Wednesday, August 29, 2012

She gave up job for daughter's PSLE

Some consider the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) one of the toughest hurdles in a child’s education.

And it shows in the way parents and children react to it.

The stress it brings has led to some parents quitting their jobs to be with their kids.

Some even quit more than a year ahead of the exam.

Others end up seeing psychiatrists to help cope with the mental stress – theirs, not their kids.

Madam Bernice Koh, 38, decided to leave her job as a secretary after 16 years despite her boss begging her to stay.

Her reason: Her daughter, Cherie Lim, 11, will be taking her PSLE next year.

She says: “When I was working, my daughter would wait for me or my husband to come back before she came to us with problems in her homework.”

“And sometimes I would be too tired, so at least when I quit, Iamable to rest and help her whenever she needs it.”

Madam Koh says PSLE stress has already affected Cherie.

It began when her grades dropped drastically. Cherie, who scored 80s and 90s in her Primary 4 exams, even started to fear mathematics, her favourite subject.

Madam Koh says: “When her grades slipped, she looked more deflated and was not motivated when it came to schoolwork.”

This change in attitude prompted Madam Koh to quit her job to be a constant source of support and motivation for her only child until her PSLE.

She discussed resigning from her job with her husband, an IT project manager, and they both agreed that it would be best for Cherie to have at least one parent who is always home.

Madam Koh says she now takes her daughter to and from Ai Tong School, takes her lunches to school and makes sure that she is there should she have any questions about her schoolwork.

“Now my main role is just to be there for her,” she says.

Trying to balance a PSLE-taking child’s needs and working at the same time has taken a toll on some mums.

More are taking leave of absence just to prepare for this exam, say human resources practitioners and experts.

“It is now more common compared to five years ago, says Mr Anthony Peck, 40.

The general manager at HRsingapore, which provides HR services and training, says: “Most mothers usually take time off just a few weeks prior to the exam, although I have heard of some instances when mothers go as far as requesting for a year of no-pay leave or even quitting when their requests are denied.”

PSLE stress was in the news two weeks ago when a Pri 6 boy ran away for three days just before the PSLE oral exams. He apparently wrote in a letter that he was stressed out by the coming exams.

While the oral exams have concluded, the written exams begin next month. Most Pri 6 pupils have finished their preliminary exams a few days ago.

Ms Ng Bee Bee, 41, an accounts manager, took three months of no-pay leave.

Those three months also helped reduce her stress, says Ms Ng, who sometimes works long hours.

She says: “It definitely helped because I don’t have to think about work and can focus on helping my son with his preparation.”

She wanted to help her son, who is sitting the PSLE this year, pace himself for the tough year ahead.

She chose to do it at the beginning of the year, from February to April.

Ms Ng says: “I wanted to make sure that he kept to a timetable from the start so that he doesn’t get overworked by the end of the year.”

A 38-year-old junior college teacher, who wanted to be known only as Ms Koh, took one year of no-pay leave from September last year for her son,who is now in Pri 5.

Ms Koh, who thought that preparation should start early, contemplated quitting her job but was told by her principal that her career still had room for progress and urged her not to resign.

While she didn’t quit, Ms Koh has applied for another year of no-pay leave so that she can see her son through his PSLE.

Constant parental supervision does not add strain to their child’s already stressful lives, say these parents.

Mrs Elizabeth Wong, an administrative manager, who took two months’ no-pay leave, says that they are simply there to provide for their children should they need any help, comfort or guidance.

She says: “The school is already giving my son so much work, and there are still supplementary and enrichment classes.

“It is up to me to make sure that he doesn’t burn out.”

But giving up your job to ensure PSLE success for your kids requires sacrifices and risks, say HR practitioners.

It is not that easy if your work in a small or medium-size enterprise (SME), says Mr Peck, because there are fewer resources at hand and they are most likely to be short of manpower.

Mr Chan Chon Beng, 58, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, says: “SMEs can be badly affected because productivity will be significantly reduced.”

He also says there is a risk of mothers losing their jobs after they take a long leave of absence.

“Sometimes, employers find a replacement who performs as well as the mother who temporarily vacatedher job,” says Mr Chan.

That is why the executive director of Singapore Human Resources Institute, Mr David Ang, 64, says it is better to quit and go back when you’re ready.

“It benefits both the company and the mother,” he says.

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