‘I wanted out’: I Not Stupid 3’s ‘tiger mum’ Jae Liew on the pressures of schooling in Singapore

3 weeks ago 77

Updated

Jun 23, 2024, 03:00 PM

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Jun 23, 2024, 03:00 PM

SINGAPORE – Jae Liew grew up under intense academic stress, much like her on-screen son in Singapore film-maker Jack Neo’s movie I Not Stupid 3.

While studying at Rulang Primary School, the local actress was often assigned emceeing roles and sent for national public speaking competitions where she was expected to clinch first place.

“Our school team would often win these competitions and our principal got used to it. She told us that second and third were unacceptable. We always had to come in first place,” Liew tells The Straits Times during an interview at GV Suntec City on June 21.

She is currently on a year-long stint teaching English to senior high school students in Kanto, Japan, and was back in town to promote the film.

In the third instalment of the I Not Stupid franchise (2002 to present), the 34-year-old plays tiger mum Sophia, who terrorises her son Jayden (played by 13-year-old Malaysian actor Camans Kong) in order for him to consistently outperform his Primary 6 classmates. 

Now showing in Singapore cinemas, the comedy-drama focuses on the academic rivalry between Jayden and another boy, Zi Hao (Zhou Yuchen), who are both pressured by their mothers to be the top student.

Liew relates to the storyline on a personal level. As a child, she says she really wanted to do well and spent the majority of her time in school. But she did not perform to her own expectations during her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). She scored 234 points, which she feels was “pretty disappointing”.

“After receiving my results, my godmother drove me to various top schools to see if there was any way for me to appeal and get in. I conflated my self-worth with the brand of the school that I was supposed to enter,” she says.

Liew eventually enroll...

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