So it is my big girl's turn to register for Primary One this year. Yes, I still can't believe that this darling of mine is turning six this year and will be entering formal school very soon. No matter what, I'm truly excited that she is going to embark on this new learning journey and it is definitely a huge milestone in her growing up.
Unlike some parents who had to go through the stressful process or balloting, or others who did their preparation work by shifting houses or signing up as parent volunteers (PVs), or a handful of those who could depend on their alma mater, church, clan or grassroots affiliations, our decision was a straightforward one.
Firstly, our minimum occupation period for our flat is not up yet and we will have to use our current address for registration, thereby eliminating the possibility of shifting to another neighbourhood. It was easy in finding out which schools were in our 1km and 2km radiuses through onemap.sg and from there, the elimination process began.
Secondly, since I gave birth just over two years ago and had to look after a baby on my own when it was also time to sign up as a PV, plus considering that the hubby's work schedule can get extremely volatile, it was not feasible for us to fork out 40 hours for voluntary work. In any case, both the hubby and I did not see the need for it too and to be honest, I would much rather dedicate all my time to spending with my kids at that point.
Last but not least, we are not in any alumni association simply because I came from a neighbourhood school which is not that near where we stay now and the hubby comes from another neighbourhood school which has since closed down. So I guess it's not surprising to say that we chose to let our girl enter a neighbourhood school because we reckon that since we turned out just fine eventually, she would too.
Thus, after going for a few open house tours and parent dialogues, I decided on my first choice of school and after going through the Phase 2C registration, I'm happy to say that we have successfully gotten in without the need to ballot (in fact, all the applicants, regardless of Singapore Citizens or PRs, secured a place for their child in this school). Hip hip hooray!
While we look forward to the orientation which will happen this year end, here are some tips and thoughts on how to go about choosing a primary school for your child.
Things to consider when choosing a primary school
How far are you willing to travel? Is the school close to your home or workplace? How will your child go to school? What are your plans for after school care?
For me, distance was the deciding factor. I wanted a school that is as near to us as possible so that we can save on transport cost and travelling time. Bringing a baby and a toddler to fetch the big sister under the hot sun everyday is no joke, right? So, I ended up choosing a school that is most convenient to us and is just a 10 to 15 minute walk away. There is even a sheltered walkway to help me save the hassle if we run into rainy weather. Having a school nearby also means that my girl gets to sleep in later in the morning and I think it is extremely important for a child to be well-rested so as to be able to pay attention in class.
2) School mission, values and vision
Are the school philosophies in line with your beliefs? Does the school's policy on homework, exams and discipline reflect your own values?
Take a look at the school's website, handbook and go on an open house tour to get a vibe of the school. Think about whether its values reflect your own family values and if their policies are what you expect from a school. It's not enough, or advisable, to just depend on hearsay or read too much on what fellow parents are saying about the school. In fact, it's best to experience it for yourself and I can say it's a parental instinct when we determine which school will be the most suitable environment for our child.
3) Co-curricular activities (CCAs)
Can the school cater to your child's interests? Does the school's facilities meet your expectations? Besides academics, does the school support other aspects of your child's development including physical, social and cognitive needs?
This might matter to some parents but not all, since considering that our kids' interests might still be changing. Nonetheless, by the age of six, you should already have a good idea of what fields he/she is good in and so may wish to consider honing these skills when he/she goes to primary school. If that is the case, then getting to know the CCAs and other learning activities offered by the school might give you a good insight into its compatibility.
4) Staff and students
Are you comfortable with the 'feel' of the school? What is your reaction after interacting with the staff? What impression do the principal, teachers and students give you?
Personally, I think it is important to know a little more about the school principal and if possible, take a look at how he/she speaks to the crowd and addresses the parents' concerns, and see if you are convinced by the charisma and personality. A good leader can make or break an organisation, and this is true in this case too. You can also try talking to some of the teachers to find out more details about the subjects and class activities, while at the same time judge for yourself if these are the teachers you will like for your child. Lastly, I also find it pretty interesting to talk to a couple of the students who are currently studying in the school because it is not hard to tell if they are happy and enjoying their time there.
5) Phase and Probability
Which phase are you eligible for? What are the chances of your child getting into your first choice of school? Are you a Singaporean Citizen and do you stay within 1km of the school? Are you willing to face the stress of balloting and risk the chances of getting into another neighbourhood school that you like?
Get to know about the seven different phases of Primary One registration and determine which phase you fall in. Decide early if you wish to enroll your child in your or your spouse's alma mater, or if you wish to become a parent volunteer, join associations or become an active community leader so as to secure a place in a more competitive school. If you wish to find out more about past statistics so that you can work out your chances of getting into your desired school, kiasuparents website has a balloting history compilation list that may be helpful. I've heard stories of parents crying their hearts out during the balloting process (some even bring the child along and sob in front of the child) when they fail to get in, so please think twice if you are willing to face the risk of balloting should you decide to go for a popular school, especially in Phase 2C. You might also be diminishing your chances of going into your second choice of school, which might end up being full by the time we reach Phase 2C Supplementary, so do choose wisely.
Questions to ask yourself as a parent
1) What do you wish to achieve from your child's primary school education?
Are we hoping for academic excellence to lay the way for our child's path in life, an all-rounded development in a nurturing environment or for values such as perseverance, responsibility, honesty and kindness to be imparted to our child? Have a think about what we wish to have accomplished, not just by the school but us parents with the school, in this six-year long learning journey.
2) What is the deciding factor for you? Is distance or getting into an elite school more important?
"All schools are the same". Clearly, this is what the ministry says but this is not what parents believe in, judging from the great lengths some go to in order to secure a spot in a elite or brand name school. Are neighbourhood schools or newly startups acceptable to you? Decide on whether distance, brand name, school values or other factor which is most important to you.
3) What does a good quality education mean to you? Are you more for a single sex school or co-ed?
A good school is very subjective so have a think about what a good education means to you. It's easy for us to say that PSLE results is not what we care most about, but at the end of the day, what holds true and what do we expect our 12-year-old to have achieved in school? Also, have a think about whether you prefer to go for a single sex or mixed education because that will greatly influence your top choices. It doesn't mean that having all boys or girls in the family means you should go for single sex or that having kids of different genders means you should opt for co-ed; at the end of the day, it all depends on what you believe in as a parent.
4) What is your child's interest, learning style and personality?
We know our children best and this includes their interests, temperaments, learning styles and most of all, their needs and wants. Think about which school's philosophies, learning environment and enrichment activities are the best match. It's not just about choosing the school that we like most; it's about choosing the school that we think they will enjoy and benefit most from.
5) What will make your child happy?
Lastly, it's easy to say but I think the happiness of our child is of topmost priority. At least for now, I know my child will be happy to have me and her siblings bring and fetch her from school, she will be happy to get a little more sleep in the mornings, she will be happy to be able to spend the afternoons and hang out with me, she will be happy to make new friends and even if she might be apprehensive at the beginning, I am hoping she will soon discover the joy and fun of being in a primary school.
Yes, a little overly idealistic maybe, but it's always good to stay positive and have hope. All the best to you when it is your child's turn to register for Primary One!