The Purpose of Elementary/Primary Education

Updated: Oct 25, 2019

We all know that a task is most effectively accomplished when it is properly framed with the mission and purpose clear. This way, all effort can be expended efficiently and effectively.

Thus, it is important to have the true purpose of education clear in the minds of parents and educators alike, especially when it comes to the foundational, primary and secondary level.

Why do we learn what we do in primary/secondary school and what is the purpose of exams?

Most people can't reconcile the fact that subjects we learn in primary or secondary school rarely translates into applicable real-work life knowledge, unless one walks down a certain path into a related field. The truth is, the majority of us gleefully bade literature, trigonometry or geography farewell after secondary school.

So if content or subject knowledge does not directly prepare you for the "real-world" or adult life, what is the purpose of school?

Early/elementary education is less about the content you learn, and more about developing and honing your very ability to learn.

Elementary or foundational education is a place to develop the right foundational skill sets, disciplines and attitudes that will carry you through the rest of your life.

Foundational learning is about developing a child's ability to FOCUS, PROCESS, UNDERSTAND ACCURATELY, RETAIN and APPLY. It is also about forming GOOD LEARNING HABITS, and addressing bad habits or unhealthy-thought patterns that can result in a lowered capacity to learn.

Very few of us will retain all that we've learned in primary or secondary school. However, the attitudes and habits we develop towards studying -- good or bad -- are hard to shake through our adult lives.

How well a student learns will determine whether or not the path to life-long learning would be one the is easy and comes naturally, or one that takes significant effort and self-application as an adult.

The classroom is an environment where students are placed in a position where they HAVE TO learn. Examinations teach students the single most important lesson --- learning curves are an intrinsic part of life.

Be it a job you love or in personal development, there will always be parts of it that would require you to double down and dig deep to learn/overcome.

This focus and grit required to get something that you may not like, DONE, and DONE WELL, is one of the greatest lessons an examination can bring.

The scoring system, i.e., PSLE, in place to benchmark children in context of their peers/cohort, should not stir up a mindless pursuit of points.

The national benchmarking exercise is an important and inevitable pragmatic process that provides good data for a nation to assess how it should organise its available resources. National benchmarking is also important to identify the brightest of minds in our populace to groom in hopes that some of these minds would help lead the country into sustained economic strength and peace.

Unfortunately, this has resulted in an unhealthy pursuit of points without a clear explanation to our kids on why they are chasing a grade.

Point chasing with no clear idea on the lesson to be learned results in unhealthy or ugly competition.

Competition against others create both an unnecessary sense of inferiority in some, and a false sense of superiority in others.

For some reasonably high-scoring students, complacency can set in and educators often witness a downward trend of learning capacity through secondary and tertiary education.

At Independent Creative Learner, we love re-telling the story of the race between the turtle and the hare. Natural ability and intelligence can take you so far, but consistent hard work paired with good sense takes you further.

We know clearly that points scored at PSLE do not really determine the heights a person can achieve in life. Yet the story is always the same -- successful people always come to a realisation that discipline, focus and self-application will reap good fruits. Without these traits, it does not matter if a person is educated or not as the outcome is always the same -- mediocre results or unfinished pursuits.

So parents, let's focus on the right thing and help sharpen our children's perspectives, while keeping their thoughts healthy. Good mental health begins with good thought patterns and a measure of control over your destiny.

Developing good habits, discipline and a healthy attitude towards learning is key. Remind them that every test is a quiz, a personal race or experiment to see how well they have understood or absorbed information.

Leave the creation of exciting and mind-stimulating information to us educators. It is our endeavour to bring lessons to life and connect with each child.

May the life of every child be blessed and may every young life blossom into a respectable member of society.


The ICL Team


At Independent Creative Learner, we assist school teachers with attending to every child's individual weaknesses in personalised small group classes. We focus specifically on English literacy AND cognitive/learning skills.

For 27 years and counting, I-CL has worked closely with parents to empower our children in Singapore to be exceptional all-rounded students. With excellent English language skills -- the bedrock of all learning in schools -- our students learn with ease.

We pledge to continue our good work and preserve the high standards of education set for us at the point of our inception in 1994.

Stay tuned for our next post on the age old saying, "The Child is Father to the Man."

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