MY youngest daughter enters Form Four today after passing her Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) with As in all her core subjects, including that which many teachers had described as a very tough Chinese paper.
Since her exam in October, she had been worried whether she could get through the Chinese paper.
Her classmates in the same study group were just as jittery before the results were out. Thankfully, all passed with As. One Parent-Teacher Association committee member, who two years ago thought this batch might not do well, told me he had underestimated them.
One parent asked me for the secret of my daughter's success.
I was not sure, I said, but hard work could be one contributor. I do remember her and her elder sister giving up their Facebook for schoolbooks in the run-up to the trial exam.
But as parents, I admit that my wife and I were of little help to our children's studies. We know very little of the subjects they are studying. They have changed so much.
Even History is no longer called Tawarikh but Sejarah, and the topics are different from what I studied decades ago.
With household chores and work taking up much of our time, we were both guilty of not being able to sit down as often as we should have. I felt guilty the most when work kept me away on Sundays. My only offer of compensation for my absence was by getting them the revision books they needed.
When my youngest daughter entered Form Two, many of her classmates had already joined tuition centres to prepare for the PMR. I wanted to enrol her in one although she did not ask for it.
However, my wife and I later decided against it since tuition would take away what's left of her free time. We figured that if she was already doing her homework well and had never missed the extra classes in school, she should be all right.
I think her success came largely from the efforts of her dedicated teachers. They were never tired of giving notes and past-year questions to her and her classmates.
And on our part, we made sure she completed the assignments, paid attention in class, and that she was never afraid to ask questions if she was not satisfied with the answers.
If there is any secret worth sharing, I think it is simply this: never to compare a child's achievement with their siblings or their friends'. It belittles their efforts if the results are not what you expected.
Whenever our girls brought home their report cards when they were in primary school, we often reminded them never to compare their positions in class or their exam scores with their schoolmates' to avoid being overconfident or too disappointed.
Instead, they were told to use the results of their last exams as a benchmark for their progress. We often told them that if they could keep improving themselves, then it doesn't matter who or what they faced. We were not sure if they understood what we meant then. Now I think they do.