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PSLE woes dramatised in timely play

THE CAST: Actress Ellison Tan (in black) plays Primary 6 pupil Xiao Li, actor-magician Wee Kien Meng plays her tutor Mr Bottle and actress Shannon Zann Su plays Xiao Li's over-anxious mother.
PSLE woes dramatised in timely play

INSPIRED: Ms Lim Hai Yen's play, PSLE, was inspired by the planning of her child's birthday party last year.


    Nov 25, 2013

    PSLE woes dramatised in timely play

    GETTING classmates to attend a birthday party for her

    Primary 6 daughter turned out to be more complicated than she had imagined.

    Due to conflicting tuition-class schedules of her daughter's classmates, Ms Lim Hai Yen had trouble choosing a time for the party.

    That wasn't all. One of the classmates was "banned from all social activities" for the year.

    And all this was happening in April, around half a year before the Primary School Leaving Examination, or PSLE.

    "If the party was to be held in the later half of the year (nearer to the date of the PSLE), I would understand. But you can't possibly study 24/7," said the 43-year-old playwright.

    This incident last year - when Ms Lim's 13-year-old daughter, Baey Zo-Er, was set to take the PSLE - inspired her to write a play.

    Titled PSLE, the Mandarin-English play will run at the National Museum of Singapore next month and will be staged by home-grown theatre group The ETCeteras.

    A play that explores the stresses of the exam is a timely topic, especially as PSLE results were released on Friday.

    The play follows how Primary 6 pupil Xiao Li (played by actress Ellison Tan) spends her birthday, after encountering a similar predicament to Zo-Er - only worse.

    Not a single classmate is able to attend her birthday party, because they are all busy attending tuition classes in preparation for the PSLE.

    Xiao Li struggles to fulfil the expectations of her over-anxious mother (actress Shannon Zann Su), and is cheered on by a carefree tutor-cum-magician, Mr Bottle (actor-magician Wee Kien Meng).

    Even the audience is invited to experience the nerve-racking feeling of taking an exam, simply by being seated at rows of tables that resemble an exam-hall setting.

    Ms Lim, the artistic director of The ETCeteras, said that the theme of her plays usually reflect the happenings of Singapore society. Hoping to get people thinking about the education system, she organised a pre-show dialogue last Sunday, which was attended by over 100 parents and children.

    One of the issues discussed was the recent controversy surrounding the burning of books by parents and their children after the PSLE.

    Asked for her take on the incident, Ms Lim, a mother of three, said: "At least the incident got us to reflect on whether the PSLE is that stressful."

    The Ministry of Education has been taking steps lately to remove the emphasis on results.

    The latest initiative was to remove the highest and lowest scores achieved by pupils in the cohort on PSLE result slips.

    Though Ms Lim, who is married to Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng, welcomes the move, she believes it all boils down to the individual.

    She said: "A parent who likes to compare will always find a way to compare, be it with a classmate or a cousin taking the PSLE too... The fairest competition is (to compete) with yourself."

    PSLE is playing at the National Museum of Singapore from Dec 6 to 8, and Dec 10 to 15. Tickets, priced at $38 for 8pm sessions and $33 for 3pm sessions, are available at Sistic. Visit