I HATE school exams! It sounds ironic, coming from someone who is a lecturer at a local university, but I find my children’s school exams to be very nerve-wracking.
From the weeks leading up to the exam, where I will be on a serious “Tiger Mum” mode, to the few weeks after, when I will wait for the results with bated breath — the week (or month) has been known to cause high blood pressure for some, and weight gain for many mummies.
My serious Tiger Mum mode usually starts about two weeks before the exams. This is when my children will go through the intense study mode, on top of their already established daily schoolwork revisions.
I will meticulously skim through their textbooks and workbooks, and pick out exercises and exam practices for them to work on, throughout the week.
I quiz my children in the car, while driving and even at the dining table.
They are not allowed to watch television, nor play their PlayStation games.
Almost every night, I will go through their exercises, and use my instinct as an academician to sniff out the topics they are weak in, and devise a plan for them to master it within a short time.
I have, in the past, also asked teachers on the techniques to answer subjective questions, so I can be a better tutor to my children.
However, my over-zealousness in preparing for the exams is not usually met with the same enthusiasm by my two boys, Dani and Andi.
My requests for them to do exercises are usually met with protests and followed with “I am tired/ I need to rest/ Can I do it afterwards?” or my personal favourite reaction — the slide-down-the-chair antic — which will see them sprawling on the carpet.
It’s an attempt to showcase how extremely exhausted they were, despite not having done anything the whole day.
Sometimes, I admire my friends, who can be so relaxed with matters pertaining to studies. I have a friend who creatively devised a story when teaching mathematics.
As for me, I prefer the old-school technique I learnt from my primary school teacher, Puan Annie Osman — a certain number of ketuk ketampi for each mistake made.
Exam week? Oh, I will just let my children read that Harry Potter book or play games on the PlayStation because I want them to learn from their failure, said a good friend.
Me? I shudder when Andi almost got B for Science, and cringed and panicked when Dani’s grades only showed slight improvement. If I am concerned with a particular subject, I will text the respective teachers to find out the areas that my children can improve on.
I scout for tuition teachers and even look at their qualifications (experience in marking exam papers is one of my main criteria), before engaging in their services.
The reason I resort to these measures is because I firmly believe that education is important, and it acts as a safety net that gives one something to fall back on.
Perhaps, it is partly contributed from the notion held by our collectivistic culture, which posits an underlying belief, that in order to be successful, one needs to be highly educated.
And, it certainly doesn’t help to see students spewing As in public examinations like a popcorn machine. What are the chances of my children gaining admission into a top-notch university when competition is so stiff?
They may only be 11 and 8 years old, but this worries me, and drives me to be that Tiger Mum.
There are times, however, that I dread having to spend my nights going through my children’s work, when I feel that what I should really be doing is plonking myself in front of the television with a tub of salted caramel ice cream.
And, instead of spending my time analysing and strategising how to answer a Primary Five Science question, I should be analysing research data or writing that conference paper which was due last week.
I cannot help but wonder, who and why am I really doing this for? And, every single time, I will find myself answering: “I do this because I am their mother and I can see their potential. I know that they are talented, smart and intelligent, and that the world is their oyster. I am confident that the tiny push (or pressure) I give, which may be annoying and probably make me the least favourite parent, will help propel them forward and shape them to be better human beings.”
As aptly written by a famous Tiger Mum, Amy Chua, on her website: “It’s about believing in your child more than anyone else — more than they believe in themselves — and helping them realise their potential, whatever it may be.”
And so, even after a very long day at work, I will gather my strength (physically and emotionally) to face my mischievous boys, and give them that little shove.
Being a mother is definitely the toughest portfolio I have ever had to hold.
It has been almost 20 years since Dr Sabariah Mohamed Salleh
left secondary school, but she still has fond memories of the good times with her 1Malaysia friends. She hopes her children will have the same experience, if not better, and grow up to be caring, understanding and tolerant. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org