Fri. Mar 22nd, 2024

TL;DR – Because exams should only ask students to regurgitate. 


The O-Level exam for Chinese took place recently. The O-Level exam for Chinese comprises two papers. The first paper consists of two parts and lasts for two hours.

Not long after the end of the first paper, on the same morning, parents already started complaining that the first paper was too difficult.

So now the second part of the first paper has three questions. Students need to choose one question and write an essay on it. Here are two of the three questions:

  1. What can be done to get youths interested in the Arts?
  2. Can movies shape the values of the youths?

Topics too cheem for students

Parents are worried for their kids who sat for the exam.

The Arts is something that is quite far removed from the everyday lives of teenagers. Heck, will teenagers even know what the Arts is? Even if they do, the Arts is such a wide area. Will they know enough to write something meaningful? Will they be able to provide deep analysis of the issue? Or will they just end up writing superficial cliches?

As for movies, teenagers usually watch movies for entertainment. Or to chase after idols. Or so the parents say. Which normal teenager will watch a movie, analyse it and engage in deep intellectual discussions about it? Which normal teenager would think about meaning or values when they watch movies? Now you want them to suddenly make such a huge paradigm shift when under the stress of exams?

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MOE, are you out of your mind?!

Students never train for this kind of thing one leh…

What’s worse, it seems that these two topics weren’t discussed during lessons in class. What does that mean? Perhaps that means that teachers didn’t talk this through with students. Students weren’t provided with materials, study notes and model answers with all the key points to memorise.

And without that, how are we to expect students to be able to answer either of these questions?

You mean we expect students to… erm… actually exercise critical thinking?

But they weren’t trained for that! It’s not as if students engage in critical thinking everyday, right? After all, no one said that was important, right? Because exams are just about regurgitating the key points that teachers have repeatedly covered in class, right?

Parents need to ease off

We are glad that MOE decided to set those questions. It challenges students. It signals to them that they need to read widely. They need to think critically, even when they go get entertained. Students need to know that they need to push themselves to engage in deeper, more intellectual conversations everyday.

And parents.

Oh parents.

If you want the best for your kids, you need to encourage your kids to move beyond the set curriculum and beyond what’s being taught in school. You need to discuss important issues with them. Challenge them to think critically. Get them to read widely.

And, parents, don’t complain when your kids meet an unfamiliar and difficult situation. Let them learn from it.

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Don’t mollycoddle them.

Life, with all its uncertainties and rapid changes, will be much harsher to your children than one measly little exam. If you don’t give your kid a chance to learn to handle surprises while they are still young, while they still have a strong support network around them, then you are damning your kid to catastrophic failure which they may not recover from.

So. Parents, quit complaining. Turn this into a teachable moment for your kid. Get them to start thinking critically. Now.

By Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!

4 thought on “Parents complain that O-Level Chinese exams demand students think”
  1. But chinese is a second language for most of the kids(not mother tongue) and it’s NOT a General Paper exam. So I think MOE did not test what was meant to be tested. How on earth are they to get all the vocabulary to do those essays? Total disconnect.

    1. Since when Chinese is not mother tongue for most of the kids? You mean the mother of these kids are not Chinese? Where do you infer that Chinese is not mother tongue for most kids?

      Also, what makes you think that MOE did not test what was meant to be tested? Do you know what’s their marking scheme for this specific exam?

      Finally, vocabulary is the basic for all languages – English, Chinese – included. If the student cannot get the vocabulary, isn’t this show that they are not as good in the language? Isn’t this the very goal of having a language exam?

      Who’s disconnect here? I wonder.

      1. I agree with you. Anon… Oh… maybe Serena Lee is referring to the “Non-Chinese” but having Chinese name and taking mandarin as a second language.

        Or she is referring to a Chinese with Chinese name (here mandarin is your mother tongue in this case) but speaking English all the time.

        Then maybe she might have difficulty in conversing using proper mandarin sentences. The result is their kids followed and mandarin becomes not important. Parent’s mother tongue language proficiency is bad and their children speaking mandarin is becoming a joke.

        Even Ang Moh/foreigners speaks mandarin better than Singaporean kids nowadays. Feel ashamed of yourself if you are a Chinese.

  2. Firstly, Chinese is supposed to be their second language. Even if the standard of Chinese will not be as high as that of English, that does not mean Chinese will only test the basics.

    Also, if people are going to complain that skills learnt in examinations are useless, that exams only get students to regurgitate facts, then parents also complain that MOE expects critical thinking skills and should get students to regurgitate facts, then what is MOE is supposed to do? Of course they would try to prepare the students for the future, and get them to exercise critical thinking…

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