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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Homeschoolers did it again!

Score big on PSLE
HOME-SCHOOLING may have got a bad name in recent years, but pupils like
12-year-olds Mark Tay and David Lim are challenging stereotypes.

In the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), the results of which were
released last week, the home-schooled children scored 248 and 254
respectively, scores which would have secured them places in a number of
premier schools.

The nation's top pupil had a score of 282.

Of the 26 home-schoolers who sat the PSLE this year, nine did not meet the
benchmark set for home-schoolers by the Ministry of Education (MOE), which,
this year, is 194. They will have to retake the examination next year.

Home-schoolers are exempted from the 2003 Compulsory Education Act if their
parents seek permission and provide information on their home-schooling
programme. The children also have to meet a benchmark pegged at the bottom
33rd percentile aggregate score in any given year.

While David still wants to be home-schooled, Mark intends to give school a
try, and his score was good enough to get him a place in the School of
Science and Technology.

The parents of both children downplayed the achievements.

'We are happy, of course, but we were not going to lose sleep over the
PSLE,' said David's father, Mr Henson Lim, 46. 'More important than his
results are his character and his attitude.'

David said he had no idea how easy, or hard, the exam was going to be and,
after taking it, he was unsure of how he had actually fared.

He scored A*s in three subjects and an A in one. Said David, who will
continue to be home-schooled: 'I don't know what it'll be like in a public
school, and I'm used to my mum teaching me. And I'll also miss my siblings.'

Mr Lim, a pastor, said home-schooling was a 'very misunderstood concept'.

'A lot of people think we are not educating our child,' he said. 'We do want
to educate our children; it's just that we see education in a different

He and wife Serene have seven children, all of whom they intend to
home-school. They said their decision stemmed from their Christian faith and
desire to build strong family bonds.

'You get a lot more time with them,' said Mrs Lim, 41, a housewife. 'People
talk about quantity time versus quality time, but you need quantity to get

David and his siblings spend about 2 1/2 hours every day on school work, with
more time for one-on-one 'consultations' with their mother after she grades
their work.

The children follow the local curriculum closely for the four examinable
PSLE subjects, said Mrs Lim.

Agreeing with Mr Lim, Mark's mother, Mrs Tay Pui Yee, 46, said she knew a
home-schooled girl who had not met MOE's benchmark, but was one of the
kindest and most helpful girls she knew.

'You can't test skills like that in an exam,' she said. 'My son did well in
terms of results, but he is still growing in other areas.'

Mrs Tay also said she had nothing against public schooling, but chose to
home-school her children to 'give them time to breathe and grow at a pace
they feel comfortable with'.

'Kids come with different natural capabilities,' she said. 'We don't believe
the exam is everything.'

The Tay family followed much the same method as the Lims. Mark, the third of
four children, also focused largely on the local curriculum, with other
resources added on to give him a deeper or broader understanding of certain

His two elder siblings had been home-schooled for the first half of primary
school and are now in mainstream schools. Mark is the first in the family to
have not attended primary school at all.

Mrs Tay said she did not prepare Mark by means of exam drills or many test
papers and made sure he had time for other activities, such as cooking,
baking and sports.

'Learning should not stop just because the PSLE is here,' she said.