It’s become common practice for parents to take up to a year off work when their child sits for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), but TV presenter Steven Chia pooh-poohs the very idea. “Why do parents take a year off when their kids have PSLE? It’s the kid taking the exam, not the parent!”
Doing so, will send your kids the wrong signal. Steven asserts, “Primary 6 becomes a year of no play, no sports, no anything that’s not the PSLE. How is real life anything like this? What are we teaching our kids?”
Steven’s daughter — Lucy, 11 — will be taking the national exam next year. He has this suggestion: Break the exams up into separate projects instead of having kids sit through it all at once.
“Yes, we need some tool of measurement but why not break [the exam] up into projects. Perhaps a project worth 20 per cent in Primary 5, then another in Primary 6, then another 20 per cent for community service and so on.”
The down-to-earth TV host notes that with several projects, the exams will allow for a better measurement of your child instead of those who just “perform”. “I have to say that I think the PSLE is a cruel exam. A 12-year-old child is measured on their performance on that one day and the next four years of their life is determined by that.”
"A 12-year-old child is measured on their performance on that one day and the next four years of their life is determined by that.”
Best known as the face of Channel NewsAsia’s news programmes like Singapore Tonight and PrimeTime Morning, Steven now hosts Talking Point, a half-hour TV show that looks at issues in Singapore.
When he’s not busy informing the nation about the day’s hot topics, Steven spends his time with his kids. “To me, anytime you spend with your kids is quality time and the more time you can spend with them when they’re younger, the better. Children just want to hang out with you, so any time that you spend with them is quality time.”
The affable TV presenter gives SmartParents the lowdown on how he and his wife Tania Gin parent their two kids, Joshua, 7, and Lucy, 11.
What kind of dad would you say you are?
Most dads would consider themselves the fun dads but at the same time I would say I’m the disciplinarian at home. Once I raise my voice, they know that I mean business.
Any thoughts on caning as a form of discipline?
I think in this day and age don’t need [to cane them] lah, like I said when I raise my voice, they know that I mean business. But we also do the stand-in-the-corner routine. I think with every punishment, it’s essential that it comes with an explanation. So, they will go stand in the corner when they are punished, then I’ll talk to them after the punishment to make sure they understand what they did wrong in the particular situation.
How has Joshua been adapting to his first year in Primary school?
The first few weeks were a bit tough but he is used to it now — he enjoys himself at school. Primary 1 and 2 are important years. They (the school) did a good thing by removing exams from those years. It gives the children time to settle in as they become more and more independent.
How do you help your kids develop their interests?
Both Joshua and Lucy are taking tennis classes for the experience. I’m not expecting them to be school players. They both enjoy doing art…I mean, some people say that by this age, you should be able to spot some talent but for me, I just try and go with the flow.
What do you enjoy the most about being a news presenter?
As with all journalists, it’s generally the pace [of breaking news]. The fact that there’s something different happening on a different day. Each different topic, you’ll be talking to different people, so that’s quite fun. It’s never sort of stuck behind a table, doing the same kind of stuff day after day. You are always out and about doing stuff. For me that is the most enjoyable part of it.
“As a babysitter lah. The phone, the iPad, the TV — they are all babysitters.”
What do your kids think of daddy as a news presenter?
They grew up with me being on TV. The shows that I do, they don’t watch because they are too young. It’s not a big deal for them. The thing that I kind of caution them is because I am on TV and they know I have to wear makeup, so I used to tell them if they tell their friends that their daddy wears makeup, they got to put things in context. To say that that’s because I’m on TV ― if not, others are going to think your father’s a bit queer (laughs).
How about your kid’s classmates or their parents?
Yes, some of them do recognise me, they’ll say, “Hey, I saw you on TV last night” and I’m more than happy to meet them. And one of the projects I’m doing is to go to different schools and do talks. Just to share a bit more about what is news and what is current affairs and why you need to know about what is happening in the world. So, I visit a lot of secondary schools, polytechnics and universities to do talks. So when a kid recognises me, it’s helpful because then I can say, well at least I know I’m not that foreign or not that old (laughs). We’ll also share with them a bit more about how the world has changed because one of the most dangerous things now is that they often cannot differentiate between what’s real and what’s fake news.
How do you make the news relevant to your children?
I explain to them why a guy leaving a bag at an MRT station is a bad idea, why people are worried about that. Because it could’ve been a bomb. If it is a bomb that people could have been hurt, died from it. So, I simplify the concept for them to understand the message.
How has technology benefited you as a parent?
As a babysitter lah [laughs]. The phone, the iPad, the TV — they are all babysitters. But I mean it’s also a great tool. When they ask you a question about something, you can Google it and then share it with them instantly. So, I think it has helped as a resource for info.
Any house rules for your kids when it comes gadget use?
We don’t have any, as of now. It hasn’t been that bad of a problem yet. But we are keeping a close eye and thinking about it. They watch a lot of TV. They are not online a whole lot, my son is on the phone but it’s really to play games, not to watch YouTube.
What is your biggest challenge trying to be a good parent?
I think for any parent, it’s about juggling work and family life and finding the right balance. Our society is one that works quite late and spend more time in the office. A lot of times we will prioritise work over family life. You also want to be around to teach your kids and at the same time protect them from the many strange things that are happening [online] in the world today. It’s obvious that there are things that don’t agree with your own principles and values, so you’ll need to be wary and careful. I mean even now, I make sure to be around when my kids are surfing the Net, so that I can have some sense of what is it that they are looking at. To make sure that there is some explanation to what it is that they see. Because they can form the wrong opinion and friends can often shape their opinions incorrectly.
What do you find most rewarding about being a dad?
As we speak, my wife and kids are away on a holiday because I don’t have so much leave to join them on this break. They are in Australia ― I miss them and now the house is a little quiet. Really, it’s also about knowing that these guys are yours and you are there to help mould and shape another life. You’ll start to see so much of you in them, as well. To know that these guys are totally reliant on you for their livelihood and everything that they learn — it’s a big responsibility but nonetheless a blessing. From a purely selfish point of view, it’s really about having these guys to love… And they give you so much love. Young kids, they run and hug you each time they see you and every time is special. Every time they want to do stuff with you, too. I mean as they get older this will change lah [laughs].
“They jump into my arms when I get home. So, every “homecoming” is fantastic. It’s the prefect end to a long work day.”
What is the one piece of advice you find yourself telling your kids, over and over again?
Whatever you do, try your best. Don't worry about how it turns out. If you fail, just try again, but never let it get you down. Nothing is worth dying for. And always know that Mum and Dad are here for you anytime, for anything. We will love you, no matter what you do.
Can you share with our readers a fond family memory or experience?
I don’t have a specific one. But I love the fact that when I’m gone, even if just for the day, they jump into my arms when I get home. So, every “homecoming” is fantastic. It’s the prefect end to a long work day.
What is your biggest wish for Lucy and Joshua?
I hope they grow up to be responsible adults who are able to find their place in the world and carry themselves well. To be just good, kind and generous people. Generosity in particular, to me, is important. Knowing that the world isn’t about them and that it’s about a larger community. I just hope that we’d have given them enough skills to go on and lead their own lives. For them to have a proper foundation, so that they can think for themselves and make their own informed decisions in the future.
Finally, off the top of your head, can you share with us your “go-to” dad joke?
This is an old one but one of the first ones I shared with the kids years ago... They still chuckle when they hear it. What do you call a pig who knows karate? Pork chop.
Catch Steven Chia on Talking Point, which airs at 9.30pm every Thursday on Channel 5. Steven is married to Tania Gin, in her 40s, who works in the pharmaceutical industry. They are parents to Joshua, 7, and Lucy, 11.
Photos: Steven Chia
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