Jan 3, 2009

The Primary School Adventures of Little Wang

How time flies. Seems like only yesterday when my little son was learning to take his first baby steps. However. what really happened yesterday was that he went to primary school for the first time, lugging an oversized school bag filled with textbooks. Mrs Wang and I tagged along to make sure that everything was okay on his first day at school.

It was largely unnecessary. My son didn't seem to have any difficulty adjusting. He cheerfully made a few new friends within his first hour at school, and rapidly became good pals with the boy sitting next to him. Pretty soon they were chatting happily and comparing the stationery in their respective brand new pencil boxes.

I do remember that on my own first day at school (yes, a few decades ago), I did feel quite nervous and shy. Back then, I think that was fairly usual for six-year-old boys on their first day. In fact, I remember that I had a few classmates who cried or panicked, when their mummies "abandoned" them in the strange, unfamiliar classroom to go wait outside. Separation anxiety, and all that.

My son had no such problem. Not only that, I noticed that none of the other Primary One boys seemed to have any such problem. The parents looked more concerned than the kids themselves. Most of the kids looked secure and confident, and a few even looked bored, like they'd seen it all before. In general, it was as if the kids knew exactly what was happening; why they were here and and what was expected of them, even though this was just their first day at school.

This, I suspect, is one unintended consequence of the modern Singapore style of raising little kids. Before they ever step into primary school, the kids have already gone to Kindergarten One, Kindergarten Two and Nursery. In addition, many would also have attended one or more of the following - playschool; swimming class; music lessons; Chinese enrichment class; ballet class; art lessons; maths class etc etc.

So at quite a young age, these kids have already been exposed to a variety of different environments. Been there, done that, and survived, no sweat. Steady, lah. They might only be six years old, but they're already adaptable, confident, cockily self-assured.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

>the modern Singapore style of raising little kids. Before they ever step into primary school, the kids have already gone to Kindergarten One, Kindergarten Two and Nursery.


That's true not just in Singapore, but also in almost all developed countries such as UK, USA etc. It's universal.

There's however one very huge difference: in UK/USA, kindergarten is part of the public school system, so they start teaching ABC and 123 officially in kindergarten.

In sg, public (i.e. govt funded/mandated) schooling starts at primary 1, yet they expect your kids to have mastered ABC/123 while in the non-mandatory unofficial kindergarten level

Not a problem for the majority, but a minority falls through the crack each year.

So, yes, ABC/123 should be taught in Kindergarten (everywhere all over the world, they do that), but kindergarten should be part of the official school system!

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon at January 3, 2009 7:53 PM.

During my time almost 4 decades ago, children at Primary 1 were asked (in various dialects and languages) how many had not attended kindergarten. It was quite common in those days. The teacher taught on the assumption that one has not learn any English, sometimes using dialects and other languages to explain the classroom conduct expected. They also focused more attention to make sure those who missed out on the pre-school education are able to catch-on.

We were taught from scratch ABC and 123. Bored me to death, but even at a young age of 6, I understood the need to level the playing field for the less fortunate.

Somehow, it now becomes the poor parents fault for not being able to afford to send their children to pre-school. I don't know what has happened to society here. Whatever the flaws of the parents, children are innocent and should be given a fighting chance to the "good" life and progress in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Preschool is ridiculously expensive compared to primary school.(Or you could say that primary school is ridiculously cheap, compared to preschool).

Fees for kindergarten easily cost a few hundred dollars per month, while fees for primary school is still about $5.50, I think.

Anonymous said...

I spent $800 in total per month for my 2 kids' pre-school. Now I only spend $11/month for both of them.

What a difference!

Onlooker said...

Not to mention the whole side industry where children extra educations (ie little or no childhood) sprang up just because of the misconception of the "additional edge".

Actually the keyword is exposure to the extra "edge" and concentrate on nurturing only one.

It is ultra inflated competition gone awry.And the goalpost is to become part of the system where there is no competition through questionable meaNS (ie earning Monkey Peanuts -> MP ,esp those PAPers who does nothing to speak up for the people they represent >>> Walkover GRC)

Anonymous said...

Haha, people why worry when you start learning ABC/123.

I just quited from Singapore to Canada.

My 9 year old boy, went to an all boys mission school in the Bishan area from P1-3. He is now a student in grade 4 of a public elementary school here. Today was his first day of school.

Guess what, they were teaching 2X table. My boy told me he learned that when he was in P1 in Singapore.

Take comfort, Singaporean, at least you know that probably most of Canada, less some private schools are 2-3 years behind.

Anonymous said...

"Take comfort, Singaporean, at least you know that probably most of Canada, less some private schools are 2-3 years behind."



WHy is it that these foreign schools who are 2-3 years behind will end up producing talents that surpass products of the Singaporean system? Heck, even some third rate developing nations who are way behind us are producing students who are eventually considered foreign talents! Heh heh.

David Chappell said...

"Why is it that these foreign schools who are 2-3 years behind will end up producing talents that surpass products of the Singaporean system?"

Perhaps because they allow kids time to be just kids rather than examination fodder.

Anonymous said...

I am flabbergasted! Not only you but our MM, SM and PM are now focusing on education in the midst of our economic recession!

Is there any special twist to this phenomenon or are you all trying to bury your ostrich heads in the sand?

Please enlighten us, thanks.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps because they allow kids time to be just kids rather than examination fodder." What an astute observation !

By the time they start Pri3 here, most of the kids' spontaneity and chattiness would hv been "killed" by the teachers in the schools. On a daily basis, the children are instructed to "keep quiet", "sit down", etc... Students' questions are often ignored with a "keep quiet" !

Mr Wang, pls continue to blog your observations on Little Wang. It will be interesting to see how things go 2 years from P1.

Anonymous said...

"Why is it that these foreign schools who are 2-3 years behind will end up producing talents that surpass products of the Singaporean system?"

I would not be too worried about the disparity in the first few years, as different school systems focus on different aspects of learning. In western countries, the early years are for building up confidence, speaking, independent thinking etc. While here, the focus is about serving up the ABC/123 menu down your throat.

education is a marathon, it is not about a short sprint.

the end product after 10 years of education should be the yardstick, then followed by continuous thrist for learning in adult life.

but in singapore, it is sprint, sprint, sprint, to reach that degree. Very myopic indeed.

Anonymous said...

srpint sprint sprint to reach that degree, only to discover it is better to get into a lousy university overseas, because the other countries protect their own uni's grads. Unlike our free for all foreign trash policy!

Fighting fit said...

Very soon, you'll realize the pri school fees at $5.50 isn't all. They'll engage typing instructors, music teachers, computer instructors, etc. and all those are paid separately. they'll tell you that you can use Edusave to pay or pay part of it. But still, you pay more, on top of that monthly fee of $5.50.
In old days, music lessons were part of the regular curriculum for us--didn't need to pay extra for it.

Anonymous said...

"In western countries, the early years are for building up confidence, speaking, independent thinking etc. While here, the focus is about serving up the ABC/123 menu down your throat."

I think this reasoning is flawed. Insinuating that eastern countries like China, Korea and Japan don't produce talents?

How is it that the above countries (probably India also) with cram school culture still can "surpass" us?

Anonymous said...

"but in singapore, it is sprint, sprint, sprint, to reach that degree. Very myopic indeed."

Even we sprint also lose you know? They already get masters by the time we get degree due to national conscription!

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Anonymous said...

Chappell :"Perhaps because they allow kids time to be just kids rather than examination fodder."
There's a lot of truth in the above. Remember the batch of Pri 1s and 2s who were told to play instead of study? After the experiment, which failed miserably, 2 cohorts lost out to their contemppraries who were not made guinea pigs. Then there was this batch of university students who couldn't string a grammatical sentence because they were taught to ignore grammar. My personal experience of such experimentation started with my son who had a hard time Mandarin because the text was in simplified Chinese (daddy was taught in the Taiwan style). When his younger sister (by 2 years) started schooling, her Chinese text had Pin Yin to help with the pronunciation. Then when the youngest came along 1 year later, she had to learn Pin Yin first, before being introduced to the Chinese characters. The latest experiment: IB. When the first batch came along, the local university didn't know how to rate them with the A Level students of the same cohort! Why is the MOE in such a mess? Perhaps the answer lies in once having a Minister of Indian ethnic group in charge of teach mandarin in schools. Lastest complaint from a teacher of Physics in a "premier" JC: the MOE decided to scrap Kirchoff's Law from the syllabus.

Anonymous said...

anon2:16

with due respect, eastern countries do produce talents. It is just that they produce talents in academic sense and largely from rote learning system during the school going age. I think western countries still lead in innovation and creativity, and research into uncharted areas.

On the flip side, a lot of westerners on the street can't even spell or write properly, so called due to their liberal educational system.

also, the eastern achievements may have been dampened due to the fact that academic journals and rankings are mostly anglo centric, thereby eastern research are at a disadvantage.

Anonymous said...

"having a Minister of Indian ethnic group in charge" was the best thing that happened to the Singaporean eduction system for a long time. And I am Chinese.

The problem were/is the Minister(s) of Chinese descent before and after him.

Anonymous said...

"with due respect, eastern countries do produce talents. It is just that they produce talents in academic sense and largely from rote learning system during the school going age. I think western countries still lead in innovation and creativity, and research into uncharted areas."

A rather simplistic view, considering:

1. western research agencies are largely staffed with eastern talents also, like NASA.
2. china has lax copyright law and enforcement, where is the value in being an innovation leader?
3. surely japan is world leader in innovation and creativity?
4. america is particularly fertile for research and innovation, so you won't find silicon valley in Germany, England or India, for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Most of the easterners at NASA are probably US-trained. Germany is pretty advanced in technology. Japanese tolerate mavericks. We dun.