Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let someone else worry about DSA!

I had an epiphany last night.

Rather, it was at about 2.30am when I was in bed, unable to sleep. It started with comments on Lilian's blog about the Direct School Admission (DSA). For the umpteenth time, I'm realising how clueless I am about such things. I know that most GEP kids apply for DSA in p6 but I never knew that they had to take a General Ability Test even before they're called up for an interview, and that if they apply under the academic route, they should preferably have some special achievements in a particular area like maths or languages or science.

So upon reading the comments by a very in-tuned dad, I immediately started to worry about Lesley-Anne. Here's the background story: from what I've been told by the GEP teachers, most GEP kids are encouraged to go on to Integrated Programme (IP) schools at sec.1, the 6-year programme which skips 'O' levels and go straight to 'A' levels. These schools have their own school-based gifted education programme whose pedagogy is in line with what the kids have been learning under the GEP. However, there are only 7 IP schools and many of them are off-limits to Lesley-Anne. For instance, Nanyang Girls and Dunman High offer Chinese as first language and NUS High is catered for those extremely talented in maths and science. Many of the schools are boys' schools. Based on these limited choices, Lesley-Anne wants to get into RGS.

But here's the catch: last year, RGS has THE highest cut-off point in the WHOLE OF SINGAPORE. Phwaah!! We attended their open house this year and we learnt that their girls are basically the top 2% of each cohort. How's that for intimidating?

So I'd long told Lesley-Anne that if she really wanted to get into RGS, her best bet was through DSA. Then I found out about the DSA criteria mentioned above. Lesley-Anne is generally fine all around but she doesn't have any stand-out, knock-your-socks-off ability like some of those Math Olympiad geniuses or Sarah Chang-ese violin prodigies.

Which was what brought on the worrying last night. What if, what if. How, how. Then completely out of the blue, this message just whacked me at the side of my head: God will have a place for her. I can't really explain it but suddenly it became clear - if God thinks RGS is the best school for Lesley-Anne, He will clear the way for her. If He doesn't think she will thrive in that environment, He will create a place in another school for her. No amount of worrying or planning will change that.

Wah, really ah, God? I didn't really have to ask, I knew in my heart it was true. (I often have these strange conversations in my head with God - in Singlish no less. Like before any of the kids' exams, I sometimes pray, God, please, please, pleeeeeeease. Aiyah God, you know what I mean lah.)

Once that truth hit me, there was nothing left to worry about. I remembered how God had always led the way in terms of Lesley-Anne's education. Even before she entered p1, we chose the school she's at because 1) it is a Christian school, 2) it is relatively close to our home, 3) it is a co-ed school (so we wouldn't have to worry about Andre later). Since the school is more than 2km from our home, we had to volunteer to be able to register her at Phase 2B. For Phase 2B that year, there was no balloting (we were just two more applicants shy of balloting) so she got a place. When she was in p3 and went for the GEP test, we didn't think she would get in but I remembered distinctly asking God, "if you think GEP will be good for her, then give her a place." And what a blessing that turned out to be.

Don't think that I am a saint. Far from it. I squirm when I hear loud, zealous proclamations of faith, and overly pious people grate on my nerves. I don't pray as often as I should, I don't give thanks as much as I should, I miss church more than I should. But I know God is real, whether politically correct or not, and this keeps me straight. As you probably know by now, I'm an intellectual at heart - I overthink everything, I analyse things to death. The danger with intellectuals is that we do so much thinking that we sometimes start to think that we know better than God. So I constantly have to check myself and that's why my favourite verse from the bible is this lesser-known one:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." 1 Cor 1:18,19
I'm not advocating that we stop thinking altogether. Neither am I saying that since God will take care of everything, we can just slack off and do nothing. If you don't work at something, you can't expect God to call up a miracle and reward you. Not that He can't and not because I believe in that oft spouted phrase "God helps those who help themselves" (nowhere in the bible does it say that). It's more the fact that I believe as part of life's journey, God wants to develop the whole person - mind, body and spirit. Rewarding a lazy bum generally doesn't serve that purpose.

Ironically, after the epiphany, I still couldn't sleep because I started to think of how I would write this post! I'm so heartened by how some of you have commented that you found my blog useful. I'm not lost to the fact that there could be some divine intervention at work here as well - often when I start to write, I find that the thoughts flow very easily, as if someone is guiding them. When I read some of my back posts, I sometimes wonder how I came up with all those thoughts. Honest.

I couldn't figure out what label to give this post. I contemplated creating one called "God" but I baulk at giving God a label, so I'm just going to place it under "faith" and "parenting" for now. Can or not, God? Hmmm... I'll take that as a yes.


eunice said...

The acronyms (GEP, DSA..) totally baffle me. I guess it's normal for us to stress out and have sleepless nights over issues like this.

I am not too religious but believe if it's meant to be, it will. Don't worry!!!

Anonymous said...

You are GIFTED in writing lah!! I have yet another interesting read from you! What you have listed is exactly my concern too. Knowing that my elder gal chinese result will have an enormous impact on her total PSLE scores, I transferred her to a pri sch with affiliation. That way, as long as she do well for 3 of the subjects and no need so-well for chinese, she should have a good chance to go to a good secondary sch. Unfortunatly, this sch does not have GEP programme, so if she is being selected for the programme, she would have to change sch, again. After being told from one of my friend that her best friend's son ( a GEP student), had fail to be accepted by any of the DSA (IP) sch this year and had to work very hard to make sure he scores for PSLE and enter these sch on his own accord, I think I needed to give it a serious thought, because taking up the challenge of entering into GEP programme will defeats the puroose of my initial intention for the transferred to this current sch. But then again, there is always so many uncertianty in life, and every other choice seem to have its pros, the other side of grass always seen greener. When this happened, I will turn the 'radial' in my head 'ON' to tune into God's channel and communicate with him. I always believe that God will know what is best for us. I speak to God in my mind (in singlish too), from small little things to big ones, a bit psycho I feel, but I find peace in doing that. (^_^)

The resut for GEP selection should be out by early next week. We shall see how it goes.

Anonymous said...

oh...I forgot to mentioned. After reading your review of GEP programme, I hope my elder gal will get into it. I knew she will benefit a great deal from the teaching method. Knowing that she has nothing else to offer, eventhough she is trying to achieve her G8 in piano by P5, there are more students not only play more than just one instrument (with high grades), they even armed with performing arts like ballet & drama. How to 'fight' if she is only being 'bright' and not extremely 'bright' and talented in other ways...... Anyway, I'm adopting your believe, let someone else worry about it! ^_^

monlim said...

Eunice: Sometimes, Kenneth and I joke that there must be a gahmen department whose only job is to think up acronyms for schemes and organisations :D

Chris (I'm assuming it's you!): Yes, sometimes I think we all (me included) need to step back and get a larger perspective, to remember that God has it all under control. All the planning, double-guessing, it's just stressing both parents and kids!

Parents always worry their kids are not good enough, even parents of bright kids worry they're not bright enough! I'm sure to an outsider, we all appear mental :P

Anonymous said...

Personally on looking back I'm very glad my girl went to a Christian secondary school. It was a close-knit community infused with warmth & caring which tenderly nurtured her sensitive soul.

My personal prejudice is that in a Christian school the emphasize on academic merits is less 'brutal' and the children are exposed to the idea that God is involved in every detail of your life, in your studies, your family & in your social life.

Whereas in a highly-competitive non-religious school (like RGS for e.g., but not exclusive to RGS) the ethos held up to be nonnegotiable are performance excellence, diligence & cut-throat competition.

In a highly-competitive, non-religious school there is not much time given to ideas that one has value & worth in simply being a unique individual--regardless of one's performance. I would imagine that ideas of 'caring for the weak ones amongst us' would be perfunctorily endorsed as a characteristic of a civil society, but without the kind of commitment to it that would come from a school run on Christocentric ideas of universal love & selflessness.

I myself went from a Chinese-primary school to a Convent secondary school & the 'culture-shock' took a while to adjust to but when it sank in, I thanked God for teaching me that I've got to learn to be selfless & to value my classmates as loved individuals, not just as 'competition'.

If L-A's the gung-ho type that thrives on pitting her wits against the sharpest of Sgp kids, well & fine.

But who knows, God may think it would be better for her to be in a Christian school.

Anonymous said...

btw the comment immediately above was from me.. YY.


Anonymous said...

oops...did I cause all this?

I am in-tuned because I went through it this year. I was equally clueless last year when my boy was in P5, but got swept along when the whole process started in June this year. So in a sense, you are much more prepared than I was...haha.

Don't worry, cross the bridge when you come to it. And whatever will be, will be.


monlim said...

MD: Yes, you are the tuned-in father! But don't feel bad, I'm so glad I can learn from someone who has gone before me. At least I think I will make fewer blunders than if I'm groping around in the dark on my own :P

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree not to plan consciously. I believe more in due diligence and work according to the kid's ability. If a child is able and it is within God's plan, everything will sail through effortlessly and the child is also happy. I know school in the past is a far cry from what school is today, but my personal experience is to trust in God and He will indeed open the right doors. When I was little, I was clueless about all the various schemes and alternatives about school...cos God blinded me and I knew only ONE way. So I hope my child will grow up as clueless as I am (even now as mom, I still am...hahaha) and just learn to enjoy the process of learning.


Anonymous said...

btw, the culprit or father of acronyms was IBM aka I've Been Misled... So over the last 3decades or so, it has effectively LED everyone into the world of acronyms and the gahmen sector often get free talks from such "thought" leaders... bwaaaah...oops!


Anonymous said... got it right Mon, it's me Chris. Sorry I forgot to sign off with my name.

monlim said...

QX: I must learn to be more zen like you! Then life would be much less stressful :)

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for about a month, and I am hooked already :-). You write very well, and I can identify with some of your experiences. I thought it is time I come out of hiding and introduce myself :-) I have a daughter (P4 this year) and a son (K2).

Your posting today is a timely reminder, and I have to thank you for it. Parents worry to no end.... so at times, it is so important to take a step back, and get a grip of ourselves, before we unknowingly pass some of our anxieties to our kids. More importantly, I think, for kids who are academically more capable than the others, we have to learn to manage their expectations and disappointments properly. What if they don't get into the school of their choice, either through DSA or other means?

Like you rightly pointed out, God has a perfect plan for each of us. He will open doors, lead the way. He just ask us to trust Him and accept the outcome.

Oh, btw, everyday is a comic strip with my son too! I am wondering if this is a 'boy' thing. They can be so full of 'nonsense', but totally enjoyable!

Lastly, I join the gang of those who look out for new postings on your blog EVERYDAY. :-)


monlim said...

Hi LL, welcome!! Wah, I really feel so blessed to know people actually want to read my stuff!

You're right - we tend to forget that when we stress over the stuff things, we project the stress on our kids and they feel it too.

Re boys, I think it's a boy thing! But then my friend Lilian doesn't seem to have these issues with her sons, they're so mature... so dunno? But Lesley-Anne is always complaining that Andre gets away with murder just cos we mums think our boys are so cute!

Lilian said...

Aiyoh, my boys are FARRRR from mature...I hope my posts don't give the wrong impression that they are. Maybe it's because I'm pretty infantile myself, so when they are immature, I tend to laugh it off or even join in the fun. But the immaturity becomes a problem when we're in public and especially when Eddie's with us, and I feel severely stressed having to constantly monitor their behaviour! My kids behave worse when they're out of the house than in the house (where they have books/tv/computer to distract them).

Back to your topic, I definitely believe in divine intervention. Shortly before collecting final year results in NUS, I remember Eddie asking me why the heck I was praying so hard when the results were already up on the board! I said, "As long as I have not seen the results, anything can change, prayers work miracles y'know."

And I have been feeling the same way as you too. Every time I think of Brian's secondary school, so many paths seem to come to a dead end. But one thing I've realised in the past, a lot of my planning hasn't really been necessary. God has taken care of our needs every single time, so gotta just continue having faith. Let go and let God...

Statistically speaking though, L-A does stand a good chance. I know PSLE is a different kettle of fish, but if we take GEP as a gauge of the academically-inclined, L-A is already in the top 1-2% of her cohort, and girls only form 1/3 or less of GEP students? Of course, I know I'm seeing the stats as an outsider so it's easy to be positive.

Anonymous said...

Mon, you are getting popular!! Hahaaha...

I'm sure there are more followers and hopefully more will surface up and we will have a greater community of parents to share experiences. ^_^


monlim said...

Thanks Lilian for the encouraging words. It's something we need to keep reminding ourselves, everytime we go into parent panic mode!

Chris: I think if more parents come together to discuss issues as a community, it would be so fruitful for everyone. Definitely more so than one of those so-called "working committees"!

Anonymous said...

LL: ""I think, for kids who are academically more capable than the others, we have to learn to manage their expectations and disappointments properly.""

This is so, so true!! Like if they go from a school where they were the top in form to another school where everyone used to be top of forms... From big fish in a small pond to small fish in a big pond. :-)

Monica, you said you were miserable in your 4yrs in Convent? Pl elaborate. I think you & I may be barking up wrong trees here!

I was trying to say that in the Chinese pri school I was in, competition was lauded & applauded. But when I went on to Convent I became the odd one out and being competitive was like, frowned on. One was supposed to improve on one's own previous performance, not pit oneself against others. But those sessions of masses, 'sharing' etc (can't quite recall what they were called).. where we were encouraged to unburden our real selves to each other & received mutual affirmation whatever our strengths or weaknesses or personalities -- these were an epiphany to me and my first experience of a community led by principles of God's love. I cherished what those 4 yrs in Convent did for me. :-)


monlim said...

YY: I agree that at the convent, other things were lauded apart from academic competition, like creativity. But maybe it was just that particular school, I found the spiritual teaching hypocritical cos many of the teachers were neither Christ-like nor God-fearing. In fact, some of the girls there were downright bitchy! So maybe your school was more "enlightened" but I didn't find the environment in mine to be edifying at all.

monlim said...

But anyway, the topic is interesting enough to warrant another post - so the next one is up!

Anonymous said...

mon: "" I found the spiritual teaching hypocritical cos many of the teachers were neither Christ-like nor God-fearing. In fact, some of the girls there were downright bitchy! ""

Oh, ok. Oddly I only distinctly recall 2 teachers and both were--I think--non-Catholics (or non-Christians). One was a male-teacher (yes, the thorn amongst the roses!! No I did not recall him bcos he was 'hot'; he was quite 'blur-looking', but he was competent) who was great at math. Another was a science-teacher by the name of Ms Ong. She was the one who sat me down & sort of exhorted me to look beyond my own interests to the interests of others. She made me a prefect just so that I would take on responsibilities outside of my own. That was the first time I was ever (gently) rebuked by a teacher and I took it very seriously.

As for spiritual influence, the one adult figure that made an impact on me was actually a priest who held masses at the Cathedral of Good Shepherd across the street. I think his name was Father Perreira. There was one particular mass where I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and there was an atmosphere of love (or, an unusual camaraderie, at least) amongst the girls.

As for bitchiness, aiya, that's probably why as a student I'd always rather preferred to be a loner and was happy being one! I felt there was no point expending emotional energy to belong to a 'clique' and having to navigate its social rules & 'kowtow' to popular girls I didn't particularly respect. Yes, girls can be real bitchy & catty.


breve1970 said...

Hi Monica

I have one "burning question". What happens to a child who is not that academically inclined but gets into the school of his/her choice through a CCA like golf or swimming? Will he or she be able to cope academically?

I have been wanting to find out eversince I have heard about DSA 2 years ago but guess I never found the right people to ask.


Anonymous said...

Monica: I have been trying to internalise what it means to be a zen Christian or living the zen way... :) I suppose "enlightened" Christian? To me, another meaning for zen is minimialistic and simplification. Whatever it is, I seek to simplify my life and not worry too much over things I have no control over. Otherwise God has nothing to do in my life. haha
Of course being human and being parent, worry usually forms the major part of the journey since it is typical to worry about the unknown but if thinking "zen" helps, I suppose that is how I can live from day to day. Que Sera Sera..... :)


monlim said...

Ann: Sorry, I think I'm the wrong person to ask! Perhaps some other parents with kids in sec school will be better able to answer. But my gut instinct is that if that school is one of the top academically, that child might have problems coping. I recall that's what happened at my JC - one of my schoolmates didn't make the cut off but got in thru music, he later struggled to keep up with the work, esp since he had also had to miss lessons often for his music.

QX: Good for you! I still have a long way to go, I'm such a worry wort by nature. Hopefully I will reach your stage in time :)

Anonymous said...

mon: I am still learning every day. There are many things I can learn by reading what you and the rest have written. sometimes worrying has its merits cos it means you care alot and maybe I am too bochap.

ann: I don't hv latest experience to share but from my past sec school experience where kids entered with special skills, they were not the most outstanding but they got by with academic. The main reason I feel is not so much of their intelligence but becos of their special talent, they invest alot of time practising in that area hence academic gets compromised. One irony to share was my brother never taught me any subjects but ended up tutoring my classmate who went into the school based on tennis talent. Academically she was not on par with me but I still thought she was an outstanding kid with her discipline in tennis training. Somehow with rigorous training background, the academic cannot be too bad I feel unless there is a wire in the head that does not jive with academic learning at all. JMHO.


breve1970 said...

Monica: Thanks for your reply. As usual, your blog always sparks off a lot of interesting debates.

QX: Thank you. You are right, sportsmen are known to be tenacious. Naturally, the discipline sticks with them.

Albert said...

I visited RGS and Nanyang Girls last Sat. I like the principal of RGS. She looks so confident. Of course, I can understand. RGS always is top in Singapore. The students achieve best results every year too. My daughter's classmates almost choose RGS for their first choice. My daughter understands them, because they are not so good in Chinese. She has two choices now and still waver there. She doesn't have any confidence for her final decision although she is often top at school. She achieves good results at this SA1. Full mark at math. Best Chinese and science at class. Her total marks are over 400 every year. She achieved platinum at Huazhong Olympia Math this year. I think she is good enough to choose RGS. She still is not confident at all now. Maybe it is good to her. It will push her to work hard for the PSLE. She needs to take part in Math competition again on this Sat. Wish it will give her more confidence!!!
To check your daughter's marks, she will be easy to enroll RGS if she achieves over 400 marks every year. I am not sure too;) The info is from my daughter only!

Anonymous said...

E: Hehe i was reading this and uhhh sarah chang is a violinist not a pianist :P It was a great read!! :)))))))

monlim said...

E: oops!! Thanks :D

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