Oct 10, 2010

The Perils of Not Attending Kindergarten

Okay, this is my situation (I mentioned it briefly in my previous post too).

My wife and I got some hassles from the Education Ministry this year, when we registered our daughter for primary school. The reason was that we hadn't sent our daughter for Kindergarten Two.

The first hassle came, when my wife was actually at the school, on Registration Day. My wife had to fill up a form, and at the space where she was to write the name of the kindergarten that my daughter had attended, my wife wrote "N.A". Then the MOE officer became quite rude, kicked up a fuss and said things like "How do we know that your daughter is ready for primary school, if she hasn't even done her K2?"

My wife pointed out that:

(1) Currently, kindergarten isn't compulsory in Singapore;

(2) There is no basis to reject a child from a primary school, just because she hasn't done her kindergarten;

(3) It isn't that we didn't give our daughter any education. Quite apart from homeschooling, we also sent her for various enrichment classes. It's just that our daughter did not go to kindergarten.

Finally, the MOE officer grudgingly registered my daughter, and we thought that this would be the end of the matter. However, over the next month or so, my wife continued to receive a number of telephone calls from the Ministry, with someone on the other line constantly asking my wife questions about why we hadn't sent our daughter to kindergarten.

The questions had a somewhat accusing tone, as if we were negligent, useless parents ... or parents too broke to send the child to kindergarten.

Finally, feeling quite exasperated, I sent a very long email to the Education Ministry telling them, in effect, to "get lost", and also informing them in great detail why we didn't send our daughter for K2.

Briefly, my daughter is very bright. She found K1 very easy. It bored her. She was way ahead of most of her peers, in her reading & numerical abilities. She's also very much ahead in other areas like social development. 85% of her first year in kindergarten was basically a waste of time for her.

So after she finished K1, we decided not to send her for K2. Instead we sent her to a variety of enrichment courses at different places (English; Chinese; Maths; and Speech & Drama), picking centres that customise their teaching to cater for kids of different ability levels. This has allowed my daughter to learn at a pace quick enough for the lessons to stay interesting for her.

On a weekly basis, my daughter still spends much less time in a classroom setting, than she would be if she were attending K2. But that's not the point. Most of the time in a K2 class would be irrelevant, boring and useless for her. At least now, whatever time she spends studying is spent on materials and lessons at an appropriate level for her.

Anyway, after further discussion with the Education Ministry, their tone changed at some point. And now they are advising my wife and me to send our daughter for testing, to assess whether she is "gifted".

The thing is - I'm not too sure where to send my daughter for testing, and what that process is all about. The Education Ministry did give some tips, but I would still like to know more about this whole matter. Also, if any of you can recommend a suitable psychologist, I would appreciate this. Thanks .....

28 comments:

Parka said...

For those who are in the Education industry behaving like they are not educated.

What irony...

aliendoc said...

There are child psychologists in KKH in the child development unit. They would be the ones to do intelligence testing. However, not too sure if they need a referral from a polyclinic/GP/school teacher or if they accept walk-ins.

Anonymous said...

People at MOE HQ do not always know what education is about.

Louis Tan said...

I think perhaps we shouldn't be too critical of the MOE. It is indeed unfortunate that you were harassed by their official(s), but think of it from their point of view - if the child was really the victim of negligent parents who had not been sufficiently nurturing, isn't it a good thing that the Education Ministry cares?

(Although, I am somewhat curious what they'd actually do assuming it were really the case, since like you'd said pre-primary education is not compulsory in Singapore.)

In fact, I'm actually quite heartened that they eventually ended up accepting that the child was ahead of her peers! I also wonder what the purpose of the suggested testing is, though. Is it purely for the parents' knowledge (to perhaps help manage expectations)? I don't think there's any government programme for P1-3 that caters for gifted children, right?

As for testing, perhaps you can try MENSA? I think they welcome kids too, the typical psychometric battery of tests will probably concentrate on language, maths and logic skills.

Anonymous said...

Hi Louis

I gathered from the article that Mrs Wang is being allegedly accused in an interrogative tone that she is an irresponsible parent/ SG citizen not to let her children go through the 'mainstream' path of education i.e. attend kindergarten those with a circle and a lightning bolt striking into half (if they still exist).

And I think the MOE officers probably got KPI to meet for his/her bonus for primary school registration. And they dont like exceptions/anomalies; it blots their report cards and they have to probably explain why they didnt do this or that before they can see their PBs.

trust me i have friends working in civil sector. they have checklists. if they check yes yes yes all the way, fine. if check one no, they will 'how huh?' last time got this case or not? no precedence? then how? you got check with SO(senior officer) or AD(assistant director)? AIya.. how???

it spirals.

they really need to move on. what works in 70s/80s are irrelevant today liao..

Geezz..

krisc said...

I'm not sure how our so-called education ministry operates. On one hand, i agree that checks are in place just to make sure that the children are getting the education required or the skillset/knowledge for their development. On the other hand, do we really have to "label" our kids? Mensa or what not, I'm not sure if that's the best way to guide and develop the child to their best abilities.
Glad you had the courage (and having the financial ability) to let your child learn in other ways for her supposedly K2 year.

Let Kids Be Kids said...

Do you have to push your daughter this hard? Poor girl.

Lucky Tan said...

Your kid looks like she can also skip P1 and P2.

Anonymous said...

Lucky,
There are two aspect to a child's education: academic and social.

I do not buy the idea that children should be skipping levels to be with their academic peers. I think children should be with their social peers of the same biological age. Otherwise, while the child is still playing with children of her own gender, her classmates will be trying to attract boys, talking about fashion and comparing whose breasts are bigger! That's the sure way to become a social misfit and an outcast! (Or imagine, while a young boy is still disliking girls, his classmates are pumping iron to compete on who is losing his virginity first! How to socialise like that? The young boy will be bullied or simply ignored by his classmates.)

It is much easier to make up for not being with academic peers. For one, parents can teach their children advanced math/science etc or even take A-level as a private candidate! For another, parents can channel the extra time available to advance the child in music (getting an ABRSM grade 8 in both strings and piano for eg by Pri 4) and sports etc. School then becomes a place to socialise with biological peers while the real edu whether academic or in music/sports can be done after school.

That, in my opinion, is much better than skipping grade level.

Anonymous said...

No pt testing, other than to boost your own ego. The child will be tested in Pri 3 for the gifted programme, which by the way, is not really a programme for the gifted, in an educational sense. It was started simply to give the best resource to the best student. They have 20-25 students per class, which is what ALL public schools in western 1st-world countries have for ALL students! They teach in a much more project-based manner, which again, is also what ALL public schools in western 1st-world countries offer for ALL students. Gifted programme may be valid when Sg first started - at that time, we can't afford 1 teacher to 25 students for all students. 40+ years later, such a 1:25 ratio should have been offered to all students and such project-based curriculum, along with the integrated programme, should be opened to everyone.

Anonymous said...

"She found K1 very easy. It bored her. She was way ahead of most of her peers, in her reading & numerical abilities"


That's because schooling is done in a very formal and uniform way in sg. It would not be so, if it were done much more informally and in an non-uniformed way. Eg. during school reading period, children spend 30 minutes reading books of *different* difficulties (chosen from classroom selection which varies in difficulty level) pegged to their individual level. During school writing period, children spend 30 mints to write book reivews of varrying difficulties according to their ability ranging from just a drawing (no writing) of a scene of the book they just read, to drawing + a one line writing (eg. "This book reminds me of....") to elaborate writings (Eg. "This book is about....at first... later.... in the end.... I like the book because...").

Like that, diff children of diff abilities go thru the same reading/writing period, but do diff work according to their diff ability - how to get bored?

As for Math and Science, there are lots of project-based activities, not just formal teaching. Higher ability students choose more complex project and do more "research" (i.e. reading up) into the subject, while average ability students do simpler ones. How to get bored?


My point? Sg kindergarten edu is pathetic: Firstly, MOE refuses to take responsibility to make it part of public education, choosing instead to delegate it to private sector. Secondly, MOE refuse to teach students in small classes using the above method, which by the way, is how they do it in Europe and America.

Wang should have sent his kids to international schools in sg - can do that before pri 1 even for singaporean child. Then again, he would have to fork out lots of money, which would probably be better spent on the music and drama classes that his daughter is attending.

Mr Wang Says So said...

For K1, I was already sending my daughter to a kindergarten that supposedly runs a syllabus designed for gifted kids.

My daughter still found that too easy.

Actually the same problem happened with my son (who is older). When he was in K1, (in an ordinary kindergarten in a HDB neighbourhood) the principal actually advised us to take him out.

She said that he was very bright, way above his peers, and she honestly felt that her school did not have the expertise and means to cater properly to a kid like him.

(They were teaching A B C. He had started reading science encyclopaedias and X-Men comics).

I still persisted, and sent my son for the full K1 and K2, which was probably a mistake (it was, as I said, mostly a waste of time for him).

Ghost said...

Pri. 1 and already they are trying to pigeon-hole the kids already. That's the problem with our eduaction system right now. The MOE keep trying to "get the right kids in the right stream." The fact that 7 year olds have no idea what the fuss is about make no difference to them

Denzuko1 said...

I assume the psychologist you wanted is meant for MOE staffs....

Anonymous said...

Just some comments.

Is it not good that the education ministry cares enough to ask why your child was not sent to kindergarten? Yes, it is not compulsory but since it is an anomaly, is it not good that they actually checked it out? Would you, Mr Wang, have been happier if they had just gone ahead with the registration without making an effort to check that nothing was amiss?

Yes, civil service have checklists but while it stifles creativity, it also covers them should they miss out anything and that things are systematically checked and done. If anything happened, procedures were properly carried out. Should there be negligence, ppl will be asking how come the officer have no brains.... why do your own thing... By the way, there are other kindergartens other than PAP

Lastly, we cannot compare western education with ours cos our culture is different, as of now. We want our child to succeed. If they had been project based, like more intelligent children take up more complicated projects, there will be lot of competition to do the difficult projects regardless of what the child's inclination is. In western countries, the parents are not so competitive. In singapore the child will be pushed to do the most ifficult project. So as of now, how we educate at primary level is still the best. We can talk about school mindset changing but parent's mindset should change also

One last word, Mr Wang. Did you send your child for enrichment activities because you want the child to have a headstart in life (she is more intelligent, whatever) or because she is genuinely interested in the subjects you are enriching her in?

Philip

Anonymous said...

Philip,

Care ? Sounds more like cya ! If Mr Wang did not send his daughter for K2, it is his responsibility alone. K2 is not compulsory right ?

How to be more creative when we have Einsteins like those manning the office ? Always say think out of the box. Don't think they can find the box in the first place.

John

Anonymous said...

Testing might be a good thing, for you and your wife to know more about the level of your child's ability, but you should it dependently, or in any case, don't do it directly through MOE should they offer.

Anonymous said...

hi, john,

anyway, i know it is mr wang's responsibility but at least they checked. That is my point. Of course if they reject the registration because of non attendance in K2, then it is a different story.

My point is that the officials should be if not applauded, at least acknowledged for the fact that they cared, not mocked at.

Philip

Anonymous said...

actually, we ask how to have children to be more creative? I think simply if the child shows a flair for a certain activity, let him develop that area regardless of prestige or earning potential of that area.

Changing the way one is educated is well, no comments on that.

Philip

Anonymous said...

Philip,

If you read Mr Wang's posting again, he was not complaining about them asking whether his daughter attended K2 and left it at that after his wife's explanation. They continued to hassle him and he had to write an email to them to get lost. So, isn't it a case of cya ? Follow the norm, otherwise have to answer why this case is different ? Think out of the box ?

John

Anonymous said...

sorry, John, guess i did not see the point too clearly as i was more or less commenting based on the comments posted.

Anyway, hassle is up to individual, akin to the private sector who keep hassling me to buy this or that, why this or that even though i say i am not interested.

Philip

Anonymous said...

Philip,

What would you do if after telling someone from the private sector to buzz off since you are not interested, that person comes back and ask you again ?

If we are going to pay top dollar to staff the civil service, surely we would want people who can make decisions, like for the private sector ?

If we are not tolerant of leeways and differences, then don't complain about there being no creativity. Just follow the rules and we all live happily ever after ?

Anonymous said...

err that is the difference between civil service and private sector. Private sector is generally more flexible (though still dependent on the head) for there are less people involved in decision making process.

As for paying top dollar, well I am reasonably sure that we are not paying the one who did the calling and pestering top dollar. Perhaps the one who actually makes the policy. So you see, the anger is directed at the one doing the pestering but the one who is doing the pestering might have no control over the policy and if he does not follw it, he might lose his job/bonus......

From expeience in from the service sector, and with interactions from ppl in the civil sector, i feel that the ground ppl or frontline ppl are tolerant of leeways and flexible but sometimes, their hands are tied, unless of cos, they are planning to leave....

Philip

Anonymous said...

U might find this link useful:
http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/programmes/gifted-education-programme/faq/exceptionally-gifted/

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't get my blood pressur all up over the MOE if I were you. The MOE exists to carry out gahment policies which include its definition of who and what is "gifted". Let's be candid, if MOE is really all that good then there would have been no need to remake Singapore or to have an infusion of talents or to change the educational system. Re-generation would have been organic! The fact that ALL these HAD to take place should tell us that the MOE is not very good at being ahead of any curve especially the intellectual one. So have confidence in yourself and your child.

Keith said...

A big smiling grin for you on this. In Singapore's closely monitored regulations on education is something not meant to be challenged.

A lot of brighter students are bore down with the system over the years (but the system is indeed changing from my time till now.)

I'd still remember vividly, that i was a problem kid at school, cos i literally slept & drooled on my desk from kindergarten till primary 4 & my parents had even been called up by the form teacher.

Liv said...

I'm sure there are many like myself who are interested in how your advanced kids are faring in our education system, given the current interest on its many failings. Would you care to share? Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Wang,
I am heartened by your article and would like to encourage you to send your children for professional and independent testing (which are internationally recognised).
Unlike what others may think, IQ assessment is NOT for vanity and parental ego. I have recently sent my son for an assessment which:
1. Confirmed my suspicions of his ability and laid them to rest;
2. Provided an insightful analysis of his language, non-language, and psycho-motor abilities;
3. Confirmed that he had no hidden learning disorders (e.g. aspergers, dyslexia etc.) which may have been overshadowed by his gift in other areas.
All of these helped me to understand in which areas I should help to strengthen or to take note.

At this stage, I am also considering homeschooling him for K2 next year before putting him back into the primary school system after that. But the major concern I have is: what of social interaction, working with kids of various abilities, empathy and patience? On the other hand, of course I worry that he may not be motivated to learn if the situation prolongs since the curriculum covered in school does not challenge him anymore.
I wonder if any parent out there is facing the same situation.