by Marilyn Peh on

It will feel like everything you’ve done in the past six years of your life has led up to this defining moment.

For the very last time tomorrow, you’ll put on your school uniform and take your place in the assembly hall with your schoolmates.

On some of your friends’ faces, you may see unfamiliar looks of worry and nervousness. The air will feel heavy with anticipation.

And as your teachers march into the room with your PSLE result slips in their arms, your heart thumps in your chest as you wait for your name to be called.

Your classmates before you may erupt in triumphant shouts or collapse in tears, and this will do little to calm your nerves.

Will you be feeling confident that you will obtain the results you expect?

Will you be afraid of disappointment?

Could you be feeling desperate that for all your hard work, only a certain score will deem you intelligent and worthy enough?

It has been many years since I was in your shoes, queueing up to collect my PSLE results. I no longer recall the names of all my 40 classmates, and the memory of the exact grades printed on my result slip has also gone a little fuzzy.

But I remember the anxiety that kept me up the night before collecting my results, as I see-sawed between feelings of hope and dread.

Like you, I thought that my results at the age of 12 would make or break me, and fretted about not scoring well enough to make it to the same school as my friends.

Hearing so often about how good grades are important in Singapore, it makes you feel like a bad result will dim your prospects of a bright future. The finality of that thought makes it extra terrifying.

But lest you get swept away emotionally in the brouhaha of the next few days, I want to assure you that the rest of your life is not going to be determined by a row of letters on a slip of paper.

For one, many who didn’t fare as well as they expected at their PSLE have gone on to discover their passions and build fulfilling careers.

And even if you don’t get to enter the secondary school of your dreams, the next four or five years of your life are going to be an exciting time to learn and discover strengths you never knew you had. I’m also ready to bet that as hesitant as you will be initially, your secondary school days will be when you find lifelong friends.

As much as many of your parents and the generations before them placed an emphasis on grades as the be all and end all, we are coming to learn that a great start is only as important as having a strong finish.

We are learning that as easy as it is to get caught up in the yardsticks of exams and grades, success in the real world isn’t as easily weighed in A’s and B’s.

Instead of blaming yourself for not doing well in some areas, will you be able to learn something about your strengths and weaknesses, to do better the next time round?

And instead of resting on your laurels, will you still be hungry to improve?

In 10 or 20 years, the truth is no one will ask you for your PSLE score simply because a score you got at the age of 12 will have very little bearing on who you’ve grown to be as an individual.

While the reality of living in a competitive world never really goes away, what they will want to know, however, is how self-aware, hardworking and passionate you really are as a person.

So whether you are happy or upset by your results tomorrow, I hope you will take a moment to congratulate yourself on the journey, and not just the grades you earned. Remember the efforts you made that brought you towards every little improvement in the past year, as you sought to do your best on the exam.

After all, it’s your hard work that’s gotten you this far, and if you can keep it up, only greater things await you in the future.