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Memories: The Amazing PSLE Race

Each year, 12-year-old homeschoolers in Singapore are mandated by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to pass a national test called the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) at the 33rd percentile of their public-schooled counterparts. It is a hurdle that often causes much anxiety amongst parents and children alike across the country. 

Inspired by the American adventure reality game show The Amazing Race, a group of homeschooling mothers launched their very own “Amazing PSLE Race” series in October 2019.

It aimed at homeschooled students in Primary Five and Six, as a fun and novel way for the kids to take a break from test preparations, while at the same time, apply their knowledge of the MOE syllabus (mainly Math, Science and English, and occasionally Chinese), problem-solving skills and teamwork in a game setting. Younger siblings in Primary Four were welcomed to join too.

The objective of the Amazing PSLE Race was three-fold:

  1. To develop happy kids through fun learning
  2. To have rested parents who shared the load with their children
  3. To build a community that grew together

Each race focused on a geographical area or theme to dovetail with MOE’s National Education requirement for homeschoolers, which intended to foster a sense of national and cultural identity in the young. 

Pre-race briefing before setting off.
(Image credit: Shirin Tan)

Races were held on Monday afternoons over a three-hour period from 2pm to 5pm, comprising four to seven predetermined teams of three students. Teams were given “passports” in a grid form, outlining several “stations” of tasks that they had to complete in the shortest time. The time limit at each station was 10 minutes.

Logistics were fairly straightforward with simple materials required of the child, such as a water bottle, umbrella (in case it rained), EZ-Link card (for public transport), stationery (including geometry set and calculator), notebook, and a smartphone or digital camera. 

The game was originally meant to be a monthly event before plans were stymied by the circuit breaker in April 2020. By then, four episodes had been successfully organized and executed by different volunteers across various parts of the island: 

  1. Central National Library (14 October 2019 | Dawn Fung)
  2. North-East Line (25 November 2019 | Dawn Fung) 
  3. Downtown Heritage (30 December 2020 | Elaine Eo)
  4. Charming Chinatown (20 January 2020 | Kay Zhao)

Episode 1: Central National Library 

Image credit: Nathaniel Yeo on Unsplash

The inaugural run saw four teams of three covering 10 stations around the Central National Library and National Design Centre. The team that completed everything in the shortest time won.

Topics at each station included the following as well as questions from past PSLE papers: 

  • Math: square roots, area and perimeter of circles, triangles and four-sided figures, sum of common factors, percentages, fractions, averages, angles, algebra
  • Science: animal classification, water cycle, plant cells, animal cells, interaction of forces, light sources, flower structures
  • English: oral presentation, oral exercises, synonyms, narration, editing for spelling
One of the moms getting creative with infusing the Amazing Race elements into the PSLE Race.
(Image credit: Kalsum Harun)

Episode 2: North-East Line 

(Image credit: Strangers in SG on WordPress)

Allowing students to navigate the North-East Line independently, seven teams of three started off at different parts of Compass One shopping mall in Sengkang, and had to chart their own routes towards the same final destination.

Their mission was to complete six out of nine stations of activities: three were compulsory and the other three were up to participants to decide. Each team was given different topic hints pertaining to questions in English, Math and Science. Collaborative teams would have a leg up if they communicated with each other, while the more competitive teams would have only realised it at the end of the race.

Topics covered across the nine stations included: 

  • Math: percentages, decimals, ratios, rates, area of triangles, angles, fractions, averages, volume of cube and cuboid
  • Science: cycles in matter and water, cell systems, energy conversion, human systems, plant systems, electrical systems, interaction of forces, interactions within environments, energy forms and uses
  • English: picture conversion, writing, visual texts, vocabulary, comprehension, editing for spelling, cloze passage, synthesis, grammar  
Mums volunteering at the stations were given the latitude to issue “lifelines” based on the nature of the questions set.
(Image credit: Shirin Tan)

Episode 3: Downtown Heritage 

(Image credit: Lucas T. on Unsplash)

Designed to educate students on heritage sites in Downtown Singapore, all teams started off at different parts of Plaza Singapura in Dhoby Ghaut. Without a given roadmap, teams had to answer questions on Math, Science and English at the first station in order to obtain clues to the remaining five stations, where they had to complete similar tasks.

In addition, they would receive a separate clue towards the identity of a particular location of historical significance. Teams ultimately explored heritage sites across Dhoby Ghaut, Fort Canning, Bras Basah, Clarke Quay, Telok Ayer and City Hall. The winning team was the first to arrive at the final destination in Bugis with all six clues and the correct answer to the broader heritage question. 

The race coordinator for the day, Elaine Eo, giving out prizes to the winners of the different segments.
(Image credit: Michelle Lim)

Episode 4: Charming Chinatown 

(Image credit: Adrian Jakob on Unsplash)

With Chinese New Year 2020 around the corner, this episode of the Amazing PSLE Race focused on Chinatown and incorporated Chinese activities as well as elements of the Chinese New Year tradition.

Starting off at Chinatown MRT ticketing foyer, seven teams of three had to complete six out of seven stations (i.e. Chinatown MRT station, Chinatown Point McDonalds, Furama City Centre, Chinatown Point Library, Garden Bridge, Lucky Chinatown, and Chinatown Food Street), three of which were compulsory, before meeting at the same final checkpoint in Kreta Ayer Square. Teams were allowed to discuss their routes beforehand.

Topics covered across the seven stations included: 

  • Math: algebra, percentages, ratio, decimals, rate, fractions, area of triangle, angles
  • Science: cycles in matter and water, electrical systems, energy conversion, cell systems, human system, interaction of forces, plant transport system, reproduction of flowering plants
  • English: grammar, editing for spelling, visual text, writing, vocabulary, cloze passage, oral communication, comprehension
  • Chinese: oral presentation    
Volunteer mum, Kay Zhou, chaperoned a team comprising younger siblings on their race.
(Image credit: Angela Lim-Er)

Hear From The Organisers

Dawn Fung
Homeschool Mum of Three
Coordinator for Episode 1: Central National Library & Episode 2: North-East Line

The Amazing PSLE Race is our way of reducing stress for our children while amping up the memories. You need to associate fun with learning. It is wired in all humans. When you learn what interests you, the learning becomes effortless. The PSLE is not an effortless task. But helping our children reduce the pain of studying what they do not like through fun and games helps a lot.

Elaine Eo
Homeschool Mum of Three
Coordinator for Episode 3: Downtown Heritage

I wanted something a little more than PSLE revision. The educational activities at the stations were fun, but the added element of National Education to expose the children to the heritage of Singapore’s diverse communities felt like icing on the cake. I chose the Downtown area for its numerous heritage sites and interlaced train lines, with the intent of raising the difficulty of the race.

Choosing locations for the stations was quite a challenge for me. I wanted comfortable stations for our station masters, especially when some of the mums had little ones in tow. At the same time, the various stations had to be located along different lines, but not too far from each other, so that teams could complete the race within the given time.

Overall, it was really enjoyable working with different homeschoolers. There is strong unity in the community, so no one minded putting in extra effort to make the race exciting and interesting for the children.

Kay Zhao
Homeschool Mum of Three
Coordinator for Episode 4: Charming Chinatown

As homeschoolers, we try our best to make learning fun and meaningful. When I organized this Charming Chinatown PSLE Race, apart from getting the students warmed up by solving PSLE questions in a pressured setting (It’s a race after all!), I had a few other objectives I wanted them to practice too: Chinese language and Chinese culture, teamwork, and life skills.

Our race took place during the Chinese New Year season. What could be a better place than Chinatown? Runners were given six stations with PSLE questions at each station to solve as a team. They were also given a Chinatown map in Chinese for them to locate each station. 

They had to choose two out of three Chinese tasks to accomplish, such as to find out the Chinese names of certain buildings in Chinatown, and to take photos of Chinese couplets seen on the street and read them aloud to the station master. They were immersed in a Chinese environment for a couple of hours. That’s the best way of learning a language.

What they gained in that short time cannot be measured through exams, but the collective fun of teamwork and experiencing the Chinese language and culture definitely deposited something positive in their learning.

Among the participants, not all were ethnic Chinese and not all were Primary Five or Six students, but all teams completed their mission through teamwork. I can still recall a team that managed to find a member who got lost and separated along the way, and still got the questions done at the station. I could see the thrill and pride in their eyes. It was cool! 

Map-reading is an important life skill and reading it in Chinese brought both challenge and fun. As some participants couldn’t figure out all the Chinese names of certain stations, they pulled up the English map on their phone, sounded out what they knew of the Chinese characters, compared that with the sound of the English names, and made an intelligent guess. That’s real-life problem-solving. I was a proud witness of those moments.

Hear From Parent-Volunteers

I loved the idea of the Amazing PSLE Race. It was a refreshing and different way to engage our children in the concepts to be covered by the PSLE. Of course, none of us was under any illusion that it was a revision method, but these were just some of the things that added to our children’s treasure bank of PSLE memories that they can look back upon with fondness. My son had a blast at his first race organised by Elaine Eo, and was super disappointed when [subsequent] races had to be suspended [due to COVID-19].

DAPHNE PANG
HOMESCHOOL MUM OF THREE

The organisers very kindly factored in that I had my three younger girls with me and stationed me at a McDonald’s outlet for English Oral and Math. It was lovely meeting new faces and interacting with them. I listened to them and gave them feedback for their oral simulations. It was delightful to see how they split the tasks up and worked together to complete their challenge. We enjoyed our time!

SOPHIA ONG
HOMESCHOOL MUM OF FOUR

Any way to “gamify” learning is quite an experience. The Amazing PSLE Race sought to do that and more. I volunteered as station master so that I could be in one place with my four-year-old. In designing the station activities, I wanted the kids to experience the PSLE questions hands on. It was fun despite the preparation involved. I loved that my kids got to collaborate with their team, explore Singapore, solve questions together, and make memories in the guise of “studying for PSLE”.

GRACE TAN
HOMESCHOOL MUM OF THREE

Feeling like everyone’s a winner!
(Image credit: Dawn Fung)

From The Editor’s Desk

I had mooted the idea of the Amazing PSLE Race back in early 2019. I’m glad how the event turned out and how it is now fondly remembered by many homeschooling parents and children. It is apparent that the programme was successful in meeting the objectives of developing happy kids through fun learning, along with rested parents sharing the load, and ultimately building a community that grows together.

Before COVID hit Singapore, there had been a line-up of coordinators for subsequent episodes of the Amazing PSLE Race. I was in charge of the sixth episode, which focused on the theme of dying trades in Singapore. It was a shame that the programme did not unfold to its full fruition.

However, the short stint that we had together in the first four episodes showed many beautiful facets of our homeschool community – how we are clever, creative and compassionate, all at the same time! With COVID restrictions lifted, I hope that the Amazing PSLE Race can resume again.

Kalsum Harun, Editor-in-Chief


If you wish to contribute a testimony about your experience with the Amazing PSLE Races, please contact editor@homeschoolsingapore.sg.

Unless stated, opinions expressed in this article do not represent the views of Homeschool Singapore.