A Letter to PSLE students

Hi there,  

You have not met me, nor I you. But what I’m writing here is what I’d have said to my daughter, if she is your age. However she is only 4 now =)  

I want to let you know that you are not your PSLE score. We adults like to use scores to measure people, and to sort them into different groups. That’s our strength and that’s our problem. Don’t let your self-worth be defined by a test score.

I believe that you are born with a unique gift and a purpose, to one day make this world a better place for all of us. But along the way you will have many setbacks and heartbreak. Maybe like what you are facing now, maybe worse. The most important thing is not to avoid making mistakes and to avoid falling – we all know people who are afraid to fall will never learn to cycle – but to learn the art and skill to fall without killing yourself, learn from it and pick yourself up again.

Don’t give in to what some adults might say, that you’re a shame or you’re a failure, or that it’s the end of the road for you. Sometimes we speak without knowing the full picture. Yes, in the Singapore system, no doubt you will have a harder time ahead when you don’t score so well in PSLE (or in any other exams), but it’s NOT the end of the world. More and more happy, fulfilled, productive but late blooming people are emerging everyday now. They are the living proof that what you scored as a child does not necessarily represent your fate as a person. If you want a list, read this.

If you’ve done well after working very hard, I applaud you and I salute you for all the effort you have put in. I hope you have worked hard for someone you love, not just to get some fanciful gifts. But most of all, I hope you have worked hard for the satisfaction of knowing that YOU CAN DO IT. That you can push yourself hard and achieve. That you have unlocked another level of capability that has been inside you all these while.  

If you’ve done well without working much, I congratulate you. You have wonderful gifts which others may only envy. I was in your shoes. I completed Primary 6 syllabus when I was in Primary 4, because I happened to be smarter than my peers, and because my parents encouraged me to go beyond any school system had allowed. They were truly ahead of their times.

I also want to remind you – that this gift in you is meant to be treasured and nurtured, not to be squandered and abused. Uncle Ben from Spiderman said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. I totally agree with it. If you decide to relax and be lazy while all your friends who are not as smart as you continue to work hard, you will one day find that whatever advantages you had will be gone. You will realize that you’re not extra smart anymore.

And by that time, you will also find another problem – that you do not have the habit and self-discipline of working hard. I do not wish to scare you but to remind you to respect what you have been given. I hope you nurture your talents and make it great. Because no matter what score you get now, or how much praises you have gotten, you are still not great yet. Your best is yet to be.  

Whatever results you get, I hope you remember to thank the people around you. You know, even though you sat for the paper by yourself, you were never alone. Your teachers, your parents, your caretakers, your family, your friends… they have helped you in some way, even though you might not have realized. They deserve your gratitude.

Even if you scored a perfect score, I’ll be very sad for you if you have no gratefulness in your heart, because you will have a self-centered and lonely life. On the other hand, even if you failed, I still see a bright future for you if you can remember to thank the people around you for walking the journey with you.

Yours humbly, Uncle Jason Lee

22-Nov-2016, two days before the release of PSLE results


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