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Monday, September 15, 2008

Parents too picky about kids' schools?

"I feel shock when I read about a blogger mum's long checklist on the pre-school selection, I don't really consider that when sending my girl to school. On the selection of primary school, I have made up my mind to sent her to Chinese School since day 1, the one next to my house and never thought of checking the school or school hunting or anything. Do we really need to be thinking that much??"

I received this comment on my personal site and I was going to reply to it there but I can't seem to access it this morning so I'll reply to the comment here as a blog post instead since I have much to say about this subject. (as usual) ;)

"Do we really need to be thinking that much??"

IMO, it depends. On the parents and the circumstance or situation at home and the schools or educational systems and facilities available. For example, we speak to our kids mainly in English so if we had an English medium of education here, I would not have so much headache. I would probably just check out one or two and go to the one nearest to my house. End of story. No need to think that much.

For their preschool, since, most of the medium of instruction is in English, it was very easy to decide. Location played a main factor in my decision. There are many preschools in my housing area. All of them are nearby. Still, I feel that it is necessary to at least visit the schools so that you have a better idea of whats best for your child.

I visited 3. Preschool No 1 was very established. It is a montessori based. The principal mentioned that her earlier students are now bringing their kids back to the preschool. However, I am afraid that the premise and equipment were old and run down. They had not bothered to give it a face lift. Safety and security were not ideal as well. When I visited, there was no one around and the little ones opened the door for me! There were mosquitoes and the roof looks like it needed fixing. That school is out for my kids although its the nearest.

Preschool No 2 is a famous franchised one. The principal proudly proclaimed to me that their syllabus is equivalent to the primary school year 1 syllabus and all their students do well in primary school eventually. She emphasized rather proudly as well, that there is a lot of homework for the students and they have a overseas Chinese teacher to teach the kids Chinese. I asked to speak to the Chinese teacher and could not understand what she was saying as she spoke fast and didn't sound local. She also could not speak any English. The principal said that this is a good thing since the students will then be forced to speak in Chinese. Famous or otherwise, that school is out for my kids.

Preschool No 3 is in between 1 and 2. Not very famous and only a few years old. Safety wise they were ok but cleanliness wise not fantastic. There were no soaps in the toilet sinks. However, they gave me the best impression of all. Security was ok and the syllabus had just the right mix of work and play. They have cooking classes where the teachers would cook up local delicacies and the children would learn counting and following instructions by counting the number of spoons of sugar, flour etc that is required and when to mix them in. They have gardening classes where the students would plant onions etc and watch them grow. And they have gym classes, music and waterplay classes. They don't have fantastic equipment for those activities and the school is not famous, big nor beautiful but thats fine by me. I chose this preschool for my girl and she's happy and thriving there. Right from the first day. No tears.

So yes, I feel that choosing and looking around is very important. Afterall, your child will be spending most or at least half his or her day there.

As for Primary school we are faced with a dilemma.

We speak English at home but we have to send our kids to either a Malay medium or a Chinese medium school. Thus, I feel, we have to crack our heads a bit more. We are both from the Malay medium school, so we have to crack our heads even more since the Malay medium school standards are dropping and everyone wants to learn Chinese now due to the rise of China.

Why do we have to crack our heads? We want our kids to learn Chinese, naturally, since we are Chinese. However, since we are not from that system of education, we do not understand it nor will we be able to support our kids as much as we'd like to. How can we provide the support when we don't even understand the language or medium of instruction. I do not believe in tuition but it looks like it may be necessary if we cannot provide the support at home. All this adds to the dilemma and is the reason why most parents are "choosy" about schools.

I keep on hearing over and over again. "Nevermind, suffer for 6 years only." But why should anyone have to suffer to learn? I don't understand it at all, nor do I agree with it. To me, it is 6 fundamental growing years where attitudes are formed. So they are rather important 6 years. We have to make sure that our child thrives in whatever learning environment we put them in.

Another thing. I do not believe in pushing my child to be the first or top students in class but I do believe that they should excel and be ahead of their peers. Being top students brings with it the pressure of being at the top and staying at the top. If my child is naturally good, then well, thats fine. But I do not believe in pushing them and making sure they are right there at the top.

However, I do believe that they should be shown the way to be ahead of their peers so that they can develop a better self image and have the self confidence and self assurance from excelling in studies and being above average students. I do not wish for them to lack behind their peers and that is why I put so much taught on whether I should send them to a Chinese school. Not speaking Chinese at home puts them at a disadvantage and behind those whose main language is Mandarin at home. So that means they will have to put in extra effort and work extra hard to be above average and yet I cannot support them since I don't understand Mandarin. I do not wish for them to be just one of the crowd (as I want them to experience the confidence that comes with being good) and worse still, I do not wish for them to be always struggling to catch up in their studies.

That is why I think so hard about schools and I believe, rightfully so.

In searching for primary schools I visited quite a few to make sure that I can find an environment that is suitable for my child and in which she and he can blend in. I do not believe in going for the best schools and travelling an hour each day commuting just to make sure that my child is in the best school. No, that is not why I am choosy. However, I think it is important to visit the few nearby schools to view the premise and speak to the teachers and head if possible. And so, that is what I did. It gives me a better view of what to expect so I can prepare my child.

For example, when I visited a nearby National School, I was surprised to note that during recess, the kids ran out and sat on the floor to eat because there weren't enough sitting places. The school was small and did not have a school hall or field. A chinese teacher I spoke to at the school expressed surprised that I was considering National School for my kid. (Even the teachers who teach in the school have no faith in the system. Its so sad). When I asked her about the school facilities, she shrugged and said "Just look around you lah. Thats what we have. We have very little space."

Now, if I had just closed my eyes and picked the nearest school in the same kind of learning environment as I had been taught, I would have ended up in that school. I would not be able to find out and learn more from viewing the premise, observing the students and speaking to the teachers, heads, guards, cleaners, and other parents themselves. So yes, I believe we need to be thinking that much and the above are my reasons.


  1. You will not regret sending your girl to a Chinese school, wise.
    You should choose the kindergarten too but is not easy to judge a good one. I was teaching in the kindergarten some years back, I was sick to find out of some truth about some teacher illtreat the child but when come to home time they just turn the smilling face and may be the kid was treated with a sweet and then a threat. Sad!

  2. i forgot to another comment about "being reserved"

    for me, when i was in primary school, i shut myself from others because i couldnt speak the language. "no-click" .. but when i m with friends / sunday school at church, i m "over active". so the environment does play a part. FOR ME!

    anyway dont think too much. let yr dotter try n if she cannot cope, u can always change or do HOME SCHOOl... :)

  3. Hi MG, my children speak English at home but a Chinese school is what I always wanted my kids to be in.

    My eldest in now in a Chinese school. He's in Primary one. He was very reluctant at first when I said that he's going to a Chinese school but now, he's enjoying himself. Although there are lots of homework and the teachers are really strict and fierce but when I see my son speaking Mandarin now, all the other factors become not that important. He could also score "A" for his Chinese language, not the top scorer though. Well, like you, I never believe in being the top. *wink* So, I think children catch up pretty fast. If you were to worry about your children struggling, think of those Malays and Indians studying in Chinese schools. If they can catch up, we can too!

    Taking me as an example. I'm from an English speaking family with both my parents not knowing a word of Chinese but they sent me to a Chinese primary school. With 6 years of Chinese education, I'm proud to say that I can read, write and speak Chinese quite fluently now. My parents were not there to support me and I didn't have any tuition but I did pretty well in exams. Tuition of not depends solely on your children. If they can catch up, there isn't a need for tuition.

    Well, a little long winded here. Forgive me. If you need to know more, you can always drop me an email.

  4. Wahaha...I believed that long list of checklist must be from my blog. :D

    No choice..have to be particular, else the children suffer, just like what I have experienced recently.

  5. I think peers also have a big influence on how well children learn. If they are disruptive peers w/o much motivation to learn, it can be detrimental to a child.

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  6. molly,
    Thats terrible. :(

    little lamb,
    Yes, I'm sure the environment affects one's behaviour.
    I tend to be more talkative with chatty friends and more quiet with quiet ones etc.

    So who do you go to to ask questions when you don't know? Sometimes when my girl comes and asks me how to do her kindy Chinese, I may go "Sorry, mommy also don't know." Thats terrible and not the situation I want at all.

    Haha. I purposely didn't put down your blog name one. But yes, I believe its important too less the children suffer going to a school they detest.

    I am sure peers have a lot to do with it too.

  7. You can simply register to an online Chinese course which is live with teacher from beijing.
    For more details:

    A very good service provided by eTeacher group.

  8. each parent has diff requirement and point of view. doesnt matter what ppl say, as long as u and hubby agree to it. i too prefer my kids to go to chinese medium school although both hub and i didnt when we were young, but i am ready to get a talking dictionary to help my kids and learn chinese myself too. chinese is very important and widely use now. but again, its my personal opinion.

  9. wen,
    Yes, I agree with you. With Parenting, whatever is right for you and your family is the right thing and that includes schooling and education too.

  10. I agree with your friend Wen. Every parents and family has different situation. Outsiders even a friend couldn't give final decision for you, only suggestions. i think you don't have to much worry about your daughter's future school. Just let's see..If she could't make it, that's the time for you to arrange a new school for her. Actually kids that have great and fun time at preschool would also have great adaptation to the new situation. I've seen many...Good luck!

  11. hi there, i am an advocate for chiniese school, as I came from one. I think the chinese language itself has given me a different perspective in many areas. Go for it!

  12. henny,
    My nephew had a great time at a Montesorri kindy for 3 years, then when he entered Primary One in a Chinese school, he cried everyday and refused to go to school because he had a culture shock. :P

    Thanks for your perspective.

  13. Mg,
    yes I knew that sometimes it happened to few kids. That's why nowadays I also worried it would happened to my little boy, too. LOL! I had tried to show him some of his future schools from now on.
    There is no Montessori elementary school here.

  14. I thought so too, must be from Elaine's blog. I wish I have her knowledge of the checklist but I don't. Even so, I find I do have to think long and hard about the choice of school too. Despite me having reservations about Chinese school (and me, from chinese half day school somemore !), I still were running to and fro these 2 options.

  15. allthingspurple,
    Its a dilemma most of us face due to the education system here.


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