Jan 12, 2010

An Alternative Model for Preschoolers

      ST Jan 11, 2010
      Pre-school is affordable

      A VARIETY of schemes and grants has helped make pre-school education affordable for low and mid-income families, said Minister of Education Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on Monday.

      These have ensured that over 97 per cent of children from each cohort do attend pre-school before they enter Primary One, even though pre-school has not been nationalised.

      Mr Ng was addressing the concerns of MPs in Parliament that pre-school education would be out of reach for the low-income unless the system is nationalised.

      Nominated MP Viswa Sadasivan expressed the worry that children who do not go through pre-school education will start primary school at a disadvantage. 'It is very important for us to make sure that access is universal,' he said.

Most people assume that kids ought to go to kindergarten. And that if the kids don't go, it's because the parents are too poor, or the family is dysfunctional.

Well, my daughter finished Kindergarten One last year. And this year we are not sending her to Kindergarten Two. (Oh, we are also neither poor nor dysfunctional).

What happened? Well, we realised that she was under-challenged and quite bored in Kindergarten One. It was basically a waste of her time.

She's somewhat more advanced than most kids her age. For example, she doesn't have any problems reading her big brother's Primary 2 textbooks.

Instead of sending her to a normal kindergarten, we are now sending her for a couple of enrichment courses. Maths; Chinese; English; Speech & Drama .... and she has swimming lessons too.

Does it sound like a lot? It's not. The total time she spends in class is less than half of what she would spend, if she were attending kindergarten every day. After all, most of these enrichment courses are only once a week.

These courses are more challenging than the typical K2 syllabus. You'll have to pick & choose your enrichment courses and schools, of course.

The rest of the time - the girl is at home. I supply plenty of books, toys and art materials, to keep her occupied.

I suppose it could get lonely, if she were an only child. But she's not. Apart from the fact that she has a big brother to play with, my wife does also regularly take her to play with other kids.

I don't know any other parents who have done what we've done with our daughter (I mean - about taking her out of kindergarten). Still I must say that so far, it seems to work quite well.


Lucky Tan said...


I have 3 kids. One who is a whiz at maths born with unusually good memory but is short tempered another who generally does well in top 10% of her cohort extremely sociable and a 3rd who sociable but slow.

The ill tempered one I send to occupational theraphist at $100 per session and also to a private gym...she was diagnosed with a sensory problem but should turn out fine with some help.

The well balanced one, I send for music lessons.

The last one, we try our best to coach her but I figured I have to set aside some kind of safety net because she may have problems in the future - I don't want her to end up as a low wage worker at the mercy of this (PAP) system. She is a jovial kid and brought me so much happiness.

I've 3 kids and they all have different needs which I try to meet. For poor parents, it is always an issue because they find it hard to meet the even the basic needs of their children. In the Singapore system, if they have special needs it is very likely these are never addressed when the parents are poor and develop into bigger problems later. Pre-school education is necessary these days, it is not sufficient that the govt explains that it is affordable even for poor families because housing, electricity and transport they use the same word 'affordable' but if you total up everything is it 'affordable'?

The way they should do it is get the social workers to find out why these kids are not attending pre-school because the parents may not be responsible or are too mess up to be responsible. The way it os done now if the govt won't give help unless you ask, ...even if you ask, you might still get nothing. The 3% that don't attend pre-school, I believe most of them are not like your gifted kid.

You're lucky Mr. Wang to have such a kid. Others may not be as lucky as you.

Ape said...

Mr Wang, in your case, you still provide some form of pre-school education for your child in terms of enrichment class. On top of that, (I presume) you and your wife can take your kids out once in a while for "field education". Last but not least, you're educated and can guide your children along even if they don't attend enrichment class.

For the poor and presumable less educated and even less time for their children, wouldn't their kids enter P1 disadvantaged?

(Ape assume pre-school education is not restricted to Kindergarten only)

lobo said...

The thing about kindergarden is that (I think) it is the closest approximate to a primary school life. Without kindergarden as a buffer, would your daughter suffer a culture shock if she suddenly has to attend school every weekday, for 6 hrs at a stretch?

Kayangmo said...

Mr Wang, your action could possibly create an elite mentality out of your child. Attending kindergarten is not only about picking up reading skills or sibject matter information. It is also about mixing and socialising with children the same age as your daughter. Although I can emphatise with your "good" reasons, I fear that your assessment of the current kindergarten environment, and removing your child from it, stands her in bad state, instead of good.
Of course, she can play with her brother, but it is NOT THE SAME, as playing with other children from other backgrounds or families.
I have a 3yr old and a 5yr old, so I am sharing my concern as a parent.
However, I can respect your choice, I just hope you are not too off track. Children need friends too.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

She found her kindergarten course painfully boring. It was a kind of suffering, for her.

Anonymous said...

I found my primary school days painful. Back in those days, they did attempt to find out who is faster, put all of us into one class and hope for a super model to boast about.

Still, I was demotivated by the boring practise papers. Don't get me wrong, I loved going to school, get togetherw with friends and they are wonderfully intelligent as well.

But, I dislike maths. I can do it with practise, but I simple don't like numbers.

I love language. I can do Mandarin and English with near native slant and intonations.

But the Singapore system hates communicators. At PSLE level, it is balanced at 2 languages, Math and Science. At O levels, boy are you screwed with 2 languages and 4 sciences (inlcd Maths). And if you go A levels, 2 language at discount rate and more sciences.

And people are asking for monolingual education. Why should our society be concerned about kids borned with the numbers gift, but always try to disadvantage kids borned with the language gift? Isn't Singapore where communicators are needed to maintain peace and keep investments coming through sales (communicators) and marketing?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, I would do the same if my child dislikes kindergarten. After all, your girl has the necessary reading, writing and arithmetic skills for Pr 1 and there are plenty of friends to socialise at enrichment classes. Why colour yet another circle or triangle? Or sing the same song or play on the same sandpit/swing?

Childhood is short. Let her have fun watching purple Barney or make cup-cakes with someone at home. Share home-school with other like-minded parents & make learning an adventure & not a repetitive chore.

Anonymous said...

You should have sent your child to the Singapore American School, or Tanglin Trust International School etc. This is allowed by the government, since the ban starts only from Pri 1.

A good kindergarten education should NOT bore any bright kid, because the syllabus will contain lots of playground time, circle time, snack time, field trips, visit to the school library, science projects, arts, music etc with formal sit-down math/language lesson kept to a minimum. So unless your kid is strangely "elitist" such that she dislike playgroud time, circle time..., boredom is the last thing that happens.

You sent your kid to the wrong kindergarten!

why PAP refused to nationalise kindergarten said...

PAP will never nationalise kindergarten education because:

1. it will result in increase in subsidy of school children by an additional year i.e. the kindergarten year.

2. It will result in bankruptcy of PAP Community Foundation which runs the largest for-profit kindergarten system in Singapore!

Imagine what will happen: instead of earning $100/mth/child (at least), the govt would have to fork out $X/mth/child instead. Of course the govt won't do it. That's the true reason why kindergarten will not be nationalised.

Anonymous said...

"She's somewhat more advanced than most kids her age. For example, she doesn't have any problems reading her big brother's Primary 2 textbooks."

Nah. You should add the word "Singapore" to the sentence: She's somewhat more advanced than most Singapore kids her age, 'cos if you compare her to UK/USA kids, she is only on par with kids her age -- kindergarten children in UK/USA are reading at the level of Singapore Pri 2 textbook, if not pri 3.

True, their math level may be (much) lower than ours, but their language/reading level are (much!) higher than ours. This can be verified independently by searching online for the reading list/material of their kindergarten students.

Anonymous said...

What "safety net" did you put in? Please share. I am sure many parents are interested to know too.

Personally, I think the best "safety net" one can put in for one's child is to emigrate - it is much easier to enter university in another country when one is its citizen, and if one is not academic, it is possible to earn just as much and gain just as much respect, by being a musician, artist etc. Even a construction worker earns considerably more than his singapore counterpart, with proper safety regulation, a strong union and society's acceptance.

Anonymous said...

Was your daughter also from GUG?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, I always read with envy and admiration that both your little ones are brought up well. Intelligent and more advanced than the peers. You've never mentioned about their attitude and social skills, so I suppose their soft skills are alright too.

I'm a mother of a young kid. I'm seeing parents splurge on their kids with all the enrichment classes, like the shichida school which costs few thousands a year and is definitely out of reach for many. However, there are other children who are smart yet are not well-mannered and behave like a spoilt brat. With this, I'm sometimes at a loss of how to bring up my own child. I want to maximise his potential, however I do not want to follow the crowd, flock to the best and most expensive school and splurge on the classes, like a sure-work formula.

If you have the time, please do share more about how you bring up your kids, especially since both you and your wife are busy professionals. How did you all manage? Will be great to hear your experience.

Anonymous said...

Does early reading ability give a child an advantage in school? My child was reading and writing prose & poetry (spelling phonetically) well before she went to Pr 1. She was bored to tears all thru primary school. She may have read more prose, poetry & play than most but that was not an advantage in the SG education system. Some people believe the advantage of early reading does not extend beyond ages 10-12.

Lucky Tan said...

anon 1:34 AM,

I was thinking of a trust fund or a property that can be rented.

I do get mails from friends who emigrated. The support from other 1st world countries like Australia is just so different. Once you need help with a child, it comes more easily. You're not 'means tested' and left more or less to solve it on your own.

However, I'm not the one with the biggest issues with the system. Friends with autistic kids, celebral palsy really have to worry a lot how their children will be cared for if they are not around. If you're middleclaas you can still squeeze out something by saving hard but for the poor folks...really don't know what happens.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

My grandmother did the property thing, for an uncle of mine who had mental illness.

She saved her money, bought a flat and gave it to him. It was one of her last missions in life, before she passed away.

Now that uncle survives quite well on the rental income. Incidentally the psychiatrist has now certified him as recovered and normal, but he still doesn't bother to get a job. :D

Anonymous said...


when i read ur post, a small part of me felt like i cld relate to what u r feelg becz my daughter finds her K1 syllabus painfully boring. like ur daughter, she has no problem reading textbooks or even newspapers but honestly, it's no big deal.

sending them to a school is not only about polishing their academia, it's also providing them with a classroom setting that our home cannot emulate. Of course, like some mentioned, interaction with other kids is important too.

despite my daughter's occasional complaints about not wanting to go to school (because it's boring), i find myself more motivated to encourage her, to hone other of her skills which I may miss out. if i may sound blunt, they say, if you have a highly intelligent/ gifted child, trust me, the SG education system WON'T miss the child out.

All the best!

chengguan said...

i like the constructive suggestion from LuckySingaporean. whether or not this pre-school education is to be nationalised, i guess some public funding would be good to help those who wanted it but financially unable.

Anonymous said...

Children in Singapore hate to go to school, whereas those in the US love to go to school. This shows a dysfunctional side of the Singapore education system. Isn't it no wonder that Singapore kids grow up to be bitter, dissatisfied, and callous?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

Not related to your article, but will you help publicise this? I happened to read this from TOC, and I think more people from various social classes in Singapore should know what a widening rich-poor gap means for the poor.


As one comment puts it, It is Operation Coldheart, a parallel to Operation Coldstore. :-P

Unknown said...

Geniuses are lonely. I'm sure she will learn to deal with it in time...

poirv said...

Mr Wang,

I hope you will find time to be more attentive to your son. As we all know, males are systematically castrated in the Singapore system and you should do some planning for his future.