Crossroads | Post-Examinations Mental Health Check

Updated: Dec 17, 2021 Whatever you might be feeling, you are not alone. Let’s unpack how you can look upon your options.

Career Guides
Wong Wing Lum

Change is coming

“We will no longer have fishes swimming down three separate streams, but we have one broad river, each fish negotiating its own journey.”

This was the image then-Minister of Education Ong Ye Kung painted when he announced major educational reforms made to Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), O- and N- Levels in March 2019.

Under the new Full Subject-Based Banding (FBB) system, students will take subjects in different tiers depending on their capabilities in secondary school. After which, all students will sit for one common national examination, which is the merger of the O-Levels and N-Levels we know today. The new framework is scheduled to take full effect in 2027, kicking off with the fresh batch of secondary one students in 2024.

For many, the move was lauded as a right step towards bridging the divide and stigmatisation brought about by educational streaming. Those who have gone through the system can certainly attest to the additional edge if you either i) had the means and resources to supplement your learning or ii) were good in studying (in other words to put frankly: in memorising and regurgitating).

While the winds of change may have begun to blow, the fact remains that for now, most of us have already been conditioned to hold academic excellence to the highest regard.

Change is coming, but mindset shifts take time. If we are not – by society’s definition – book smart, are we still then worthy of finding success? The quick answer is yes, of course. The not-so-straightforward answer is that’s a journey you must walk to find out.

State of Mind

To those who underperformed, many might offer words of consolation.

You may perhaps never find any comfort in the sea of attempts to do so. It’s a terribly lonely feeling to fall short of your personal goals. At this point, our sense of self-worth is inextricably woven into how well we have fared across these examinations. I took my O Levels and A Levels years ago. Yet, I can still vividly recall how those few printed alphabets on a laminated piece of paper could easily send my world crumbling.

I’ve watched friends stumble from this with a shaken confidence. On the other end of this spectrum were those who refused to be beaten down nor defined by their results.

In short, it really sucks. You should take some time to feel your emotions in their totality, a process for which there is no fixed timeline. It’s not only okay to grief, but also essential that you do so.

Tips on mental wellbeing:

O Levels A Levels Mental Health Tip 1

1. Try not to fast-track your grief. Process your emotional needs and unpack what you need to do to feel better. Remember to let people in as you navigate this formative phase of your life.

O Levels A Levels Mental Health Tip 2

2. You may be hit by that jittery sting of regret. Symptoms of which include revisiting the past and reflecting upon where you could have done things differently. Learn to stop yourself from entertaining budding thoughts on the ‘what if-s’ and the ‘could have been-s’. You can’t change the past, but you are in control of how you can carve your future.

3. There comes a point where you must leave these feelings behind. Moving on means that you make a conscious decision to not let the matter profoundly affect you anymore.

You are much more than a couple of alphabets on a sheet of paper – and you’ll go on to do great things if you allow yourself to believe that it’s possible.

Where can I get help for my mental health?

Singapore Mental Health Resource
Get a mental health check by the Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT) here.

If you’re looking to address more specific concerns, check out these two directories compiled by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and the National Council of Social Services (NCSS).

If you are looking for less immediate avenues to seek help, check out these guides on free mental health apps, YouTube Channels, podcasts and books.

This post is part of our 4 part series on routes O-Level and A-Level graduates can take after getting their results. Read the rest of the series here:

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