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Even kindergarten students are reporting school stress—will reforms in the educational system be enough?

Alarmingly, psychologist Daniel Koh said that the youngest patient he has seen experiencing school stress was a primary school student who was having difficulty with coping with changes in kindergarten




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Singapore — Doctors in Singapore are seeing stress in younger and younger children these days, even those who are in Kindergarten, according to one psychologist. The Ministry of Education has introduced broad reforms to change this, but will these be enough to lift the load?

Daniel Koh, a psychologist from Insights Mind Centre, is quoted in a widely-published article as saying, “Children are being forced to mature too fast without the relevant foundation and reasoning power to reassure oneself.

Society does not want to allow the luxury of taking it slow.”

Alarmingly, the psychologist also said that the youngest patient he has ever seen experiencing school stress was a primary school student who was having difficulty with coping with changes in kindergarten.

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In 2016, the nation was shocked to learn that a student in Primary 5 jumped to his death on the day he was supposed to show his parents his grades. The boy was having trouble in the transition from Grade 4 to 5, it was reported, and had failed in two classes.

The year before, there had been 27 suicides among youths ages 10 through 19, the highest number in the last decade and a half.

The senior assistant director of Samaritans of Singapore, a suicide prevention group, says that during the school year’s examination times is when the group sees a spike in the number of students reaching out for help.

Throughout the globe, Singapore ranks third in the world with regards to the number of hours that students spend on homework, at 9.4 hours every week.

Lim Choon Guan of Singapore’s Institute of Mental Health said, “Over the past few years, based on my clinical experience, I have seen more teenagers who are from top schools and (sic) report experiencing school-related stress,” while admitting that this could be due to more openness in reporting.

MOE’s reforms

But the Ministry of Education has introduced reforms aimed at reducing school stress and pressure, with Education Minister saying in Parliament, “We have to balance the joy of learning and the rigour of education.”

Hopefully, these reforms will be enough to combat the problem. The article says that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has discovered that even when Singaporean students do well in school, they still experience increased levels of anxiety when it comes to their studies.

The MOE has removed certain examinations in the primary and secondary levels, as well as putting students together based on their ability for subjects such as science or math, instead of the streaming method that has come under more and more criticism.

Easing up on parental pressure

Others believe that despite changes in the educational system if parents relentlessly put pressure on their children, school stress will remain, or even get worse.

“It’s too simplistic to say that the pressure comes from the system. A lot of pressure comes from parents.

As a teacher, I hardly push my students that way. The system necessitates that from the parents,” Howard Tan, a former Singapore primary-school teacher who is now a private tutor, told South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Mr Tan told the story of one young girl whose time is completely consumed by studies.

“I have one eight-year-old student taking multiple tuition classes from multiple tutors per subject, amounting to 11 tuition sessions a week. Does she have time for anything else?”/ TISG

Read related: Is the educational system making Singapore youth anxious?

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