I scored 262 for my PSLE in 2007. I don’t say this to boast, but I say this because I want you to know something.
But if you’re a parent today trying to figure out what’s the best primary school to put your child in, the short answer is,
put your child where he will be given space to thrive.
But why listen to me?
After all, I look like a fresh-faced adult who has not married, nor has had any children.
But as a social worker, I worked with many children and youths who were facing difficulties in school.
Through those experiences, I realised 3 important principles of finding a school that works for your child.
Location, location, location
If your child can’t walk to and from school in 10 minutes, you probably should reconsider. This sounds contrarian. After all, shouldn’t you look for the best school for your child?
Yes, and the best school may tend to be just at your doorstep.
There’s a lot of research that shows the importance of sleep to a child’s development. That’s why giving your child the luxury to sleep in, even just for 30 more minutes, can be greatly beneficial for your child.
But it also allows your child to grow up within a close-knit community. We may say that Singapore’s community today has lost that kampung feel of the past, where people could knock on each other’s doors, without appointments.
You can gift that to your child. Growing up within Hougang, and living 10 minutes away meant that much of my waking hours was spent around the school. After school, I would walk home with my friend, who lived in the same block. I would play in the park after school, with other Xinghua Primary School students.
Why is this important?
Because it ensures that your child grows up with the social skills to interact with other friends, rather than having to slot back into a home some distance away, without any friends in the neighbourhood who studies with him.
Is a branded school, the best school for your child?
You may look at the branded names of primary schools like Nanyang, Rosyth, and the other names on top of the past year papers you buy for your child.
You may think that a branded school will have the best teachers, and the best resources to help your child to succeed. Nope. Not true.
MOE makes it a point that teachers from ‘good’ schools are rotated to those who may not be doing as well. Teachers on scholarships from MOE also are assigned to schools that may not be as famous.
How do I know? My sister is a teacher at a local secondary school who was also awarded a scholarship.
And mind you, she’s not at some brand name secondary school.
At a recent closed-door dialogue session in November 2022, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah shared how research had shown that the two principles behind raising children was
- Good parenting
- Good teachers
It’s why MOE has consistently invested in raising the quality of teaching across the board, and not just for the best schools.
But we also strongly believe that a child’s years between 7 to 12 are deeply formative. Break your child with too much pressure, and you might end up losing him for life.
Choosing a branded school may put your child under so much undue pressure, studying alongside other well-resourced children who are boosted with tuition and enrichment classes.
And what are you, as a parent, really fighting for?
No. Seriously. Ask yourself that question. What are you fighting for?
That coveted spot in the elite school? It may cost you your son or daughter.
I’m not joking.
Studying in Hwa Chong, was something I’m deeply grateful for. But the stress of wanting to live up to my parent’s expectations, and my own, gutted me. I simply couldn’t manage the stress of Junior College and the Alevels, having had no other comparable experience save for the PSLE.
I ended up doing badly, scoring a BBAD for my Alevels.
With my dreams of becoming a doctor crushed, I fell into a deep depression. I became suicidal.
Yes, I know it sounds like an exaggeration. But when I eventually sought help from a GP, who promptly sent to IMH, I remember the scene when my father walked back with me.
It was 3am. I had been admitted to the IMH Accident and Emergency at midnight after reporting that I felt suicidal.
We saw the psychiatrist, and he sent me for a followup appointment. As we walked down the pavement, trying to find a taxi to take us home, my father pulled me close and said,
Straight A-s or no A-s, you’re still my son.
I think that was the moment he realised that he could have lost me.
Do you want that for your child?
It’s a balance between push and pull
Choosing the right school for your child is not an exact science.
That’s probably what makes you want to tear your hair out.
Here one principle that can help is balancing between pushing your child to extend his wings in a competitive environment that will challenge him, but also pulling him close when he needs support, or feels unsure about himself.
It’s not what the school makes of the child
Finding the best primary school is the wrong starting point. A better starting point might be asking yourself what you know of your child. Ultimately, it’s what your child makes out of the school, rather than what the school makes out of the child.
Sure, you can send your child for more and more enrichment classes, but that may simply be resolving the need in your heart, where you know that you’re not spending enough time with him.
I don’t say this to blame you, as the parent. We all want schools and teachers and tuition and resources that will enable our children to soar. But at the same time, what we don’t realise is that we too have to play our part as parents.
So as to the question as to which is the best primary school, perhaps the simplest answer is the one that’s closest to your home.
But as to what your child will make of the school, the factor that matters, is how strong your relationship is with your child.
Education is important, but it isn’t everything. At the end of the day, you won’t be remembering how high your child scored, but how happy he was.