The removal of the all too familiar Mid Year Examinations across schools since 2022 has been the talk of the town and a contentious one at that. As with every decision made by our country’s leadership, this announcement by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on 7 March 2022 was a calculated move to usher in greater flexibility in the curriculum, allowing for “self-directed learning and developing 21st-century competencies”.

Yet, what exactly are 21st-century competencies? The Ministry of Education (MOE) lays these out as skills necessary to set our children up to thrive in a globalised, interconnected world:

  1. Civic Literacy, Global Awareness and Cross-Cultural Skills
  2. Communication, Collaboration and Information Skills
  3. Critical and Inventive Thinking

As parents, most of us easily see the merit in these 21st-century competencies and would agree these can neither be developed through repeated practice papers and exam skills courses, nor assessed using conventional written exams. Nonetheless, the removal of MYEs threw a spanner in the works of the well-oiled machine that the Singaporean education system is — a system we have all tried to help our children outsmart.

While some of us have embraced this change with open arms, others have more than valid reservations to this upheaval.

“Scrapping the MYEs breaks my girl’s momentum of preparing for exams and it’s going to be so hard to get her to pick up the pace towards the Final Year Exams.”

“Fewer exams means fewer chances to work within an exam setting under time pressure — what if my son just gets so nervous that he ends up not testing well, even though he could very well answer the same questions at home?”

“It’s so stressful not knowing how my son is performing early in the year. What if I only find out at the Final Year Exams that he’s struggling with a subject? Now he has so little time to catch up before the next school year starts.”

Some parents have even likened pop quizzes to mini heart attacks sprinkled throughout the year.

The MYEs, a summative assessment, were aimed at gauging how much a student had learned. In its place are formative assessments — these take place throughout the year and are aimed at helping students identify gaps to improve their learning. In other words, now, consistency is key.

Consistency and a love for learning starts from a young age. Little ones have minds so receptive to everything around them, their eyes filled with a wonder and spark as they soak in the world. However, where does that wonderment go by the time children hit their teens? The good news is that consistency and curiosity aren’t just the job of educators. It can be modelled within the home by the people children look up to the most — their parents.

Here are 3 categories of strategies to help our children in their pursuit of consistency.

1. Support our children in the task of learning

1a. Help our children stay organised

The biggest challenge many students face before learning even begins is getting and staying organised. Disorganisation can lead to students feeling overwhelmed, resulting in more time and effort spent being frustrated or trying to get reorganised rather than learning. Helping our children organise their school supplies, assignments, and their daily or weekly schedule can help them feel in control and more motivated to learn.

  • Provide structure and routine for their day or week. Visuals (e.g., hard copy printouts in their school bag, a timetable template on their wall or desk), and using colour coding systems may help.
  • Organise stationery using pencil cases with compartments.
  • Have study materials organised by topic / subject on their shelves; labelling the shelves may help with returning files to the right place for easy retrieval.
  • Have worksheets or topic materials filed; colour coded dividers may help.

1b. Jointly formulate a realistic study schedule with achievable short term goals to build an experience of success

Motivation wanes when we are met with failure. Similarly, motivation receives a boost at the sweet taste of success. Helping our children chip away at revision and master content in bite-sized pieces not only keeps discouragement at bay, but also helps them see themselves as successful learners. Setting small, achievable, short-term goals is a powerful, highly motivating tool in showing our children that they can achieve their goals.

1c. Incorporate ‘Distributed Practice’ within their study schedule

Distributed Practice is a well known finding in the field of psychology where interrupting practice or study time with rest intervals often enhances performance on a later memory test. For example, studying a topic for 20 minutes a day, over 3 days (i.e., distributed practice), is likely to be more effective than studying the same content for an hour at one sitting in a single day (i.e., massed practice). Theories posit that reviewing the material on separate occasions strengthens the memory trace, and consolidates or stabilises the content learnt.

1d. Practice Testing

Practice Testing, or The Testing Effect, is a term in cognitive psychology referring to the finding that taking practice tests, or any retrieval-based learning activity, on studied material subsequently promotes greater learning and retention on a final test compared to more common study strategies (e.g., restudying, rereading, highlighting). It is the act of retrieving information, as opposed to passive reading, that yields powerful benefits on learning and long-term retention.

Examples of practice testing include:

  • Completing low stakes practice tests at home prior to high stakes graded exams.
  • Answering a quiz at the end of a textbook chapter; it may be tempting to peek at the answers but do resist the temptation! Highlight the importance of trying to recall the information even if it seems difficult — working harder to remember the material forges a stronger memory for the material.
  • Writing a one-minute summary of what they’ve learnt from the day’s lesson or revision session.
  • Self-testing by trying to recall material that was just learnt. This may take the form of the 3R technique — Read-Recite-Review.
  • Read a passage in their study material.
  • Close the book and try to recite to retrieve as much of the material as they can aloud.
  • Review the passage to identify errors or gaps in their knowledge; they can then re-study effectively to fill in the gaps.

2. Making learning meaningful for our children

2a. Identify our children’s learning style

There are seven fundamental learning styles – each child may work best with a combination of styles, and to varying degrees. Being aware of our children’s learning styles may better help us devise activities that cater best to our children’s interests to reinforce their learning.

The seven learning styles are:

  1. Visual (spatial) – Using pictures, images, and spatial understanding to see patterns, relationships and connections.
  2. Aural (auditory-musical) – Strong listeners who are good at remembering things they hear.
  3. Verbal (linguistic) – Learning best through words – both spoken and written.
  4. Physical (kinesthetic) – Learning through doing, using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  5. Logical (mathematical) – A preference for using logic, reasoning and systems to problem-solve.
  6. Social (interpersonal) – A preference for learning in groups or with other people; learns best through being actively engaged with peers.
  7. Solitary (intrapersonal) – A preference to learn in solitude, likely to prefer quiet.

2b. Highlight the relevance of what our children are learning

Adults rarely pay attention to things we feel aren’t relevant to us – the same goes for children. The “expectancy-value model” of learning was developed by Eccles and colleagues. It puts forth that students are more likely to be fully engaged in school if they expect they can do well, and if they value the learning that schools provide. Helping our children see how what they’re learning is relevant to their lives helps them accord greater value to what they learn in school (as opposed to just memorising or studying content to achieve a good grade). For example, with maths and learning percentages, we might ask our children to calculate how much something they wanted to buy would cost after factoring in the current promotion of a 15% discount. This is more likely to keep them more engaged, proactive, and motivated in their learning journey.

2c. Paint the big picture

Over the course of a long school year, it may be easy to get caught up with the day-to-day that our children lose track of why they do what they do. For older children and youths who understand the concept of delayed gratification (i.e., putting in effort now only to enjoy its fruits some time down the road), we can help nudge them along by providing reminders of their long-term goals. For example, the next school, institution, or course of study that they are working towards; or their ambitions or dream jobs and the skills required to serve in those roles. Helping them build a connection between school and their long-term goals can help make their learning journey more fulfilling.

3. Modifying our perspective & Modelling our approach to learning and education

3a. Get interested, get involved

It’s not uncommon for parents to open a conversation with our children about school by asking about homework assignments, to-dos, or grades. While such discourse is a demonstration of our interest and involvement in our children’s academic career, such task-orientation may crowd out the chance to unearth what truly mattered to them in their educational experience.

Instead, encouraging open and sincere communication about what’s going on with their education and validating their feelings affirms them that their opinions matter. Reassuring them that they can be open about their educational experience without judgement can avoid having them become disengaged from the learning process. Perhaps we could ask “What was something you learnt today that you really enjoyed or found really interesting?” or “What was something that you found tricky or got stuck on today?”

3b. Build a Growth Mindset by rewarding effort instead of outcome

Stanford University educational psychologist Dr Carol Dweck introduced the influential Mindset Theory involving a “fixed” or “growth” mindset. Students with a “fixed” mindset see such traits as intelligence as immutable – they may view poor grades as a reflection of themselves lacking an innate ability to perform and lose motivation since success seems an impossibility. Meanwhile, students with a “growth” mindset delight in learning for learning’s sake and see intelligence as a flexible trait  – poor grades may be due, say, to a lack of preparation instead of poor intrinsic ability.

How can a growth mindset be built? By praising our children for their effort invested into their education, instead of focusing on inherent abilities or outcomes. This communicates to our children that actual learning is more important than test grades, and that we are more concerned about them than their performance. We could:

  • Commend our children for their perseverance when things get difficult, and that actual learning takes precedence over grades. This perspective teaches them the pleasure of pushing themselves and builds a growth mindset.
  • Instead of asking how they did on their test, ask our children to teach us about what they learnt in that subject. This can help them solidify their learning and also teaches them reflexivity and awareness – in other words, to self-evaluate their learning. This is an important metacognitive skill where children learn to identify what they don’t know – a necessary step before they can make plans as to how to fill in these gaps.

3c. Let’s not compare

Comparison is arguably the key perennial issue among Asian parents – or perhaps parents the world over. It starts even as early as infancy where we compare how quickly our children attain their developmental milestones, and the advent of social media has not helped with relieving this pressure. Unfortunately, comparing grades and scores within the classroom fixes our children’s eyes outwards, using others as a yardstick instead of themselves. Instead, we want our children to be excited and motivated by their own growth, not that of others. Growth should be ascertained by evaluating where they are now compared with where they were a week, or a month ago.

In summary, with a reduction in the emphasis on traditional summative assessments, our understanding and definitions of intelligence, a high-performing student, and academic success have been turned on its head. Perhaps, so must our mindset towards assessments and education. In Education Minister Chan Chun Sing’s words, the aim is to bring about “a cultural shift where students are intrinsically motivated to learn and worry less about comparing with others.”

Instead of trying to process how well our children are learning in school, perhaps it’s time we turn our (and their) attention to the learning process which begins first within the domain of the home. This shift in perspective for both ourselves and our children may well unleash their potential to thrive in a generation of novel challenges – the likes of which we had not seen in our time.


Adesope, O. O., Trevisan, D. A., & Sundararajan, N. (2017). Rethinking the Use of Tests: A Meta-Analysis of Practice Testing. Review of Educational Research87(3), 659–701.

Ang, H. M. (2022, March 7). Mid-year exams for all primary and secondary school levels will be removed by 2023: MOE. Channel News Asia.

Bloom, K. C., & Shuell, T. J. (1981). Effects of Massed and Distributed Practice on the Learning and Retention of Second-Language Vocabulary. The Journal of Educational Research74(4), 245–248.

Cepeda, N. J., Coburn, N., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J. T., Mozer, M. C., & Pashler, H. (2009). Optimizing distributed practice: theoretical analysis and practical implications. Experimental psychology56(4), 236–246.

Cerbin, B. (2019, November 12). Using practice testing to promote learning. Taking Learning Seriously.

Cohen, D. (2023, February 20). How to help your child get motivated in school. Child Mind Institute.

Collier, L. (2015). Grabbing students. American Psychological Association, 46(6).

Kiasu Parents. (2022, March 15). No mid-year exams from 2023: A blessing or bane for students?

Lin, A., Ettekal, A., Simpkins, S.D. (2016). Expectancy Value Models. In: Levesque, R. (eds) Encyclopedia of Adolescence. Springer, Cham.

Loveless, B. (n.d.). 12 strategies to motivate your child to learn. Education Corner.

Ministry of Education, Singapore. (n.d.). 21st Century Competencies. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from

Opolentisima, L. (2022, October 17). The 7 different learning styles (and what they are). Daily Infographic.

Shore, K. (1998). The disorganized student in The Spot (2011, December).

Teng, A. (2022, March 7). Budget debate: No more mid-year exams for all primary and secondary schools from 2023. The Straits Times.

When my child goes over to secondary school, will he/she still have friends?
My child has a certain personality. Can he / she still make friends?
Can my child make good friends of positive influences, and also be a good friend?

Here are 7 ways you can equip your child to make some friends in their new secondary 1 environment.

1. Smile, be approachable. 

During orientation period, they will be asked to play team bonding activities. Being approachable increases their chances of having that FIRST interaction with a stranger. 

2. Be the first to say “hello” and introduce yourself 

During quieter periods, instead of using their phones, get the conversation started. Say hi and introduce themselves to the person on their left and right. A simple and obvious wave into their line of sight and “Hi, I’m Chris” does the trick. You can get a group conversation going if one to one conversations may be a bit more awkward. Of course, try to remember the person’s name!

3. Equip them with conversation topics

Ask about their likes and dislikes, which school they come from, what they like to do in their free time. Any shows or games they play. Share, and give the other person a time to share

4. Show interest and ask questions 

Deepen conversations by asking questions about the other person. Was it fun? What did you do there? Who did you go with?

5. Be open to doing activities with others

Let people see that you’re genuinely interested to be a part in this new class environment. Whenever the opportunity arises, share your strengths with others

6. Identify bullying and not take part in it

Know the fine line between making a joke and bullying. Realise that their actions will affect others. Do not take part in bullying and raise it up if necessary.

7. Be courageous to say “no” 

Though friends are important, doing what’s right is important too. If your child meets others who do things that makes him/her uncomfortable, be willing to say no. If it means having to find other friends, it will be a tough but worthy decision. While you may not “helicopter” over your child, equip them with the skill to recognise good and bad influences.

All in all, do help your child realise that everyone is different. If they want to attract friends, they have to be a friend themselves. As they display characteristics of friends they want to have, those with similar characteristics will be attracted to them.

Finally, in any environment they go, with anyone they interact with. They must learn to work with others. There will be instances they interact with people they don’t get along with. In their CCAs, group projects, and other experiences. They don’t have to love them, but they must be able to work with them.

Congratulations on your child’s progression to secondary school! Some of us may dread it, but it is a sign that your child is growing up! From our 23 years of experience conducting transitional programmes with secondary 1 students, here are some things we believe will be useful in understanding and interacting with your child in this phase of life.

There are TWO major changes a child will be facing when transitioning to secondary school, which may affect how we change our interactions with them.

  1. Change in physical environment
  2. Change in development stage (cognitive, social, emotional)


Change in Physical Environment

Youths their age are most sensitive to visual and physical changes. A change in school can be quite abrupt, especially when they are suddenly entering a new environment. From being the oldest in the school to being the youngest. Meeting people they have never met before. From “primary” to “secondary”. All these signifies that they are growing up. These may have an affect their mindsets, and social-emotional well-being.

Change in development stage

Youths are constantly maturing. Over time, you will see growth in their physical, cognitive, social and emotional domains. These may also affect how we want to interact with them. 

Physical: They are more cautious of how they look, wanting to look good in front of their peers. They may be more self-conscious of their body image.

Cognitive: Youths begin to have stronger opinions and look for information from other sources, rather than their usual few.

Social: Youths are not afraid to be away from family and may sought to seek peer recognition. They begin to develop curiosity about the opposite gender.

Emotional: Youths begin to ask “who am I” and form their self-concept. They like to see success and take part in activities they are good in. How has their most recent milestone (PSLE) affected their self-concept?

How do these change the way I interact with my child?

Increase Independence & Autonomy

With the “I have grown up” mindset, youths like they’re in control of their day to day activities. What they do after school, who they hang out with, what they eat, what time they arrive home, mobile phone usage, how much I study. While these may seem to us like a loss of control, they provide very good opportunities to talk about decision making and the consequences that come with different decisions they make. 

What we can do as parents is to have a conversation with them to set boundaries and determine their play area. Some examples include: family dinner each day at 7pm, areas they are allowed to go, expectations of behaviours and academic results in school. 

While there’s autonomy, also instill accountability

Help youths to realise the difference between necessity and privilege. A mobile phone may be a necessity. A smartphone with Instagram, Tiktok, games is a privilege. Friends and social interactions may be a necessity. Staying out late is a privilege. If youths want more privileges, they will need to show that they can be trusted and accountable for it. When they do not meet up to certain expectations, privileges will change. 

While interacting with my youths, I’ve seen those who have total free reign of their mobile device. Others are “protected” from downloading new apps and making purchases. Some experience regular phone and message checks. In this new phase of your child’s life, your style will be something you are comfortable with, and yet encourages your child to take ownership for their decisions.


Build a Trusting Environment which fosters Communication

As youths look toward their friends, and less toward their family, we want to ensure they know that there is always a place they can turn to. A place that is open, non-judgemental, loving, forgiving and nurturing.

Be quick to love, slow to judge

While we give our child autonomy, expect that they will make bad decisions and face consequences. But that is when they learn most. In our daily interactions with them, we may feel tempted to give them closed-ended responses: yes or no, right or wrong, can or cannot. We may even tell them the answers to all their questions. As they develop cognitively, they are also developing their values system. Help them to PROCESS situations by asking these questions

  • What did you do? What made me want to do it? How did it make me feel?
  • Who do my actions affect? How did it affect them? How did it make them feel? Why do you think he/she would do that? 

As we ask these questions, youths will develop the habit innately. Understanding why a decision was made, they will also catch on to the values that we believe in. We show them that we still love them even though they made a mistake.

The child is exposed to news from all around. Even in our day to day interactions, you help them to process information in an open and safe environment. This sends a message to them that there’s always room for conversations.


Communicate, communicate, communicate

I remember conducting a programme in a school and it was break time. Students were playing on their mobile devices and the sound effects were at the highest volume. A teacher came in to give them instructions which went like this “Ok, I know you guys are playing your games and you can’t stop halfway. But I have a very important announcement. You can continue, but please make sure you listen”. Immediately, the students turned off the volume from their mobile devices and listened attentively

Another instance was when we had a short 5 minutes toilet break and students were asking if they could use their phones. We came to an agreement that they could use their mobile devices but will keep them once the time is up. Knowing that, students played practise games rather than ranked games which would affect their in-game progress. When time was up, students willingly put their devices into their bags, and it was easy to get started again.

Youths their age appreciate when you have considered their situation. The importance of the game they are playing. The friendships that they have made. They also like to have a say in what they do. While we do not give them total free reign, it’s important to communicate boundaries and circumstances with them. They will be willing to meet halfway and come to common agreements.


Youths their age want their independence., yet they still need help in many different areas. The way we interact with them can also transition to a secondary school “mode” where grey area increases bit by bit. Rather than throwing them a yes or no, provide 3 options for them to choose from. This is a controlled environment for them to learn the skill of decision making. Help them to understand the decisions made according to different CONTEXTS and situations. This brings them to a higher order of thinking and thought maturity.

I hope these will help you and your child transition from Primary to Secondary school successfully.

When was the last time you spent 24 hours of your day with your spouse or your children? This pandemic has made that a reality, for all of us.

In the beginning of this circuit breaker, some of us rejoiced at the time we would get to spend with our families, especially our children. 4 weeks in, not so much.

Research has shown that this quarantine can mess up our emotions. Losing our sense of routine, replaced with feelings of being trapped. Sparking boredom, frustration, irritability, loneliness, stress or even anger.

The fact that we are home all the time, unable to grab a coffee with a friend, go to the gym or have our favourite bubble tea, or any of our usual forms of release, only magnifies our internal tension. As adults, though we are capable of self-control, we still struggle with not letting our emotions take over our actions and words. More often than not, they sometimes spill over in our interactions with the people who are closest to us.

In the same way, our children are experiencing the same emotions as us, except that they may not be able to articulate or as effectively manage what they are feeling.

They are able to understand tangible realities like the fact that they cannot see their friends anymore, that the number of COVID-19 cases are rising each day, that they cannot buy their favourite food or snacks, the change in the way they have to learn. These external influences put a demand on their emotional well-being and could lead to anxiety.

Their self-awareness has not fully developed yet, which means that they do not entirely understand their emotional response to these realities; what they are feeling or why they are feeling it. This may result in behaviour that we do not expect, or have never seen previously.

It could look like your child crying over things that usually would not affect them, seemingly minor incidents, like losing a game they were playing, or that their pencil is not sharp enough. Perhaps they get easily irritated when someone is speaking too loudly in the house. When you ask a simple question like, “what are you doing?”, they react as if you are interrogating. Maybe they spend long periods of time in their room without interacting with you. They do things to provoke their siblings more often, or become fussier with what they will and will not eat. They follow you around wherever you go, or they ask way too many questions that they expect you to answer even when you are visibly busy.

In response, we sometimes hear ourselves say, “why are you so nice to your friends but with me you are…”. The truth is, when our children act up, show a tantrum, lash out or are rude to us, it also signals to us that they feel comfortable and safe to show that side of themselves to you. It may not always be a bad thing for them to express their negative emotions.

As parents, we do our best to understand our children’s’ behaviour, because we want to help them. Sometimes we are unable to do much because we do not know how to approach them, or they do not know how to respond to us.

We might even find ourselves in a vicious cycle where their anger triggers our own, and we end up in an escalating shouting match.

This does not have to be the case. When we respond in a way that they do not expect, we throw in a circuit breaker. Much like how the COVID-19 CB has disrupted our lives, this circuit breaker disrupts the potential heated argument, and turns it into teachable moments for our children.

In order to help you facilitate these conversations with your children, whether it is to build your relationship with them, or to help them navigate their thoughts and feelings, here are some tools that you can use to communicate better with them:


When speaking to your children, especially about things that are more personal, like their feelings, it is necessary that they feel safe to share them with you.

If you scolded them for something they did or got frustrated with them, it is alright to not rectify it at that moment. When our emotions are high, we are not in a state to listen to anybody. As parents, we have nuggets of wisdom to share with our children so that they can become the best versions of themselves.

However, when they are emotionally frustrated or hurt, that wisdom is short changed because they are not ready to listen. Anything that we say can come off as a personal attack to them or taken out of context.

What matters is that we create a safe space: calm, dessert (optional but preferable), conversation friendly.

Remind them that there is no correct or wrong answer. It is a time and space where you and your child can be vulnerable and not be judged for it.

As they share, we should bite our tongue and avoid commenting on what they are sharing. With every word they share, they are also testing the boundary to see how much they can open up or how much they should hold back. When we respond too quickly without allowing them to finish, they may not feel like they can be honest with you.

Most importantly, we should keep to our word and not let our objections show, or act defensive, especially if their sharing may imply something negative about us. It is not a time to point out their flaws or find fault. It is a time where we seek to understand them better.


After we have created a safe space for them, they will begin sharing what they are feeling and going through. It is not easy for them or anyone to share things that we are not proud of or things that make us feel small or think negatively about ourselves. When they make themselves vulnerable, do validate their feelings.

Phrases that echo what they are feeling like, “that must have been very difficult for you to go through” or “it must have been very frustrating when that happened”, gives them the confidence to share more.

Affirm them for being brave enough to share. Listen to what they are saying. When we acknowledge and validate their feelings, we help to build their self-esteem. We empower them to accept both their positive and negative feelings, and to not always act on it. Instead of judging with the benefit of hindsight, how they could have handled the situation better, help them see that it is okay to err, and they do not have to be afraid to try again.


Questions like “how are you feeling about this circuit breaker” or “why are you behaving this way”, can be loaded questions that will lead to silence or your children shutting you out. One way to help them open up, is by starting with simple questions like:

Check-In at the start of the day: What is 1 thing you want to do today? It can be anything they want to accomplish for themselves, not what you expect them to do.

Check-Out at the end of the day: what is 1 win we want to celebrate?

You may get one word answers like, “nothing” or a blank stare. Do not be disheartened. Perhaps you can model the way and share first. Or perhaps find a different tack: “What is 1 fruit that would describe how your day went?”

Help them to recognise the small wins in their day. Simple questions like these are light and easy for them to respond to. When they feel comfortable sharing the small things, it allows you to build towards sharing something deeper later on.


For some of us, we may not be comfortable with verbal communication. Another method that we could try is writing down our thoughts and feelings. You could set aside one notebook for the family to write anything that they would like to share, but may not be comfortable saying it face to face. You may also ask each member of the family to have their own notebook, where they could write about different things each day, and let each other read about it. Things like:

  • One thing that made me frustrated
  • One thing that was exciting
  • One thing that I am grateful for
  • Something I read or heard that made me smile
  • A song that was stuck in my head today

Remember that this is not a composition exercise and that you do not need to correct spelling and grammar as you read their journal entries.  


Sometimes, speaking or writing may not be the best medium to express themselves. They may not be able to find the right words to describe how they are feeling. Consider using doodles as a form of expression instead. Before the day begins or when the day ends, you could spend 5 minutes with them drawing a picture that describes how each of your day was like.

If they feel that they are not good at drawing, let them google images, use magazines or even newspaper cut-outs to make collages that can help describe their day.

You could also prompt them to explain what they put together with neutral questions like, “could you share with me what this is over here?” and “what is so special about it that you chose to add it into your picture?”.


This could be the source for the roller coaster of emotions we all have been feeling. Our children have the access to the same information that we have. However, most of their news sources are often sensationalised versions they encounter on their social media pages. Speaking to an informed adult could help them have an accurate idea of what is really happening outside of your home.

You could begin with asking them these questions:

  • What’s the funniest piece of news you have heard about Covid-19?
  • What are your friends doing during the circuit breaker? Are they bored at home?
  • What do you like about this circuit breaker?
  • Is there anything that bothers you about this Covid-19 situation?
  • What is the first thing you want to do when this ends?

If you have no idea where to start, perhaps start from the bigger picture – what is going on around the world, how are their friends doing – and then zoom into asking them about how they feel. Be prepared to share your thoughts too. Keep it light-hearted and see where the conversation takes you. This is the first step into talking about other external events that could affect us in the future.


It is needful for us to recognise that communication with our children, whether as toddlers or teenagers, is a process of building bridges. It does not happen overnight. The key thing to remember about these suggestions is that they are ways to create opportunities to reach out to your child, especially when they are struggling to process and understand what is going on around them.

It is about finding different ways for them to respond to you and remember that no matter what situation they find themselves in, you are someone whom they can feel safe enough to confide in and grow with.

It is not easy but know that even if they do not respond in the way you expect them to, they do recognise that you are trying and are doing something different. Sometimes, it just takes them some time to process and respond back. Remember that every time you try, you are building the foundations of stronger communication between you and your child.

This COVID-19 situation will pass, but the connections that you are building today will last.

Humans are social creatures. Early and middle teens are an important period of social development. It is during this time that teens start forming defining relationships that their identity is based upon. This period of development is observable through the stark contrast in behaviour of the lower secondary students, compared with the upper secondary ones. Where upper secondary students are more likely to heed the opinion of their peers, rather than their elders, as compared to the reverse, with lower secondary students.

During this circuit breaker, students are restricted from physical interactions with their peers. And it is during these physical interactions where social ability develops the most, where you get to experience the other person’s physical feedback and emotions. Doubtlessly, the COVID-19 situation would have a detrimental effect on the students’ social development. Here is where technology can help.

When social technologies first came about 15 years ago, they allowed for a massive expansion of an individual’s social network. They also received flak for being shallow and superficial. The current crisis has brought forth the importance of exploring new technologies, harnessing the potential good, while avoiding the pitfalls. In this article, we shall find out how new technologies can humanise digital pedagogy and deepen social networks. Building strong and resilient relationships online, and maybe even offline.


1. Let them develop their own voice and opinions

While many online tools allow teachers to easily release content and create a “playlist” for students’ learning, these are tools for “learning mass production” with a very one-way learning experience.

This time of home-based learning (HBL) where independence and learning alone (physically) is required, reduces the pressure on students to conform to norms and group-think. Whereas in class, they may be swayed by others for fear of being left out. Allowing opportunities to raise their thoughts in a safe environment gives students time to develop their own opinions. It could be in the form of a video upload, creative writing or debate where they need not fear of being judged.

In this manner, you promote participation, logical thinking and opinion forming. These critical thinking skills will prove useful to increase students’ level of learning and give higher order answers in open-ended essay questions.


2. Create opportunities for dialogue and discourse

A major argument against social media is the superficial interactions that take place. Video conferencing tools serve as a good platform, with quality facilitation, to turn it into a much deeper level of social interaction. Focus not only on the decision itself, but also on the thought process behind it.

During a live class, you can use polls on Zoom to gather initial thoughts before asking students to share about how they made that decision. You can also ask students to submit their thoughts before a class before displaying results during a live session. Also, consider breakout rooms for groups to come to a common consensus before sharing their decisions.

This is especially important for youths of this age group who are transitioning away from self-focused beliefs. As youth developers, we need to develop empathy in students and help them realise that other people matter too. The respect required to listen and acknowledge others’ point of view, even if they may disagree with it. And finally to practise “give and take”, to meet somewhere in between. This is a life skill important to develop as adults, and necessary to begin now.

Values are not taught, they are caught

This shared experience in dialogue and discourse, together with the decision making process shape the values of your students. The way you facilitate conversations and respect their opinions serve as a moral example. When you practise such values openly, students pick it up and naturally bring them to class. 


3. Build skills for metacognition 

In a time when learning pedagogies are being challenged, everyone is asking what it takes to truly learn: even independent self-learning. What environment, methods and processes can create a productive environment for learning.

Even as students go through this experience, they will definitely compare it against classes in school. Instead of comparing experiences and complaining, switch it to help students realise what factors in each scenario helped them to learn better. Understanding the contexts and factors in their learning help students build awareness of 

  • What they are thinking
  • How they express that thought

Help them learn about how they learn, and their limitations. Following which, find ways to overcome their limitations. Recreate these factors to maximise their learning effectiveness or complement students with each other.

Some of the factors include

Content Type Theoretical & abstract Logical, step-by-step
Exam question type Weighing & taking a stand Factual, step-by-step
Way I learn Tell me what to do
(follow the steps then understand why)
Tell me why I do it
(understand why then follow the steps)
Where I learn Large room
With background noise
Small room
Who I learn with With friends to “pressure” me Alone
Focus best with what type of work
and at what time
Innovative, require a level of thought:
Before lunch time
Routine, step-by-step:

Recognising that students have different strengths in learning different subjects and how they learn, these open doors for collaborative learning in the classroom. You would probably have heard students studying together while video conferencing. They already set the foundation for promoting peer-sharing and peer-teaching. These help to build a nurturing and collaborative environment which promotes a team mentality.

These practices may seem difficult, awkward and bumpy to start. Keep at it! For when these seeds are sown, they remain strongly rooted.


So, it has been a week since the beginning of Home-based Learning (HBL) and I am not going to lie, it feels like it has been a month. This is unchartered territory for many families having to juggle their own job responsibilities as well as their children’s learning.

Some children have eased into the process and can be left alone to focus on their work. Others may require more guidance and consistent check-ins to ensure that they are not distracted, they know what is going on in their lessons and they are on task. It is no easy feat having to now be accountable for your child’s learning on top of taking care of other priorities within your homes.

The good news is that learning from home is not a new concept and there are experienced parents who have been sharing tips and strategies to help with your child so that you can take the time to focus on your own work commitments. Here are the top 4 secrets that have been shared to help you facilitate independent learning at home to ease your load.

1. Gear them up for learning

All successful people have warm-up routines. Charles Dickens ensured he was awake at sunrise and had breakfast at 8am. Jennifer Aniston wakes up at 430am daily, has a cup of hot water with lemon, washes her face and meditates for 20 minutes. Barack Obama ensures he does strength training or cardio as soon as he gets up. These routines inform the brain and tell us that our day has started, that it is time to get to work. Curate a warm-up routine for your child;

  • Wake up at the same time
  • Take a shower, put on your uniform, comb their hair
  • Have breakfast
  • Play an energiser with them (e.g. keep a ball in the air for as long as you can, play a hype song and jump to the beat, play thumb wars with them)

Let them feel like they are getting ready for something. You do not need special equipment to do this! Be creative, find what works for you and your children.

  • Play a game that gets them thinking (e.g. Name nouns that begin with all the letters of the alphabet, solve a riddle together, etc.)
  • Doodle what they want to do for the day or how they are feeling
  • Listen to classical music
  • Write as many questions as they can think of in 3 minutes

Just like how athletes stretch to warm up their muscles, warm their brain up before learning begins. Try doing little things that would help them kickstart their brain activity.

  • Reflect on a memory that they have had where they felt like they achieved success
  • Smiling exercise: Relax your face muscles. Slowly smile as wide as you can and feel your eyebrows move upwards. Hold the expression for 20 seconds.

Help them start their day right by achieving optimum levels of excitement. These simple things help to evoke positive emotions within them. When their mood is high and they feel great about their day, they will be more willing to take on any task in front of them – including school.

2. Prepare the workspace

All our homes are different. We do not necessarily have enough work desks for both parents and children. Apart from having a good desk space and chair, here are 2 guidelines that we can keep with us to ensure an effective workspace for our children.

Differentiation – your child’s ability to recognise the space as a space to work. It can be as simple as 
  • changing the arrangement of their table during school time and arranging it back during non-school time. 
  • Putting up pictures or images that they might see when they are in school.
  • Making a sign with them that says, “Joshua’s Learning Space”. 

Your child needs to be able to differentiate the space physically and psychologically. Supporting their understanding of the difference with these physical tweaks help to reinforce a more task-oriented behaviour. When they can separate their home space from their learning space, the transition from home behaviour to school behaviour becomes smoother.

Focus Mode – a mode that limits interruption from distraction or family members

You know how in radio stations, once they go live, they turn on a lighted sign that says, “On Air”? When anyone sees it, they know that they must be quieter and not interrupt the session. In the same way, you can create a system with your family.

  • Make your own “On Air” sign. Put your own spin on it like “learning in progress” or “studying now, I’ll call you later”
  • Set designated times when your child should not be disturbed or even when you should not be disturbed
  • Use physical cues like when you have headphones on, it means that you are focusing and should not be interrupted. 
  • Decide when they can use their phones or have a snack 

Setting agreements and boundaries like this with your family can help them recognise how their actions can affect another person as well as create mutual respect for everyone’s working time.

3. Set Micro Goals for The Day

It is a tall order to ask a child to sit still and do their work for 4 hours without any type of break. They are still figuring out their sense of time and it will feel like forever to them. Setting smaller checkpoints for them throughout their learning day can help curb questions like “what time is recess?”, “what is for lunch?”, “when can I play Roblox?”.

  • Work out their schedule of the day with them and identify break times. 
  • Share the menu for the day so they have something to look forward to. 
  • Ask them what are some things that they would want to do for the day – a walk in the park, some Netflix time, gaming time, etc. – and see how you can fit them into their day’s plan. 
  • Create a challenge for the day that they can do anytime they choose like doing something nice for your brother or smiling when you see anyone today. 

When you make this a conversation, instead of something that is dictated to them, you allow them to take responsibility for their learning and feel more invested in their day. What begins as an overwhelming 4-hour learning session becomes broken down into smaller chunks of focus time interspersed with relaxation time.

4. Plan Purposeful Breaks

Breaks are meant to refresh their minds before they enter a new cycle of concentration for another subject or task. Breaks do not necessarily have to be just lying down or phone time. A common problem children face is headaches from prolonged screen time. 

  • Use their breaks as a chance to rest their eyes by staring out into greenery or looking into the distance. 
  • Do a short physical exercise to get their blood pumping to their brains.
  •  Invite them to prepare a snack with you. 

Simply doing an alternative activity is enough to reset their focus before going in for another lesson. You can coordinate their breaks with your own work schedule or with their siblings for a quick catch-up before everyone heads back to work again. Breaks are perfect opportunities to make sure they are ready to absorb new content each time they go back to their lessons.

Most of all, TAKE IT EASY…

Give yourself a break. It has been 2 weeks. We are all still trying to find the best combination of methods and habits to help get our families through this new way of life. We want the best for our children and it can seem daunting to coordinate all these different things to support your children. That’s why focusing on little tweaks to our daily habits can help set your children up for success each day. 

At the same time, give them a break too. This circuit breaker is a transition that can be difficult for them to navigate. You may not see them become completely independent overnight but 5 extra minutes of uninterrupted time each day is still a win. Recognise that they too are trying through positive reinforcement or affirmation. “Thank you for helping to put your cup in the sink” or “Good job for finishing up you assigned tasks today!” can go a long way in helping them feel more positively towards learning and shaping them to be independent learners.

We are almost at the end of Week 2. There is still 2 weeks to go. We’re halfway there. Stay Safe, Stay Healthy.

Teachers were surprised, and forced to be creative when home-based learning was announced. They had to adopt new and different technologies, methodologies, and pedagogies, all of which will change the way they teach forever

Now, there is an increased emphasis on learning independently and effectively. Teachers are facing tension between delivering content efficiently and trying to do so without coming across as uncaring and aloof to the students’ learning experience.

What can teachers do to build a positive learning environment amidst this period of drastic change?

The HEART strategy by Harvard Business Review (Waldron and Wetherbe, 2020), provides a framework that answers these problems. Providing teachers with a way to connect and care for their students, while delivering the content and teaching they need to.

It’s simple to exercise, and requires only a little effort. It will even help when times go back to normal.


Humanise your classes

This is the first time your students are spending more time at home with their family. You may want to begin by empathising with how they may be feeling, especially at their age where they place higher emphasis on social relationships than on family. You would have heard students saying phrases like “It’s so boring at home”, “I will miss you so much” to each other on the last day of school.

While deliverables are important, how students feel while going through it is just as important. The attitude they form now towards learning, shapes how they learn when they’re back in class.

Consider setting 10-15 minutes aside each week to talk about how their learning experience has been and how you can help to support them. Give some motivation through a story or a quote to know that you are with them along this journey too. 


Educate them on how to interact with you

Share with students about the constraints that you may face. They usually seem to complain a lot but they are not people without empathy. Sharing circumstances and constraints open avenues for students to problem solve with you. You never know what they have to offer.

You can also encourage them to take the initiative and search for resources which may teach the content better. A collaborative community can be built around learning.


Assure stability

Students buy into you as a person before they buy into what you teach them. Your uniqueness as a person makes you a very special teacher. As someone who’s detail-oriented and always ensuring that students fully understand the intricate steps, or as an inclusive teacher who seeks to involve even the quietest student. “Continue to provide the things they have come to know and love”. You don’t change, even if the environment is changing. These are the very reasons they love you as a teacher.


Revolutionise what your students value about you

Change is the only constant, and change gives rise to opportunities for innovation. Previously, we might have focused on delivering content. In this time while they’re stuck at home, what can we teach students about life skills? Give them tips on developing discipline to sit and learn effectively in the home environment they’re in. Overcome procrastination. How to focus and get onto the “zone”?They may even be seeking advice on how to interact with their family members for such long periods of time. How to enjoy silence and peace and even learning a new skill.

Show them how these life skills stay with them forever and will be useful wherever they go. Share a part of your life, you are deepening relationships with them even through a screen.


Tackle the future

Give certainty to your students. Let them know the long and short term goals in the pipeline and the strategies towards it. You’re priming their minds for future tasks and actions. 

Show them what plans you have to make the next month more enjoyable. Be willing to change and improve the way you teach now and even after this whole pandemic is over. These improvements now inspire confidence and let your students know that you’ve got it in control. Show that you’re responding, not reacting.



“They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – John Maxwell.

One of the strongest factors motivating students’ learning is their personal relationship with their teacher. Students don’t wish to disappoint a teacher who puts so much effort to care for and help them. 

With these communication and interaction strategies, you can even emerge from the crisis with much stronger relationships with your students.

Build on your relationships and you can build their learning.



With the pressure to do well in school or to do well at work, it is inevitable that stress sometimes creeps up on us. While pressure may not be a bad thing, stress is very unpleasant, and can have detrimental effects on your overall well-being as well. Thus, below are some practical tips on how you can combat stress when it comes your way!

  1. Eat Well

Well-balanced meals as well as eating right amounts help to ensure that your body feels good, allowing your mind to feel good as well. However, it is important to make sure that you do not overeat as well.

2. Set SMART Goals

Set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based. Planning and working smart helps you accomplish tasks more efficiently and effectively, and is a useful skill to have!

3. Take Breaks

Always ensure that you give your body and your mind time to to rest! Take out some time to spend time with friend or do something that you enjoy and relaxes you. With a refreshed state of mind, you will be able to be more productive and effective in your work as well.

4. Take an intentional pause when things get too overwhelming

Sometimes it can be hard to find the time to take a proper break, and the thought of doing so might cause us to feel even more anxious, especially when it feels like time is running out. In this case, it is important to pace yourself and manage your stress levels. However, things can sometimes get a bit too crazy without us realising it, and before we know it, we’re overwhelmed. When this happens, take a deliberate pause. Take a deep breath and count to ten before taking further action. This pause actually evokes a calming effect and can help you to rationalise your situation before proceeding with what you should or can do next.

5. Understand What Causes You To Be Stressed

There can be many underlying causes behind why people get stressed. For some, it may be self imposed expectations that they feel the need to meet, while for others it may be the fear of disappointing the people around them should they fail to accomplish certain tasks. Figure out what it is that stresses you out and what you can do to work around it!

At the end of the day, there are many contributing factors that can lead to the build up of stress and it is very easy to fall prey to it. However, there are many steps that we can take to take better care of our minds and bodies so as to thrive in the world today.

Most importantly, recognise if you need more help. If issues escalate and you feel like you are struggling to handle it by yourself, please seek professional help and talk to certified psychologists or counsellors.

Attitudes are a powerful determinant of whether you are a successful person or not.

What attitude you carry is demonstrated in your behaviour. If you choose to believe that you are capable of achieving your goals and reaching your dreams, naturally your actions would reflect that. Conversely, if you hold on to the belief that you are not good enough or that you are not worthy, you may find yourself giving up more easily and being unconvinced that there is a point in continuing to try.

Your attitude also determines your outcome. You may not be able to change you circumstances, but you are able to change your attitude on the situation. Are you going to continue moping because something bad happened, or are you going to adopt a positive attitude and choose happiness instead of prolonged grief?

An undergraduate psychology textbook defines attitude as:

“Positive or negative evaluations or beliefs held about something that in turn may affect one’s behaviour; attitudes are typically broken down into cognitive, affective and behaviour components.“

Cognitive attitudes have to do with understanding and knowledge of a certain thing or situation, affective refers to attitudes that stem your emotions and feelings while behaviour points to how you would naturally react when you come across a specific situation.

Thus, our attitudes can vary widely and can be influenced by many factors.

However, we are not passive agents in this, and have a say in what attitudes we choose to adopt in our lives.

So how do we improve our attitudes?

1. Affirm yourself

Do this multiple times a day, every day. Look at yourself in front of the mirror and tell yourself the positive attributes that you have. This serves to fuel your subconscious with positive thinking, which will in turn trigger positive feelings that will influence your actions.

2. Know what motivates you

What are some of the things that will make you take action and make change? Know them, and use them to your advantage.

3. Visualise what you want to achieve

Envisioning yourself at the place you want to be motivates you and helps to improve your attitude as you continue pressing on to reach your end goal.

4. Be intentional with your actions

Always act with a purpose and be conscious of what that purpose is. Does it value add to you and help you reach or goals? Or is it aimless and a waste of time.

5. Understand that you do not always have to be right

Life becomes a lot easier when you come to terms with the fact that it’s okay to give in sometimes. Sometimes there is no point in arguing, especially if the other party cares more about who is right rather than what is right.


Besides the health benefits of exercise, it releases endorphins that help you to feel good, moving you towards a more positive and motivated frame of mind. Exercise also causes you to feel better physically. It can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude when you don’t feel your best physically.

Why not start applying these tips to your life? You don’t have to be worried about mastering all of these immediately, start small and start seeing the change in the way you face life.


Parkany, E., Gallagher, R., & Viveiros, P. (2004). Are attitudes important in travel choice?. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (1894), 127-139.

Photo by Akil Mazumder from Pexels

Having the right mindset is extremely important for success as it shapes the way that you approach and live your life.

Be it in your personal or professional spheres, the type of mindset that you have will play a part in how your life pans out.

Types of Mindsets

Generally, there are two types of mindsets that prevail, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

The difference between the two is that a growth mindset sees a challenge and thinks “Wow! An opportunity to try and learn something new!” whereas a fixed mindset on the other hand thinks “I’ve tried and failed before, nothing is going to change…”

Whichever one of these two mindsets that we carry then influences our behaviour and how we interact with and perceive the successes and failures in our lives.

Obviously the ideal is to have a growth mindset, which is essentially believing that you have the capacity to grow.

Research by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck found that the growth mindset “creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.”

An individual with a growth mindset is not afraid to take on challenges, and sees failure as a window to grow and expand on their existing abilities, rather than as a signifier of their incompetency.

With a fixed mindset, people are likely to be afraid to fail, as they would see it as exposing their weaknesses and inadequacies. In turn, this can lead to them being afraid to try new out new things as well, as they remain stagnant in those areas.

Research by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck found that the growth mindset “creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.”

This affects the level of satisfaction and happiness that you would feel as well.

Challenges are inevitable, and will surface in all areas of our life, be it school, work, or even in our personal lives. So how then would you want to approach them? Do you want to work towards growing and making it better for yourself, or are you just going to settle for how things are.

Ultimately, those with a growth mindset are likely to reach higher levels of achievement while those with a fixed mindset may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.

Growth Mindset in Practice

So how then do you develop a growth mindset?

1. Embrace failures and imperfections
Instead of being ashamed of them, allow yourself to acknowledge and accept them. Learn from your mistakes and try again

2. Try a different method
What worked in the past may not always work again. What worked for someone else may not work for you. Don’t be afraid to switch things up and try another method.

3. Alter your perspective
Indeed challenges can be tough, however, it is important to see them as opportunities for self-improvement. Yes, it can be tough trying to overcome a certain thing, but when it’s done, you’ll come out of it stronger and having learnt something new.

4. Value the journey over the end product
Enjoy the learning process and actually learn! Don’t just focus on trying to get to the end, but be present throughout the journey.

5. Emphasise learning well over learning fast
Sometimes we just want to get things over and done with. However, we are robbing ourselves of the knowledge that could have been gained in the process. Learn well, and sometimes that means allowing yourself to make mistakes as well.

Implement these practices into your life and take ownership of your mindset.