I Scored 207 for PSLE; I Still Became a Lawyer.

You decide your future.

20161127_122036

I’ll never forget the day I went to collect my PSLE* results.

I walked up to my form teacher nervously. She looked at me with disappointment, shook her head and said,”You could have done so much better.”

Those words burned into my head.

(This is the same teacher who did nothing but tell my whole class that we girls were “so complacent and so conceited” throughout the year. Maybe we were, maybe we weren’t, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the right way to motivate a bunch of 12 year old girls. But I digress…)

Of course, there was the mass comparisons of PSLE results happening around the school hall, but not on a scale as large as now, what with the availability of social media.

I remembered feeling upset, thinking I was stupid.

And I felt worth less.

I carried these feelings with me for a long time. Always an invisible barrier to the success that I wanted.

Ok, let me first take responsibility for my results first. Did I study hard? No, I’ll be the first to admit. But I was busy enjoying my childhood. I was busy playing, learning, asking questions and laughing.

I had a happy childhood.

But my point is – it didn’t matter that I was doing so well in other areas. I was netball captain. I was a school prefect. I did all sorts of creative stuff like putting up the P6 concert and participating in our 150th anniversary concert.

All it came down to was 3 numbers at the end of my primary school endeavours.

I was placed in Express stream in St. Margaret’s Secondary School. Went to Nanyang Polytechnic to get my business diploma. Went to Curtin University and obtained my business degree with distinction. Then completed my education with a law degree from NUS. And finally, got called to the Singapore Bar.

I managed to achieve my dream of becoming a lawyer with sheer determination and my family’s support.

I am married to a wonderful man, and we have 3 beautiful children.

Standing where I am now, I really feel for the kids who are considered “low PSLE scorers” and labeled as such. I feel their own disappointment at their results, and even worse, their parents’ disappointment at their results.

As a kid, the worst thing to me was to disappoint my parents. (I actually don’t remember my parents saying anything, they probably felt sad with me. But I remember my grandmother’s disappointment.)

 

Why do we need to place kids in boxes and categorise them as “high achievers” and “low achievers” at such a young age?

Isn’t it more important to ignite curiosity in a child and to let him/her discover who they are and what they are good at? Isn’t it more important to equip children with the right tools to survive and thrive, which includes a strong sense of self-worth and self-confidence? Isn’t it more important to let the child know that he/she is loved completely whether they do well or badly in school?

Instead of crushing their confidence and dreams so early on and allowing them to think they are not as smart or as good as someone who did better than them when that is complete and utter bullshit.

My children are all under 5 years old at the moment. And I am dreading putting them through the local primary school system because it might not develop all my children to their fullest potentials. They are all different. Some might thrive under this system, some might not.

Don’t get me wrong, as a type A personality, I am all for the spirit of competition and doing well and I encourage it.

But not at the expense of my kid’s self belief in his/her own abilities because I have learnt without self-belief and confidence, there is nothing.

*For my non-Singaporean friends, PSLE stands for “Primary School Leaving Examination”. It’s a huge exam which streams kids into different categories for Secondary School/High School at 12 years old. And their academic talents are nurtured accordingly from then on.

MentorMission – EVENT INVITE: Jamiyah’s 24th Exemplary Mother Award

Honouring Extraordinary Mothers with Awards, High Tea & Fashion.

As you might know, I have the privilege of being mentored by Claire Chiang, Senior Vice President and Co-Founder of Banyan Tree Holdings. A mentoring lunch turned into a mentoring afternoon because she brought us (me and another mentee, Amu) to a press conference at Jamiyah Singapore after lunch.

20161010_164815
From Left to Right: Amutha Saravanan COO of the Da Vinci Group, Our mentor and original Supermamapreneur, Claire Chiang, and me at Jamiyah Singapore.

This is where I learned about the Exemplary Mother Award (“EMA”) and the Award ceremony that will be held on 22 October 2016. This year’s award presentation ceremony and high tea also comes with a Charity Fashion Show.

Every year, the EMA Committee receives different inspiring stories from mothers of all walks of life, races and religions and who have contributed to the community. Claire was one of the judges. These mothers have been extraordinary in being a role model for their children, by nurturing them with strong moral values, persevere for a better life and education for their children. Their exemplary attitudes continue by going the extra mile to contribute their time and energy through involvement in career and community services, without compromising their parental roles at home.

Thus, this meaningful event promotes inter-faith and multi-racial bonding and enhancing reverence for mothers in general. It also places paramount importance on filial piety.

This year, there will also be a very special fashion show by 3 local designers, Adlina Anis, Kavita Thulasidas and Sylvia Lim, who will all use batik prints by Batik Master, Sarkasi Said, in their designs.

On a personal note, when I asked Claire how and why she is involved in so many community projects, she told me that she learned the need for support when she was very young.  She grew up on Race Course Road with the Malay and Indian community and her mother would often get her to bring food to their neighbours. And when her mother had a stroke when Claire was 17, her neighbours helped them out by buying food, for example.

This gotong-royong* concept of mutual help and reciprocity and the Kampong** spirit was how she grew up. I don’t think I’ve ever thought as much about the community around me until now.

Event Details: 

Date: 22 October 2016, Saturday

Time: 2.30pm to 5pm

Venue: Mandarin Orchard Hotel, Singapore

Ticket price: $100

Guest of Honour: President of Singapore, His Excellency Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam

24thexemplarymotherevent-00000002

If you’re interested in giving back to the community and supporting this meaningful event or even if you’d just like to make a donation, please contact Nora at nora_r@jamiyah.org.sg or call 6743 1211.

*gotong-royong is a conception of sociality familiar to large parts of Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. The phrase has been translated into English in many ways, most of which harken to the conception of reciprocity or mutual aid.

*Kampong means village in Bahasa Melayu.

FabFriday: Dr Noeleen Heyzer – Women Who Dared

Social Scientist & Former UN Under Secretary-General.

I have taken many things in Singapore for granted.

And until last Friday, I wasn’t aware of the many things that were done for me by women who have gone before so that I didn’t have to fight for it.

Did you know polygamy for non-muslims was still legal in Singapore until 1961 when the Women’s Charter was passed? This meant that many women did not have fundamental rights prior to that. A lady named Shirin Fozdar was instrumental in pushing for such change in Singapore.

Before my mentor, Ms. Claire Chiang, invited me to attend the Inaugural Shirin Fozdar Programme Annual Lecture at the Singapore Management University, I had never heard of her. But now that I have, I wonder why they didn’t teach us about her in school!

20160902_171727
Ms. Claire Chiang giving her welcome address
20160902_181436
Q&A session moderated by SMU Provost Professor Lily Kong.
20160902_185110
From Left to Right: Ms. Claire Chiang, Mr. Ho Kwon Ping, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Professor Lily Kong and Professor Arnoud De Meyer, President of SMU.

The topic of the Annual Lecture was At The Frontlines of Change: Women Who Dared By Dr. Noeleen Heyzer. Dr. Hayzer is a Social Scientist and Former United Nations Under Secretary-General. She was the first woman

  • to serve as the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; and
  • from outside North America to head the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) becoming its longest serving Executive Director for 13 years.

Her lecture highlighted the contributions of well-known women leaders around the world like Hillary Clinton, who could possibly be shattering one big glass ceiling in November, and local ladies like war heroine, Elizabeth Choy, and issues of inequality that women still face in parts of the world today.

Dr Noeleen Heyzer and Lise Chew

Lise Chew and Ho Kwon Ping
Me and Mr. Ho Kwon Ping, Co-Founder of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts. He also sits on the Board of Trustees for SMU.
Lise Chew Briget Choy
Left to Right: Myself, war heroine Elizabeth Choy’s daughter, Bridget Choy, and some lovely ladies who went to St. Margaret’s too.

 

Claire Chiang and Lise Chew

Here are 3 points that resonated with me:

  1. “If you teach a woman to fish, she’ll not just learn how to fish, she will change the whole fishing industry.” – Dr. Noeleen Heyzer

  2. When asked what are the conditions we need to have in Singapore to have a female Prime Minister, Dr Heyzer said there need to be firstly more women on boards (only 9% in Singapore) and in Cabinet; and secondly, women will need the men to support them and push them into positions of power.
  3. For there to be any kind of sustainable change, everyone at all levels of society need to be stakeholders to push change forward. Whenever people use the word “stakeholders” I’m always a bit befuddled because why does it sound like a corporate governance lecture and nothing to do with me? But then I’ve realised that for anyone to truly care about anything, they need to have some skin in the game.

Hence. Thus. Therefore.