A 2017 study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), suggests that Singapore students experience high levels of anxiety and this is exacting a heavy emotional price on them.
In this study 5,825 Singapore students were polled and their responses revealed that their anxiety levels were significantly higher than the OECD average. For example, 66% of students across all OECD countries said they were worried about poor grades at school, but among Singapore students, it was 86%. Furthermore, 76% of Singapore students reported feeling very anxious for a test even if they were well prepared, compared with the OECD average of 55%.
Anxiety is a physiological response to a threatening situation. This is when our heart rates go up, our breathing become shallower, and we experience sweaty palms. We feel uncomfortable when we are anxious. It becomes unhealthy when someone is constantly in this uncomfortable state. And this is likely for most Singapore students.
The Singapore society places heavy emphasis on academic performance, and it manifests in the form of pressure to achieve better grades. This is so that they can gain access to “better” schools at different stages of their school years, which would make them more competitive academically.
Research has shown that anxiety at appropriate levels can be helpful. However, to be constantly experiencing anxiety is damaging in the long run. Stress reactions in children usually manifest through changes in behaviour such as; changes in sleeping and eating patterns, somatic complaints and even school refusal.
Here are some ways parents can help your child cope with anxiety:
- Have realistic expectations, do not over-emphasise academic results
- Ensure your child gets adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise
- Establish ’emotional safety’ so that your child knows that his/her parents are available
- Validate your child’s emotions such as acknowledging his/her worries and feelings
- Offer support, or a vote of confidence that your child has tried his/her best in a test
- Continually assure your child so that he/she feels loved and valued by the family
This blogpost is based on an adaption of a news article report entitled “Singapore students suffer from high levels of anxiety: Study” by The Straits Times on 20 August 2017 and “Helping children cope with stress” by The Straits Times on 4 February 2018.