little bit of sleep and rest.

This year the mid autumn festival or mooncake festival falls on 8th September 2014 one day before the UPSR exam. This means no playing candles or lanterns for us till late in the night.

Anyway, here's wishing all the UPSR candidates for 2014 good luck.
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