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Monday, January 31, 2011

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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Today is the start of the children's school holidays. They go back to school on the 5th day of Chinese New Year. We will be back from  hometown on the 4th day. It will be a long and tiring journey as everyone rushes back. I prefer if the holidays starts later and ends later. For some, like my neighbour, they have gone back to their hometowns earlier.

The other day, on the last day of school, the kids had a Chinese New Year party in school. They were given angpows, mandarin oranges. Prizes were given for the best caligraphy. All the teachers were dressed in beautiful Cheongsams in bright orange and red. The men were dressed in red too. It was grand. There was even a lion dance in the hall and the kids were chasing the lion around excitedly just to touch it.

I was happy to witness the scene. When I sent my child to Chinese school, the only reason I did it was because I thought it was the lesser of two bad choices. However, despite the long hours and heavy workload, I am glad to see the kids playing and the teachers relaxing on this day and I am glad to see this celebration of culture at the school.

Gong Xi Fa Cai. Xin Nian Kua Le. Kong Hei Fatt Choi,
Kiong Hee Huat Chai, Happy New Year!

Enjoy yourself now because when the kids get back to school, the pressure builds as the first term tests is just around the corner! I won't be back till then. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

School pressures

"You must get 20/20 for your essay, or else you have to copy the whole passage again."

My girl said her English teacher said this. Her partner, the girl who sits beside her got 19 1/2. She had to copy the entire passage again leading to extra homework to their already heavy work schedule.

"When you get back from Chinese New Year, I expect all of you to get 100% for your Chinese Spelling (ting seah) or I will chase you out the class. No excuses since you have so many days holidays for Chinese New Year."

My girl said her class teacher who also teaches them Chinese said this. Pity the kids. They can't even go for a Chinese New Year break without having to worry about school work. Chinese New Year break is only a week. Most of the children will be away, balik kampung somewhere. Where can they find the time to squeeze in some learning?

Right after that the first term exam is just around the corner. The pressure will get worse.

"Mummy, wuah... so much work. If absent one or two days finish lah. How to do? I cannot be sick."

"Mummy, don't know why teacher give work as though we are studying for test like that?"

Yes, don't know why.... but one thing I know. It is my job as a parent to make sure that they still get to play, rest and exercise despite their school pressures and heavy workload. That is one tough job!!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chinese New Year Craft - Angpow Rabbits

Here is a Chinese New Year craft that little ones will love. It is easy and the results are beautiful and fun too. Since it is the year of the rabbit, we decided to decorate our house with origami rabbits.

Here are our origami rabbits made from colourful origami paper

Here are our angpow rabbits made from angpow paper. (All we had to do was open up the angpows and cut them into squares before folding the origami rabbits).

Here is a close-up of the inflatable origami angpow rabbit. The kids love to blow and puff up the rabbit!

Finally, here is our loot of homemade angpow lanterns, angpow rabbits and red angpows clipped together in threes to hang on our plants. We also got red ribbons to tie around the pots to make it look more merry.

Last but most importantly, here is an instruction video on how to fold origami rabbits. The steps are very simple. If you follow the video step by step as we did, you will surely get it right the first time. It is really fun to inflate the bunnies.

We are now all ready to usher in the Year of the Rabbit with our homemade Origami Rabbits made from angpow paper.

Updated: 2012 is Year of the Dragon. Bye Bye Rabbit, Hello to all things Dragon including Decorations.

Mummy, I need to buy.....

This past two weeks, I've heard the following....
  • Mummy I need to buy an English Dictionary
  • Mummy, I need to buy a Chinese Dictionary
  • Mummy, I need to buy art block
  • Mummy, I need to pay RM5 for Persatuan Bulan Sabit Merah
  • Mummy, I need to buy Persatuan Bulan Sabit Merah Uniform
  • Mummy, I need to buy bandages for Persatuan Bulan Sabit Merah activity
  • Mummy, I need to buy Karangan Essay book
  • Mummy, I bought the wrong file for Karangan so I have to buy again
  • Mummy, I need to buy Chinese Workbook
  • Mummy, I lost the money for Chinese Workbook...
I wonder what she needs to buy next. I find that at Std 3, she needs to buy more and more things as compared to the boy who is in Std 1.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Crazy Afternoon Routines

On the days my children have to stay back in school in the afternoon, they have to dash about like mad.

First, right after school dismiss, the kids have 25 minutes for lunch before heading on to whatever activity or extra lessons they have. It takes about 5 minutes for my girl to come down from her classroom to the canteen. She may take another 5 minutes to queue for the toilet, another 5 minutes to drag her heavy bag to the next classroom. She may need another 5 minutes to change into another uniform or t-shirt for sports or a uniform body activity. That leaves 5 minutes to gobble down lunch. No time for slow eaters here.

Sometimes she has two activities requiring two different sets of uniforms, one hour for each activity and she may need to dash from one activity to another in different parts of the school, dragging her heavy schoolbag with her.

By the time she gets home it is 4.30pm. Time for a rest? No. She has to be rushed to have a bath then it is time to do the homework for the day. All the time, I would be nearby to remind the kids to hurry otherwise they will never be able to finish their work on time to have an early night before the next day's rush begins. And so it is like this from 4.30pm till 7.00pm.

Then its rush to eat dinner, rush to get ready for bed and rush to sleep. That is our crazy afternoon routine these days. We do this 3 days in a week. The other 2, we rush too, so that the kids can have half hour or one hour of physical activity like skipping, playing the badminton etc to sweat it out.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Crafts - Their own creations

In December, I wrote a post on how kids are naturally creative and mentioned that I will post up pictures. Well, here they are. I finally found time to post them up. :)

The kids have been doing so many crafts since the time when they were young that they can now make their own crafts with no instructions. During the school holidays, they asked for paper, glue, scissors and colour pencils and this is what they came up with. A ribbon shaped hanging mobile, an origami rocket and a 3-D picture.

Here is the ribbon shaped hanging mobile. How she did it. First she asked me how I cut the chain paper dolls. Next, she drew and cut out the chain ribbons, then coloured it and asked me to sew it for her to hang up.

This is the origami rocket. The boy cut and folded some rough paper into a rocket of his own creation. I must say it does look like a rocket. They used recycled paper with words on one side and blank on the other. Then the girl coloured it.

It even has a folded part that "pops" out.

Here is one side of the pop out.

And here is the other side.

All rockets must have a logo, I suppose, so they included one. lol.

Finally the boy folded a few origami rockets (again using recycled paper) and pasted them onto another recycled paper and called it his 3-D picture.

10,9,8,7...........Blast off!

Kids are naturally creative. If you can't afford art class, just give them supplies and they will be able to create to their heart's content.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Homemade Decorations

Each year we would buy some decorations for Chinese New Year. At the same time, we would make some ourselves. We would make angpow lanterns and angpow fishes and string them up to hang. We would clip angpow papers together and hang those up on our plants. Just adding a little red colour to the plants really makes the place look rather festive.

The kids love to make the decorations. They had been begging me to let them make but we could not find the time. Finally, yesterday, I managed to squeeze in a little bit of time. They were absolutely delighted. "Mummy, I love to do this. I enjoy doing this so much." said the girl while the boy sat and cut, folded and stapled to his heart's content. There were bits of angpow paper and staples everywhere. It was so messy... but as long as they are enjoying themselves....

Finally, the girl completed two strings of lanterns and wanted to bring it to school to decorate her class. "Teacher said we can win the class cleanliness contest if we decorate our classroom nicely." she said. The boy wanted to bring his tangled mess of lanterns to school to decorate his classroom too. He almost cried when I said he could not "Aren't they nice mummy?" His sister and I quickly assured him that they were really creative and very good for someone his age. He had manage to make the lanterns all by himself too, the folding and stapling together. However in his jest he stapled a whole row and circle of lanterns together. I am not sure the teacher will know how to hang that up. lol.

Poor thing. I hope I did not hurt his feelings too much. He really did do a good job, cutting, folding and stapling all by himself. Unfortunately I was busy with hubby trying to fix some lights so I could not sit and guide him step by step. I just let him do whatever he liked and he stapled all the lanterns together in a circle.(sort of)  :)

In the end, I spruced up last year's homemade decorations and gave those to him for bringing to school. Today each of them carried a bag of their homemade decorations to school proudly to present to their respective class teachers. The boy wanted to bring some angpow packets to give to teacher too. So I allowed him to choose three packs.

The girl said "Will teacher know I made them all by myself? Maybe she will think that you helped me? Maybe she won't like it? Other people brought very nice big decorations that they bought to school. How muummy?" I told her that homemade ones are very nice, even more so when she made it herself. I hope that the teacher will appreciate it too. Last year the ones she made were thrown aside by the teacher and never used because she had brought it too late and the decorations were already up. "This year I must bring them early, mummy."

Before bedtime, they were begging me to allow them to make more decorations again soon. I surely hope we can find the time, with their mad schedule and our own pre-Chinese New Year rush. :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kids staying back in school till 4pm

Recently my girl who is in Std 3 stayed back in school till 4pm for the first time. I had not signed her up for any activities in school before this year as I did not think it was necessary. Sleep and rest was more important to her. This year we could not escape this madness as it was compulsory for her to stay back for some activities. We are also trying out one tuition for one subject as I mentioned in my previous post.

Her brother who is in Std 1 also stayed back for one activity to match her time. The little one had 1 and 1/2  hour of activity while the sister had 2 hours. Since it was their first time and it made no sense to travel back and forth, I decided to stay in the school for a while.

It was quite eye opening really watching the kids and other parents. There was one which sat beside her son as he did his homework in the canteen while waiting for an older sibling I assume. There was one which plonked down her laptop on the canteen table and did some work herself. There were a couple of grandparents chatting and another group of mothers chatting. And then there were the kids. Some of them ran around from 1.30pm till 4pm waiting for siblings and transportation.

One kid who was attending the same activity as my boy cried loudly and refused to be dragged by grandmother into the classroom. "I don't want to go. I hate this activity" he cried loudly. Another one of my boy's kindy friend attended the same activity with him after school and after that he waited for 1/2 hour for the older kids to come out before taking the bus ............... not to home sweet home but to his old kindy which also doubles up as a after school care centre. The kindy is very near my home. We saw  him alighting from the bus to the centre as we approached home.

I can't imagine how tiring such a routine is on a 7 - 9 year old. My kids are 7 and 9. Wake up at 5-6am. School from 7.30am to 1.30pm. 1/2 hour for lunch then more lessons from 2pm to 4pm. Then shipped off to another centre to wait for parents to take them home after work probably around 6pm. That is 12 hours with little rest in between. It is madness. Even adults work officially from 9am to 5pm with a 1 hour lunch break. These kids work from 7.30am to 4pm with only 1/2 hour break for lunch and 15 minutes recess.

By the time we got home it was 4.30pm. The kids ate in the car. There was only enough time to give them a bath before getting them to do their homework and pack their school bags for the next day. We did this till 7pm. Fortunately the girl listened to my suggestion and had done most of her homework in school in between lessons. Otherwise she would not have been able to complete everything by 7pm.

Dinner was at 7pm. Right after that the kids prepared for bed, jumped into bed around 8pm, read some books and was fast asleep by 8.30pm. Me too. It was sooooooo tiring. I wish that parents who send their kids for one activity after activity in the name of "enrichment" and wanting to bring out the best potential from their kids would just step into the shoes of the kids for one day, just one day and see for themselves how tiring and ridiculous such a schedule is.

During this week there will be another long day like this for the kids after school. They only stay back in school 2 days in a week but it is so tiring. There are kids who have to do this every day. What a life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


This is the 3rd week of school. 3rd week is even more hectic because for older kids this is when the extra after school activities and after school extra classes begins. Depending on the school, some activities will be once a week, some twice a week but it is usually compulsory for older kids from Standard 3 onwards.

As for the tuition, well, most Chinese schools offer after school tuition to prepare kids for UPSR. I haven't had much experience about this after school tuition but from what I know, some of them are compulsory, some of them are not. There is a fee which again is different from school to school. Some charge on a per subject basis (example RM30-RM40 per subject) and goes up incrementally at a slight discount depending on how many subjects you take. Some charge a lump sum for all subjects. (example RM60 for all).

A mother told me that in her children's school you either take all the subjects or none.  You can't pick and choose which subjects you want to take. In addition, if you choose not to take any, then you can't be in the smart class with the best teachers. Hmm... In that case, I'd rather not be in the smart class. It is so ridiculous.

With extra tuition, the kids would have to stay in school till around 4pm. This is usually for Primary 3 and above although in some schools it starts from as young as Standard 1. However, the younger kids can opt out by writing a letter to the principal.

Tuition is not homework help or assistance. You have to buy extra books and that means extra work. Furthermore by the time they get home it is late, leaving little time for the actual daily homework.

If you have several children in the same school, some of whom are attending the extra classes while some are not, it also creates a transportation headache for you.

So this 3rd week of school, we're really into the full swing of things now. The kids are worried. "Do we have enough time for lunch? Where do we put our heavy school bags? Where do we go for the extra class? I don't know what to do. I am afraid I will forget to pay for the books" blah blah blah etc etc etc. They are worry warts, my children, just like their parents. To make matters worse, they are both a little under the weather and the boy had to skip school for 2 days because he was not feeling well.

The funny thing is we're only trying out one extra tuition for the girl and the boy will do an extra activity just to stay back and match her time. She has to stay back one other day for extra activities but the boy will not and they both have piano lessons at home on another week day. That is 3 days a week filled up. We can't manage any more than that.

I can't wait for them to learn the system and get used to the new routine because not knowing is stress to everyone. So many things to manage. The kids' worries. Their food. (Lunch). Their transport home with different timings. How to make sure they get their homework done with so little time. How to ensure they still have enough rest with so little time. How to make sure that life is still fun for them with so little time. And finally, how to make sure mummy does not get mad with so little time to manage so many things.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Piano Practise

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The kids' piano teacher told them that they should practise their piano at least 1/2 hour to 1 hour each day. I think we are lucky if we can get in 15 minutes of practise a day. *laughs* In fact, most days they do not practise at all. However, if time permits or if there is a piano exam or recital around the corner, then I will do my best to get the kids to practise. Sometimes, during the weekend, if there is time, then they do a one hour practise to make up for the whole week of lack of practise.

Whenever there is a school exam coming, I would tell the piano teacher to take it easy on the kids with the piano. Sometimes I wanted to stop the piano lessons for a while as well. She told me "You can't do this you know, in a child's life there will always be exams etc. You can't stop the music lessons to make way for other things. The kids will learn bad habits this way. They will think that music is not important." I guess she is right about that.

Well, ideally it would be good if the kids could do both, school lessons as well as music but if you tried to do everything too hard, something has to give. I believe that pushing them too much on the piano would make them hate it. I know that practise makes perfect, but in reality it just can't be done.

So we prioritize. When school exams are near, piano takes a back seat. When piano exams are near or during school holidays, piano takes a front seat. Perhaps this way, the kids will also understand the meaning of giving priority ie doing the important things first. Lessons in life are important. Not only academic lessons or music lessons and learning to prioritize is one very important lesson in life.

So I still insist the teacher take it easy on them and I always inform and remind her of their school exam schedule by placing a calander on the piano. :P

I know that the kids can do their music at a much faster rate if I pushed them harder at it but I will not. Music should be enjoyed after all. Some say that I am doing it wrong. They say that I should push them during the early years so that they complete their music studies before their schedule gets even heavier and heavier in later years while the music lessons get harder and harder too. I know a mum who pushed her children to complete their Grade 8 by the time the kids are in Std 3. It can be done but I will not do it.

This year the girl will be sitting for Grade 3 and the boy Grade 1. I think they both play rather well, not like robots. They play it with feeling and expression. They love me to watch them play especially the girl. She often says... "Mummy, see me play" then proceeds to play very proudly when she has mastered a piece. She passed with distinction for Grade 1 practical and Grade 2 theory so I guess we can keep up this "practise only when we have time" method for the time being.

I tell the teacher that I want them to learn for the long term, not give up after a few years. I hope that they can keep it up. I don't want them to see piano lessons as a chore and a dread. I want them to enjoy music lessons because I think that is what music is all about. It should not be yet another homework to already overtired, overscheduled kids.

The kids do complain sometimes but I still see them enjoying it for now. They go around the house singing their pieces loudly at the top of their voices and when given a little praise and encouragement, I can see their sense of pride and achievement in being able to play a new song.

I have stopped my piano lessons after two years because it is expensive to have 3 people learning in the house and I do not have time to practise my own songs while making sure the 2 kids practise theirs. Anyway, I have learned enough to tinkle whenever I like and learn on my own as well as to guide the kids in the early stages. Most importantly, I have fulfilled my dream of being able to play the piano and I have my husband to thank for that. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

No More Naps

This year the girl has to attend after school activities. It wasn't compulsory before but it is now. Since she has to stay back we decided to let the boy stay back on one of the days too, to match her timing. This means no more afternoon naps for the both of them.

During the first week of school we had to wake up at 5.30am everyday. On this 2nd week, it is 5.50am. With no afternoon naps and a full day of school, they both look really tired by evening with bags under their eyes and red eyes.

So our new schedule now is to have lights off at 8.30pm every day. We have dinner around 7pm till 8pm. That means right after dinner they have to start getting ready for bed. Sometimes if daddy comes home late from work, he has just enough time to have a short chat with them about school before saying goodnight to them.

I am glad I am home. Otherwise, I will have to do the same as daddy that is have time to say a few words before saying goodnight. That would mean missing a big chunk of their day.

As for me, I used to be a night owl who loves to sleep after 12am. 2am, 3am etc is no problem to me and I love to snooze in the morning. Now that I have to get up before 6am, by 9pm I am zonked out together with the kids as well giving me just enough time to exchange a few words with daddy about our day. I am glad we have email and sms. Otherwise we won't have enough time to chat.

Images courtesy of DailyClipArt.net

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Class Streaming in School

In my kid's school, they have a smart class and a class that needs more help and everything else is in between. My girl is in the smart class. Smart Class kids have the best teachers whose job is to groom the kids to get at least 7As in UPSR. That's what my girl told me last year. "Mummy, teacher said the smart class must get 7As in UPSR or else....." She was in Std 2 last year and UPSR is in Std 6. "Grooming" begins early, I see. What does "grooming" mean?

When I spoke to the class teacher last year, she said "They are the "harapan" (hope) of the school. We hope that they will score at least 7As in UPSR. Onl;y the best will be in the smart class. If you are very good in studies but you have bad attitude, out you go. We, the teachers put in so much effort to help them. So we do not want to waste our effort on the naughty ones who don't do their work, like this boy here or that one...."  she pointed exasperatedly obviously frustrated.

I asked the HM whether they will have extra homework as I heard and he said "Congratulations if you are in the smart class because it is not easy to be there but if your kid is there that means he is smart and capable to do more so.........." So they do get extra homework and work is taught very fast so that the teacher can cover more.

Even last year when kids were doing spelling of words, the teacher gave the kids sentences to memorise because they are in smart class, said the teacher. I also remember them having a lot of little tests (Xiao Kao) and Chinese spelling (Ting Seah), almost every other day. This year my girl tells me it will be twice a week and daily when exam is near. Last year, their teacher told them that she will not accept it if they score 80% and below for their "Ting Seah" because they are in smart class.

Plus, every kid is smart, scoring 90s to 100s for most subjects. It is a pressure cooker indeed and they are pushed hard by the school to perform. Not only are the students pushed, I do believe the teacher is also under pressure to perform or to make sure the students perform. I believe they pass on some of that pressure to the kids. Once my girl told me that those who constantly do badly in "ting seah" were called up to the front of the class. They had to stand in a row, hold up their books for all to see and have their picture taken by teacher and posted on the wall. How very awful and degrading.

Now, we are caught in a bit of a bind. We encouraged our girl to be good in her studies because she has low self esteem. Being good at something increases her confidence. She is a diligent and hardworking girl. Last year she won two trophies, one for being 4th in class and the other for being 7th in the standard. She was just bursting with pride when she went on stage to collect her trophies. That has increased her confidence. However I think it may also have increased her pressure to perform as well. Sometimes this pressure comes not only from parents and teachers and peers but from within oneself as well.

Once, when I saw her after school, she was looking dejected. When I asked her why, she showed me a paper where she scored over 90. She was sad because she did not get 100. That is horrible, being sad for getting over 90? I quickly reminded her that over 90 is very good indeed and she should be smiling happily, not looking like she was going to cry. I constantly remind her that it is not the results that counts. It is the effort. As long as you try your best at something, that is the most important thing of all. And if you fail, then you should learn from your lesson and try harder the next time but it is perfectly alright to fail. You should not give up just because you fail or don't do well, you should try again but it is ok to fail. Not everyone is good at everything.

I am really worried about this girl sometimes. Because of her health condition, she can't have too much pressure and stress but she is in exactly in that kind of situation. She is also a worried, anxious and have poor self esteem child. It helps that she does well in school but then it doesn't if she has too high a yardstick as a measure of performance. There is little room for improvement and it is hard to maintain that kind of high level. If she falls off her own yardstick wouldn't that be worse for her self confidence? I want to build her self esteem in other areas, not only in studies because that is not the only thing that counts (and it definitely should not be the only thing that counts) but then we hardly have the time for anything else! I really don't know what to do sometimes. How to get out of this?

And then there is the boy to consider. If his sister is in the smart class and he does not perform as well, will he start comparing himself to her? They have enough sibling rivalry as it is even without school work and performance coming into the picture.

Maybe I think too much. I should just let the kids find their own equilibrium. But then which parent does not think too much? That is all part and parcel of being a parent. We worry about our kids all the time. Parenting is a mixture of feelings of love, pride, worry, frustration, joy, etc etc.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Std 1 and Std 3 in a Chinese School

In the past, I have heard people telling me that Std 1 is the "honeymoon" year and things get really tough in Std 3 in a Chinese School when there is a big jump or change. I didn't know what to think of that although it did give me the shivers. :P

Now, I have a Std 1 and a Std 3 in a Chinese School so I can make direct comparison. After the first week of school, it appears that they may be right.

My girl who is in Std 3 is now lugging her bag which weighs like a brick around the school. Daily homework has started. Yesterday she came home and told me that for Chinese she will have "Little Test" twice a week and "Chinese Spelling" once a week. When test is near she shall have "Little Test" everyday! She will also need to start staying back in school for compulsory extra activities. At Std 3 she is still exempted from extra compulsory extra tuition but later on she will have to attend those as well.

Her Chinese language studies is really hard now. She will now not only need to know words and compound words but she will need to understand its usage, ie when is it appropriate to use certain words. Chinese language is so intricate and varied it is hard for me to understand the usage. I do not know any Chinese but I was able to teach her by reading her books beforehand in Std 1 and Std 2 but I am finding it harder and harder to teach her now as she is better than me now in the language with daily practise.

Her Maths is getting tougher now too. Some questions really test the ability of the student to think hard and analyse. It is not straightforward like before. As for Bahasa Malaysia, I think she will have to write Karangan and that is tough.

As for my Std 1 boy, he is still colouring pictures in school, singing songs, and doing other fun things. He has no time table yet and no books. Everyday, he brings a lightweight bag with just his tumbler, pencil box and colouring pencils.

There are two terms each year. The kids sit for tests during mid-term and end of the term for both the terms. If not for the Linus test in March, he will not have any tests at all till End of May. Std 1 kids are exempted from the first before mid-term break test so they will sit for 3 tests instead of 4 during the year compared to their older peers.

So, now in the 2nd week of school, my Std 1 boy is enjoying school blissfully unaware of what is to come whereas his Std 3 sister is in the full swing of things now. It will get worse soon when she has to start preparing for tests in early March which is not that far away after all. It is 3 weeks to Chinese New Year. The kids will have fun for a week and when they get back to school, well, that is when the pressure will speed up.

Speaking about pressure, on Sunday evening I was at the mall when I overheard a little girl grumbling to her mother "Come on mummy, hurry, I haven't done my homework and I am  hungry!" She looked about 10 or 11. It is only the first week of school and she is worried about homework. That is the kind of pressure our kids face these days.

Friday, January 07, 2011

KSSR (Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah)

My boy is in Standard 1 this year. He will go through the Primary School Standard Curriculum or Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah (KSSR) this year. His sister who is in Standard 3 is still on the KBSR (Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Rendah). The KSSR will replace the existing primary school integrated curriculum (KBSR), which was first introduced in 1983, and reviewed in 2003. My son is in the pilot year of the KSSR.

What does this all mean? From several local newspaper articles I have read, the keywords are:
  • pupil centered
  • fun and interactive
  • less-exam orientation
  • project and activity based
  • creativity and innovation
  • communication
  • ICT literacy
  • holistic
  • critical thinking and reasoning skills
  • independant learning
"The new curriculum is based on six key areas — communication, spiritual attitude and values, humanitarianism, literacy in science and technology, physical and personal development — to produce holistic individuals." (Wow. Big Words)

KSSR aims to strengthen the command of Bahasa Malaysia and English among primary school pupils

So what's new? (I am talking about SJKC only since that is where my child is studying)
  • School Hours reduced by 120 minutes
  • No more Maths and Science in English
  • Malay periods increased to 10
  • Maths periods reduced from 10 to 6 (Previously it was 6 periods for Maths in Chinese and 4 periods for Maths in English. Now it will be 6 periods in Chinese only.)
  • English periods increased from 2 to 5
  • Science is now "Dunia Sains dan Teknologi", and Mathematics is "Matematik" for SJK
What else is new?
  • Penmanship - Students are to be taught the right way to hold a pen or pencil properly
  • Introduction of Sexual Education
  • There is even a segment on bullying and how kids should handle thugs and extortionists in schools
  • Students will be given a file for assignments throughout the year which must be checked, sign and return. Failure to do so will bring about "adverse consequences" and negatively impact his overall academic performance
  • Teachers have to do internal assessments and evaluations
  • Less Exam Oriented
Practical implementation so far:

I have yet to see the new primary school books for Std 1. The SJK(C) workbooks are not out yet too. However, the HM of my boy's school has said that the school will keep the little ones in school during the 120 minutes reduced lessons time (about 4 periods in a week) where teachers will help them with their homework etc so that they can go home at the same time with their brothers and sisters. That is a good thing as the school buses will not come early. I don't think the schools are supposed to give any more academic lessons during this 120 minutes because we're supposed to be moving away from academics and exams.

It is all fine and good to reduce the lesson times but no one thought about the practicalities of doing so when many kids have siblings who go back half an hour later each day. What do you do with 7 year olds released or dismissed from schools half an hour before their brothers and sisters when the school buses will not come to pick them? Even parents will find it impractical to pick up their kids at different times, just half and hour apart.

When I asked the class teacher what is the difference between KBSR and KSSR, she summed it up this way. "The kids are supposed to talk more." She pointed to the cute but noisy 7 year olds and said "Can you imagine how that will be? During lessons, teachers are supposed to teach while they sit quietly to listen." And so that was that. I wonder what she feels about completing the evaluation forms for each kid. Some SJKC have more than 50 to a class.

On another point, less exam oriented? We now have the LINUS program which sees some schools holding these tests as early as January. Scary. The kids just entered "big school" for the first time in their lives and they have to start taking tests in Malay and Maths.

I wonder about the project-based activities and wonder what sort of assignments my boy will be receiving. As a parent, I better stand-by to offer him support and assistance.

We parents have always wanted an education system that is less exam oriented. Is this it? Will we get there? We'll just have to wait and see. I hope there won't be too many teething problems for this first year of implementation.

#Check out! On my other blog - KSSR vs KBSR Confusion When Buying Workbooks.

  1. Mysinchew.com - KSSR the ideal and the reality 16.12.2010
  2. The Star Online - Change is Due 19.12.2010
  3. NSTP: Little bit of dub, dab in new school year 23.12.2010
  4. Mysinchew.com - Time to stop the rot in schools 3.1.2011
  5. KSSR - Moe.gov.my

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The first few days of school

Day One

Traffic is always chaotic during the first week so we had no choice but to wake up at 5.30am to leave the house by 6.30am. The boy has no trouble adjusting since he is familiar with the school by now. It is always easier with the 2nd kid. 

The sister's class is now upstairs but quite close to the boy's class so they can wave to each other before she goes up the stairs and before he goes to class. The only problem he faces is the language problem. I saw teacher asking the kids about recess ie who brings food from home, who will buy and who has catered food. Many kids raise their hands, a sign that they understood what was being asked but my boy just sat there and stared blankly. :P

We met up the teachers of both kids. To me, it is important to meet the teachers, so we can err.... size them up. Haha. Well, it is important to establish communications... I am not sure the teacher appreciates nor welcomes that. Especially for the older kid. She's probably thinking "Get lost!" :P However if your child has some special conditions or issues, now is a good time to inform the teacher but its best not to hog their time.

The girl's teacher looks like a stern, no nonsense type. The boy's teacher seems ok but somewhat disorganised compared to some of the other teachers. The class comes out last in many instances and the children do not seem to know where to line up and wait for the teacher etc. Anyway, parents are a demanding lot when it comes to teachers. I saw some parents complaining that their teacher is new to the school and therefore very inexperienced. Teachers must be fun, kind, patient yet able to discipline. They must be experienced too. These are some of the criteria a parent looks for. It is not easy being a teacher with such high expectations from parents.

It rained cats and dogs just before dismissal. What a chaos it was. So many parents and children running around with most stranded in school with no way to get to the car. Even those who had umbrellas with them were soaked through when they made their way to the cars. Traffic was a total chaos too.

Only when we got home, my girl informed me that in my morning rush, I had given her different halfs from two different pairs of shoes. As for my boy I gave him one of his sister's old torn shoe instead of his brand new one.

Day Two

The school allowed the year one parents to stay in the school premise for two full days so we took advantage of that and lingered. Afterall, this is our second kid and we will not get the chance to do this again. Only std 1 parents are given this special privelege. The rest are strictly not allowed to be anywhere near the classroom.

The kids are given a tour of the school. I bet the boy likes that.

During recess we showed the boy where to eat, where to put his plates after eating, where to go to the toilet after that and where to wait for teacher before entering the classroom.

After recess we went off to do some errands but were back in time to tell the boy where to wait after school.

This year the sister has to stay back in school for some activities and tuition on certain days so we had to crack our heads on which activities, and whether to let the boy stay back on those days too so we could organise pick up times.

The sister started having homework by today.

The boy was happy because he won a sweet for some games they were playing at the hall.

After school we brought the girl to the optometrist because she had been complaining that her glasses is uncomfortable and giving her headaches for some time now. Being a tall girl she was put at the back of the classroom and she said she could not see. She wanted to ask the teacher to put her nearer up the front which will put her closer to the boy who had been bullying her last year so she was afraid. Her power had increased significantly in a year. Oh dear.

Back to school brings also brings with it school related anxieties like dealing with homework and bullies. To me, these lessons in life are harder to teach then academic lessons.

Day Three

I went to peep at the boy during recess and found that he was doing just fine, doing everything that he was supposed to do. He has got his act together so there is no worry. My only worry is the language barrier but children learn fast. In 2-3 months he should be able to converse in Mandarin, hopefully.

At the end of the day, I saw that he found his kindy friends who are all in different classes. Five of them stood together in a circle obviously happy to see each other. Cute.

More homework and some crying from the sister because she was unsure about what to do for some of them. It took all day and some nagging from mummy for her to complete the work and pack her bag for the next day. Looks like it is back to business as usual.

The boy is still relaxed as all he did in school is sing songs. No work yet.

Day Four

Today is Day Four. Its raining cats and dogs. I wonder how will daddy cope with two kids, two trolley bags (one which ways a tonne) and an umbrella? Well, good luck to him!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Orientation Day for Std 1

My blog posts will all be a little behind time as I simply had no time to blog. Here's my first backdated one.

The boy goes to Primary One this year. We had half a day of "orientation day". That suited us just fine. We had forgotten how it was like though. So many forms to fill. Fees to pay. We did remember to bring the cheque book along but some had to be paid by cash and we almost did not have enough cash on us.

As usual, we struggled to understand what was being said in the hall because it was all in Mandarin. I wish they would translate some important stuff in English or Malay.

The boy is fine to be left alone. He knows the school pretty well since his sister is in the same school. He did look rather serious though. When we peered at him at the classroom the first time, he was sitting straight up with a serious look. Everyone else around him was lying down with their face on their hands looking tired.  When I went to collect him home, everyone was running around but he was still sitting at his place, straight up with a serious face. He dare not even budge when I gestured for him to come. Teacher said "Wow, he must one of the attentive types later on." Well, we'll see about that. Orientation Day is not an indicator. ;)

He has 3 other friends from kindy at his school but none of them are at his class. Too bad. I know some of the mothers. That would have saved me some networking efforts. :P There are 41 children in his class. About 10 of them are non-chinese, 2 mat sallehs, 1 or 2 Indians and the rest are Malays. Very nice mix indeed. He can have friends from many races. The non-chinese, having made up their minds early on to send their children to Chinese school have made extra preparations. Some of the kids have attended 3 years of Chinese Kindy. They can converse well in Chinese. They are much more prepared than my boy who can barely understand Mandarin let alone speak it, though he can write ok.

He will be learning a new syllabus with different textbooks and emphasis compared to his sister because of the new KSSR whatever.... It is supposed to emphasize on fun learning etc. That also cuts off 4 periods of school time for the kids in Std 1 each week. About half of the class children have older siblings in school who will dismiss later. The school buses will not come to pick the kids up earlier. What to do? What about the safety and security of these kids? Hmm.... as usual, whoever who came up with this wise idea did not think about these little practical things upon implementation. The school HM said that some Heads of Schools got together and decided that they would keep the kids in school till their brothers and sisters dismiss and they will all leave school at the same time. During that time, the teachers will give them homework help etc. Everyone applauded that move. Phew!

I've got loads to write about but I've also got loads of other things to catch up on. So I will leave the writing till later. Thats all for Orientation Day.We made it. ;)

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