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Domestic CP - November 2000


Straits Times, Singapore, 21 November 2000

Caned for getting 73% in maths exam

Pressure on 9-year-old to score gives him diarrhoea and asthma attacks during exams but mother says she is doing it to ensure he succeeds in life

By Jane Ng

WHEN Jerry went home with 73 per cent for his mathematics exam, he was caned and whacked by his mother.

Not topping 85 per cent in his examinations means punishment for little Jerry, as the frayed ends of these canes testify.

He was punished all day and was not allowed to sleep until 2.30am, after he had finished his maths revision exercises.

It is little wonder then that the nine-year-old's greatest fear is sitting for his mathematics exam.

Not topping 85 per cent means punishment from his mother, a tuition teacher.

Jerry (not his real name) is so nervous during examinations that he has diarrhoea, suffers asthma attacks and breaks out in a cold sweat before and during the paper.

Sometimes it gets so bad, he cannot work out problems which are similar to those he has revised just the day before.


THE boy, from one of Singapore's top primary schools, said matter-of-factly: "I'm very scared I cannot get Band 1 (85 per cent) for all my subjects, so I have stomach aches and feel very cold during exams."

Now in Primary 3, Jerry started having adverse reactions to exams when he was in Primary 1, said his mother, Madam Lim (not her real name).

She said: "When he was in Primary 2, he sat for half an hour and stared at his mathematics examination paper and refused to start work.

"He failed and I caned him."

He was caned again recently when he got 83 per cent for science -- his favourite subject -- despite being the fourth-highest scorer in his class.

Madam Lim, 40, said she knew her son's adverse reaction to exams might be due to her relentless pressure, but said she must keep at it because she wanted him to succeed in life.

"He will have diarrhoea the night before his exams, but it will cure itself once the paper is over, so that's okay," she said.

"And his asthmatic attacks during the examination period can be controlled by medication."


MADAM Lim said she had high expectations of her son because "he was careless during the exams and he is a clever boy who has not reached his full potential".

She said: "I believe he can do better if he puts his heart to it and does more revision and practice, especially on maths."

Jerry was recently diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and is taking medication for the condition.

His exam results have since improved.

His psychiatrist, Dr Brian Yeo, said Jerry might have performed better because the medication increased his concentration span and thus boosted his confidence in examinations.

This has spurred Madam Lim to hope that Jerry will do even better in school next year.


SHE now makes him spend six hours a day on his homework during the school week.

He can play with his toys when he finishes his homework, but he is a very slow worker, according to his mother, so the play time seldom comes.

In fact, after six hours a day in school and another six hours of study at home, Jerry gets little, if any time, to indulge in childhood pursuits -- not even his favourite hobbies of collecting Pokemon cards and reading English story books.

A typical weekday will see him going to sleep at around midnight and waking up for school at 6.30am.


EVEN though it is the school holidays now, he is spending up to eight hours a day on revision and preparations for next year's school work.

Jerry has had behavioural problems in school which his mother said was due to hyperactivity. Recently, he had also taken to lying, said Madam Lim.

"He said his maths results are not out yet but he told me he dreamt he got 73 marks.

"When the results came out and he really got 73 marks, I realised he lied to me about not having got his results," Madam Lim said.

When The Straits Times asked Jerry if he told lies, he said "yes" immediately.

"I told my mother I had finished my work from the assessment book so that she'll let me play.

"Then I played until she found out I was lying.

"Then I cannot play anymore," he said.

Madam Lim said she planned to send Jerry to a psychologist to help him stop lying.

"Maybe it's my fault that he's turned out like that," she remarked sadly at one point.


BUT she made no apologies for pushing her son and vowed to keep up the pressure to ensure he is accepted into the prestigious boys' secondary school, Raffles Institution (RI).

When Jerry was asked about his mother's expectations, he said: "My mother wants me to go to RI but I don't know what that is."

Copyright 2000 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved. 

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