I have just finished my stressful yet fun filled exciting journey in Opera Estate Primary School here in Singapore. I would like to share this chapter of my life so kids going on to primary school can understand what’s ahead of them.

PRIMARY ONE – This is where my fabled expedition begin – Primary 1

This was one of the most nerve racking year in my school “career”, as it was extremely perplexing for my measly brain to comprehend. The school grounds were at least 10 times bigger than the one in kindergarten. With a humongous field, playground and parade square, the areas to play with friends were almost endless. At the same time I greatly missed my dear friends from my kindergarten.  I felt alone in this new environment. Fortunately to my surprise few of my kindergarten friends ended up in the same school as me, we immediately stuck together on the first day. However after a few hours, we ventured apart and met new friends who would stick with us for the rest of our primary school period.

BUDDY – One week had already pass since my first day at school and I had already made more than 10 friends of different backgrounds, race and nationality. But one thing bugged me, what did the rest of the school looked like besides the classroom, canteen, parade square, playground and field that our teachers had bound us to? And the answer had arrived in the form of a tour guide; a P5 buddy who we were paired with for 2 weeks as part of our orientation. When I first met them, I could not believe that they were students of a primary school as they appeared HUGE compared to our puny P1 frames. I got assigned a female buddy named Aisha. When it was time for recess, I was really bummed out that I couldn’t play with my friends and had to follow my buddy around, yet I was still pretty ecstatic about discovering new places within school.

JUNIOR ARCHAEOLOGIST Every day during that two week I would discover a whole new location in the school. I imagined myself as a junior archaeologist at times. Some like the library and garden were present in my kindergarten, but the science lab and a computer room was entirely new to me, I was in awe. After 2 weeks, I felt like I knew the school grounds like the back of my hand. My P5 buddy and I parted ways after the orientation, but I was more confident. I grew close to my buddy sharing experiences and playing various games together, it was really sad to see her leave. It brought back some unhappy memories of leaving my friends when we graduated from kindergarten.

THE WORLD OF ACADEMIA – The P1 exams and worksheets were nothing like the ones in kindergarten. In kindergarten, you did not actually have to study or put in so much effort but in P1 everything changed as I found myself studying an hour or 2 each day after school. However, the lessons in P1 were relatively fun, with interactive activities using puzzles, maps, and group work, there really wasn’t much to complain about back then. In addition, the teachers that taught us in P1 were extremely approachable and friendly. But there were times we had to be serious and focus on revisions. At the end of the year, all of our hard work had paid off, I did pretty well, I was on cloud nine.

I realised at P6 that our teachers back then were easing us into a formal structured manner of studying. We were being “secretly” moulded.

THE FUN TIMES – In P1 we had lots of fun playing catch, football, a variety of non -physical games like heart-attack, rock paper scissors, coconut crack and chopsticks, all good fun. The teachers also took us on learning journeys to places like the Singapore Zoo, the Bird Park. We were so amazed by all the intriguing animals we saw our jaws literally drop.

THE TRANSITION. The transition between P1 and 2 was still relatively easy to overcome as there only few new additional topics. Over the previous year, I had grown closer to my friends but at the same time I grew further apart from my kindergarten friends. In P2 though, a major change was made that left many students in my grade and other grades unhappy and complaining – we had a new principal. There was a lot of panic as the new principal made the decision to remove vending machines from school grounds and had removed the playing of football in the parade square. Topping that we were enraged when the principal increased the price of the food in the canteen by a significant amount whilst decreasing the quality of the food by a long shot. We were confused and disappointed but just had to live with it.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP It’s in P2 that I started my first business; writing comics, selling them for S$0.50 each. Some of my friends helped me make more copies of the comics using photo-copiers at their homes. While running the comic business, I realised how much money I could make if I sold things, so I decided to sell some of my old toys and some stationary to my friends for quick cash, this business slowly became bigger and I approached some friends to supply me some of their old stuff so I could sell them (of course I shared my profits). But selling items is illegal in my school though, so I eventually got snitched on by a person I sold a rock to for $0.20 cents, and I got reprimanded. The kid who had the rock was forced to give the rock back to the teacher and I had to return the money. After that experience, I was selective with whom I did business with. The discipline Master spoke to my parents but interestingly my Dad was not as hard on me as I had expected, he instead encouraged by entrepreneurial journey and gave me tips on sales, marketing and profit margins.

FRACTIONS, DIVISOINS AND MORE Unlike in P1, where they just thought basic kindergarten knowledge, in P2 we learned completely different stuff like fractions, division, synonyms, acronyms, and a lot more new and exciting new topics. Though the exams and worksheets were a bit tougher than in P1, I still excelled and got near to full marks for all of my papers except Mandarin, which is the only tested subject in primary school that I was weak at. We also learnt to work together as a team.

FRIENDSHIPS In P2 I got the opportunity to meet some friends who were older through my commute in the school bus. These friends, 2 to 4 years older than me, shared information on the years ahead of me in my primary school journey. In addition in P2, I gained more courage to venture out of the circle of friends in class, met others in my grade during recess. Some friendship that I made outside of my class remained my best friends through my primary school years.

LOST AND FOUND In P3 we all got transferred to new classes with different class mates, some of them were friends from P2 and 1 but the majority were completely new faces to me. Having been separated from my friends in P1 I was forced to make new friends in my class. About a week into P3 a group of students and I immediately clicked and became close and I lost a few old friends in the process as I spent lesser time with them. I felt P3 was the hardest year in primary school as it was extremely tough to overcome the huge jump in standard from P2 to 3. On a brighter note I was introduced to science which ultimately became my favourite subject.

SWIMSAFER – In P3 we had basic swimming lessons for beginners which was conducted at a public swimming complex. But for an experienced swimmer who has been swimming since a toddler it was a bore. The program cut into my lesson time at school which in turn was my down fall in the first quarter of the year, resulting in average grades for all of my previously strong subjects. It was a short period of feeling unmotivated and dejected. But, thankfully, things changed when the program ended.

CCA & SPORTS It was in P3 we got to enrol in a CCA (co-curriculum activities) This was just another excuse to have more fun outside of studies. We got to pick from myriad of different clubs, societies and sports, such as robotics, scouts and football to name a few. One of the CCA’s that stood out to me was robotics where members got to make and program robots using LEGO technic pieces and programming. This pique my interest so I immediately put robotics as my 1st choice, football as my 2nd choice and athletics as my 3rd choice. When I heard that I got accepted into robotics, I was over the moon. The first session of robotics unlike anything that we had done in school – we had fun sharing ideas and learning from each other while playing LEGO’s 2 straight hours.  But of course, the deeper lessons was learning to code, learning patience, to persevere when when when you fail and to never give up.

As my grades took a dive in the first semester I was extremely disappointed, but with encouragement from my parents I worked harder for the rest of year. The addition of science meant that I had to manage my time better, increase my revision hours. That wasn’t easy especially when I was also training and competing in Spartan races, aquathlons and duathlons at the same time.

The older subjects also got significantly harder, which meant more time studying. Classes at school got more serious with most of the fun and interactive activities in in P1 and 2 were not present in P3, replaced with lessons which basically meant going through our textbooks and completing practise papers every day.

I ROBOT Beginning of P4 I was informed by my teachers that because of my outstanding performance in robotics the previous year I was selected to be part of the team to represent my school in a robotics competition called the Science Automatica where we had to build and code robots to perform certain tasks given to us by the judges, the team that completes the most tasks wins.

We worked tirelessly even during recess and after school with an aim to build and programme an optimum robot to complete every task that the judges presented us. On the day of the competition I was sweating buckets as my heart raced. When the judges called upon my team to complete the tasks, I felt extremely nervous but reassured myself that I would do fine. But to our horror, it could only complete 12 of the 16 tasks, making us extremely doubtful of reaching the top 3. When the results were released we were placed 4th overall, which wasn’t our goal but it still put a smile on our faces as it was a respectable result for our 1st competition.

BUSINESSES VENTURES It was the middle of the year when my friends and I began to start writing comics again. We were making multiple comic series from superhero comics to comedic comics. Our own original make believe stuff.

These comics were so popular that even people outside of our class and level wanted to buy them. At times the demand was so high we could not make our comics fast enough to keep up with the demand. And while running the comic business we also ran a business selling staples for staplers ; a stapler repair and modification business, eraser cover making business and last but not least a selling stationary. Though these businesses were fun and provided us with additional pocket money it was also pretty time consuming, so when it was nearing the examinations we had to stop the businesses temporarily to focus on our studies.

THE WORLD OF SCIENCE I thought nothing would surpassed the joy of being selected for the school robotics team but that changed when I received a 2nd letter from school stating that I was selected to be part of special science enrichment classes which were only for the top 20 students with the highest grades for their science paper in P3. At these enrichment classes, we performed multiple experiments and taught topics outside of the school syllabus. Some experiments included making self -propelling cars, inflating balloons using yeast, making our own weighing scales and measuring the denseness of a rock just to name a few. Although the school hours were long during Fridays because of these enrichment classes they were definitely the highlight of my P4 year.

In P4 additional math topics were introduced, such as geometry and volume and couple of new topics to science like cycles and interactions. For the first half of the year, my results were not too great as I still haven’t gotten used to the new pace in P4. But later through the year, I adapted and begin to excel when I added extra hours to revisions.

At the end of the year, I scored straight A’s for my subjects, realising that the time spent, the hard work and determination was all worth it.

A FRESH START In P5, we had to switch classes again, which meant some of my friends from my P3 and 4 class had to move to different classes, so our interaction was limited, but we continued to be close.

In P5, I moved to a new class, I had made a lot of new friends who introduce me to entirely new things and hobbies which would influence me to make a major decision later down the year (read on to find out). The academic “competition” among the students started to get intense as we all had our eye set on doing our best for our PSLE the following year.

MY P1 BUDDY When I heard that us P5’s had to have P1 buddies I immediately thought of the wonderful times that I had with my P5 buddy when I was in P1. It gave me a sense of duty and pride as I had to take care and orientate this kid. It was a position of responsibility, I was determined to deliver. I got assigned a boy named Arthur. He was extremely small compared to me, which made me realize how much I have grown ever since my 1st day at school as a naive kid. When I first met him, I found him full of energy, we instantly clicked and formed a close bond. I first brought Arthur to the canteen introducing him to the myriad of food sold there, the pros and cons of each stall’s offerings. After the first day, I did almost exactly what my buddy in P5 did with me, introducing Arthur to a new location every day until the end of my time with him. When it was the time to say goodbye he promised me that he would be a good buddy when it’s his time. Passing on the baton, mission accomplished.

FOOTBALL When I got to P5, robotics became a bore because we were basically doing same thing every time, the monotony made me quit. My new friends in P5 introduced me to the amazing sport of football which I started to play every day at recess. This prompted me to sign up for the football CCA. I was so interested in football that my Dad signed me up to train with with the FC Barca academy on weekends as well. I have not regretted this decision till this day as it had made me more physically active. Outside of football I also picked up rock climbing and was training for my 1st Singapore International Triathlon.

Looking back I can’t believe how I managed to keep my grades up whilst still doing all these sports.

The difference in standard between P5 and P4 was rather large as they had introduced the most amount of topics in a single year. In addition the lessons become more detailed and longer than previous years. The new teachers were more strict and had a serious tone when teaching, not allowing us to talk and communicate with our friends as much as before. Because I’m rather expressive I often got called out by the teacher for talking too much or for interrupting classes, this in turn got me into trouble with my parents.

It seemed at times that it was purely about revising our textbooks and doing practice papers. Fortunately I was not under too much pressure at home as on weekends I still got to train at the football academy and do all the sports I had interest in.

It was in P5 that I truly understood the importance of time management, and found a balance between studying and having fun.

THE FINAL HURDLE – This was finally the end to my long interesting journey inside of primary school. This would be one of the most stressful yet exciting year. At the start of the year, everything seemed fine, but boy was I wrong! It was early January that COVID-19 hit Singapore. The virus spread throughout the world like wildfire ever since that faithful day, quickly multiple countries started to lockdown, including Singapore.

CONFINEMENT AND ISOLATION – It was early April, the coronavirus has spread to all corners of the world. The number of confirmed cases and deaths in Singapore was skyrocketing at an alarming rate, causing the government to put us under a lockdown called the circuit breaker. This circuit breaker restricted our movements outside of our house. Because of the circuit breaker, school was closed, so we had to do HBL (home based learning) which involved Zoom lessons with my teachers, and special worksheets via a website called SLS (student learning space). In these special online lessons, we got to play fun interactive games reminiscent of the ones that we played during our P1 days, but with an online twist. Even though we had tons of fun online activities I personally felt we learnt a little compared to what we had learnt being physically at school. Besides the lack of knowledge we were missing the most important thing – human interaction.

During HBL we could not talk and play with our friends, which made me feel frustrated. My only solace outside of HBL was video games but that too after a while was monotonous. What’s worst we could not even travel during the school holidays as the world was in lockdown. Fortunately I still got to bike, jog and do long walks with my parents. Imagine how I felt when the circuit breaker was partially lifted allowing us to return to school 2 months later, finally sweet social interaction with my friends.

PSLE – likely the most dreaded word in a primary school kid’s vocabulary. The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is our last obstacle in our way to graduating to secondary school. Our grades determined the secondary school we would be posted to.

Due to the important nature of the exam, students studied tirelessly day and night to hone their skills in different subjects, hoping praying to be smarter and better at each topic. My private tuition classes were increased from once a week to twice a week for the 2 months leading to the exams, practice papers tripled. Although I stopped my football training, to take a break from studying I continued swimming, biking and running and the occasional rock climbing. 

Unfortunately due to the lock down we did not have our mid-terms but our teachers put in lots of time with extra classes even on weekends to ensure we were prepared for our finals.

On the day of my 1st paper I had cold sweat as I wished my friends good luck. The exams spanned from 1h 40min to 2h 30min long, but when I was taking the exam, it felt like it was only 30 minutes long due to the adrenaline rushing through me, fueling my excitement.

After the 1st paper all others did not worry me too much, so that week just flew by in a blink of an eye. At the end of that week it felt like a gigantic load was taken off my shoulders. It felt I did well, but maybe I was just happy it’s all over. I was now free from studying, at least for a couple of months till my new academic year starts.

THE FINALE – The goodbyes. It was graduation day, my friends and I all came to school at 10 am, all of us chatting, laughing, excitement just filled the hall. But the mood was going to change.

A couple of hours past we headed to the school stage to collect our graduation certificates. Soon after that we collected our awards for academic achievements – I got 3 awards out of 4 subjects, a little disappointed that I did not get an award for Mandarin as I put my heart and soul into that subject.

When the award ceremony ended, reality struck – we realised that soon we’ll all be parting ways with friends we’ve grown close to over the 6 years. Some of us hid our sadness, some of us poured our hearts out crying.

At the end of that day where a million emotions could be found in our classrooms, we said our final goodbyes to each other and went our separate ways, for some they may never see each other again. However my close friends and I made plans to meet up couple of days later, and the weeks after that. We did not want this friendship to end.   

A week after that memorable yet sad day our PSLE results were released.

Though I was doubtful of my grades being above my expectations, I still felt I would do well. However, I was too nervous to pick my results up personally at school, the question of what if I did not do well kept lingering in my mind, if so I know I’ll be overwhelmed with emotions breaking down in front of my classmates. My parents understood how I felt and agreed that we’ll view my results together online at home.

When the results were released at 11.30am that day, I immediately logged onto the website to view my grades. My eyes widened with disbelieve – I got 4 A’s, including Mandarin, above my expectations. The goal I had set for with my parents for Mandarin was a B but the A was a big bonus. It meant I could possibly get into most of the schools I choose. My parents were equally thrilled.

It turned out my hard work paid off. Now, I had selected my schools eagerly waiting to see which school has accepted me.

This journey of 6 years concluded the 1st chapter of my life, from a humble start as a naïve kid of 7 to a grand ending at 12. It was a fantastic ride and I feel honoured to have completed it and now moving on to the next stage of my life – being a teen. More ups and downs, more challenges, failures and thrills. Bring it on.