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The local education system: advice for parents

Interested to get your child into a local Primary School? Discuss the opportunities here.
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singapore eagle
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The local education system: advice for parents

Post by singapore eagle » Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:21 am

There has been discussion in various threads recently about the shortcomings of the local education system. So I thought I’d test this out…

We’ve pretty much decided that we’re going to put our daughters (5 and almost 3 now) through the local system. Reasons: cost; we have no intention of going back to the UK; and the girls are actually Singaporean, so it seems strange to go to an International School.

The school down the road from us looks like a ‘top half’ kind of school. Not massively over-subscribed, but not spare places after 2C either.

My concerns are as follows:

- I want my daughters to be able to write and speak perfect English. It seems only the top 1% of the population actually manage this.
- I want my daughters to do more than rote learn. I want them to be imaginative, inquisitive and even distrust what they see and hear around them until they have thought about matters for themselves.
- I don’t want my kids to be doing hours of homework at age 7/8/9.
- I don’t want them to feel pressure to get good grades, certainly not until O-levels. But I also want them to be strong academically and have a range of options at 16/18.
- I don’t want to get sucked into a mentality where we as parents feel pressure and get sucked into tuition and ‘enrichment’. This applies especially to my Singaporean wife who is, shall we say, easily influenced by peers.

Does anyone who has taken their kids through the local system have any advice for us?

Indeed, is there anything that I should be worried about that I’m not worried about?

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Post by PNGMK » Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:06 am

The locals schools have massively improved in all of this in the last decade or so.

However for English it;s you as the parents that have the most influence.

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:14 am

Stay involved with your children from the get go. They will pick up both Singlish and English at the same time. If you all make a point to use good English at home and not allow Singlish, they will learn to code switch unconsciously depending on their audience like a second language, which it is, for all intents and purposes. I'm not sure what you will be doing for the 2nd language or if you will be getting an exemption from it. As they are Singaporean, I suggest as they are still young enough, have them do the second language and frankly, regardless of your race, I'd suggest Mandarin, although it's hard if there is not any spoken Mandarin in the home. However, in time to come, there will only be two International Business languages, English and Mandarin. We probably won't be around to see Mandarin become the business language, but I've been around long enough to see the old International Business language disappear and English replace it (French).

Both of my children went through the local system from K1 to their tertiary educations with varied success. Both are, however, fluent in Mandarin and English and understand Tamil (but don't speak it). My son goes over big time in his band, that he fronts, when he tours China (2x) as he can rap with the crowd and being totally non-Chinese he gets huge face with the crowds. My daughter used to work with an international advertising agency who's initials were S&S. She was the one who always ended up on the phone to their main offices overseas because of her "English" capabilities.

It is essential that you both stay involved with their schooling all the time and also provide the "English" basis you want them to have. That in itself is probably the hardest thing to do, especially after you have been here a few years, you will find that your own English will have been dumbed down so as to make yourself understood to the general population.
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by Hannieroo » Mon, 14 Apr 2014 4:42 pm

Not Singapore but both of my children have been to local schools in places with very strong regional accents and in one place a dialect possibly more impenetrable than Singlish. Neither of them copied it outside of the playground and neither have accents much different to my own.

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Re: The local education system: advice for parents

Post by Beeroclock » Mon, 14 Apr 2014 8:41 pm

singapore eagle wrote: - I want my daughters to be able to write and speak perfect English. It seems only the top 1% of the population actually manage this.
- I want my daughters to do more than rote learn. I want them to be imaginative, inquisitive and even distrust what they see and hear around them until they have thought about matters for themselves.
- I don’t want my kids to be doing hours of homework at age 7/8/9.
- I don’t want them to feel pressure to get good grades, certainly not until O-levels. But I also want them to be strong academically and have a range of options at 16/18.
- I don’t want to get sucked into a mentality where we as parents feel pressure and get sucked into tuition and ‘enrichment’. This applies especially to my Singaporean wife who is, shall we say, easily influenced by peers.
my kids are younger than yours so I don't have any experience to offer but to say the above list is useful/thoughtful and I'd have a similar set of aims/concerns in a few years to come. I think one key point is as parents you still have a massive influence in the way you guide, motivate and give context to your child's learning which can go a long way to offset a lot of these environmental factors that are of concern

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Post by maneo » Tue, 15 Apr 2014 2:20 am

sundaymorningstaple wrote:Stay involved with your children from the get go. They will pick up both Singlish and English at the same time. If you all make a point to use good English at home and not allow Singlish, they will learn to code switch unconsciously depending on their audience like a second language, which it is, for all intents and purposes. I'm not sure what you will be doing for the 2nd language or if you will be getting an exemption from it. As they are Singaporean, I suggest as they are still young enough, have them do the second language and frankly, regardless of your race, I'd suggest Mandarin, although it's hard if there is not any spoken Mandarin in the home. However, in time to come, there will only be two International Business languages, English and Mandarin. We probably won't be around to see Mandarin become the business language, but I've been around long enough to see the old International Business language disappear and English replace it (French).

Both of my children went through the local system from K1 to their tertiary educations with varied success. Both are, however, fluent in Mandarin and English and understand Tamil (but don't speak it). My son goes over big time in his band, that he fronts, when he tours China (2x) as he can rap with the crowd and being totally non-Chinese he gets huge face with the crowds. My daughter used to work with an international advertising agency who's initials were S&S. She was the one who always ended up on the phone to their main offices overseas because of her "English" capabilities.

It is essential that you both stay involved with their schooling all the time and also provide the "English" basis you want them to have. That in itself is probably the hardest thing to do, especially after you have been here a few years, you will find that your own English will have been dumbed down so as to make yourself understood to the general population.
Agree with these points.
Be very involved all the way through.
I used to make flash cards of Chinese vocabulary for my kid in the days before these became readily available, so, yes, you can even be involved with Chinese. In some schools Chinese teachers may schedule extra study sessions. If not, a native speaker would help for tutoring.

Insist that they always use proper English with you.

Cultivate a reading habit.
This can start with bedtime reading you do, becoming bedtime reading they do.

Encourage creativity at home.

Help them solve their own questions rather than just giving answers when they ask you those questions.

Looking back am so glad I invested the time.

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Tue, 15 Apr 2014 9:42 am

Maneo, it so rare that we dovetail in our ideas! :wink:

Little anecdote about my kids. Everybody always wondered why my kids were eager to learn mandarin when they first started schooling (other people thought I was being mean). It was actually simple. From the time my children were 3 months old until they started school I'd always talked to them like they were comprehending teen/adults and I refused, much to the chagrin of my local rellies, to let anybody talk to them in baby talk. My daughter started talking when she was 7.5 months old (whole sentence, albeit 3 words) and my son was 8 months. From the beginning I always talked to them about taking chinese when they started school (from the age of 3 months) when it came time for them to start "they" wanted to learn mandarin. Sure made the next 12 years a heck of a lot easier. The first three years of K2, P1 & P2 I had a moonlighting IT engineer from Shanghai, who was working for the government here, give my daughter tuition but taught her Mainland style (without Hanyu Pinyin). Sure gave my daughter a leapfrog in P1 where she was the top of her class in Mandarin (and the only non-chinese in her class). It all leveled out later but it gave her the impetus needed to "just do it". If my kids have thanked me once, they've thanked me a hundred times. :wink:
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by Steve1960 » Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:23 am

This is interesting stuff for me. My daughter is going 3 1/2 and attending a local school 5 mornings a week. Her English is a mix which I am not overly concerned about. She picks up my UK version, my Filipina wife's US version and a little Singlish. Do I care? Probably not her vocabulary is extensive and she uses complex sentences and easily makes herself understood. I could live without 'can can' of course!

In her first year living in Philippines our daughter started to pick up Tagalog. Once we moved to Singapore and my wife stopped speaking it that stopped. We have had a Filipina maid for 6 weeks and Tagalog is the predominant language in the apartment now but our daughter is not showing any signs of learning. I am no help at all with languages despite 20 years travelling in Asia and having had an Italian girlfriend for 5 years. I wasn't any better at school either.

I am not too concerned about Tagalog but I would like her to speak Chinese for all the reasons SMS has highlighted. What are your thoughts? Too early to employ a private tutor? Should it be Mandarin or something else?

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Tue, 15 Apr 2014 3:59 pm

Well, from my POV, had I had children the first time I got married, I would have had them take Japanese (I was still living & working in the US back in those days, in Washington DC) as the most important 2nd language for international folks would have been that (I talking back in the early '70's).

When I got married this time (30+ years ago), I could see the writing on the wall and knew even then that China was going to be a force to be reckoned with and in order to give my children a leg up (whether they stayed in Asia OR went to the US) if they knew Mandarin as well as English fluently, they could just about write their own ticket if they went into international business that crossed the Pacific (Europe was already dead as far as I was concerned). As we were here, why not make it a second language that was as valuable here as it would eventually be in the US? Of the other two languages here (and they had to do one of the three besides English) are absolutely worthless outside of S.E.Asia. so why waste the effort out of something that would have no real return later in life. So far it's been a gamble that paid off, although my daughter is currently in a position where she rarely uses it today, but does keep in practice when here in Singapore (she works for Maersk Drilling and the HR functionary in Angola).

On the other hand, Steve, if you are planning to retire to the 'peens, maybe Tagalog might be the way to go, but I think you have to look at a world view when looking at the child's future 18~20 years down the road. Or do you think the frogs will have a resurgence? lol
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Tue, 15 Apr 2014 4:01 pm

Had to laugh. I took frog speak in high school for three years and oddly enough, the only place in my entire life I've used it was in Asia (VN during the war where a lot of the elder VN spoke broken frog speak. After 1968 when I returned, I've never used it since and have forgotten every bit of it. They say, if you don't use it, you lose it. I lost it.
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by Steve1960 » Tue, 15 Apr 2014 4:06 pm

Thanks SMS. Yea definitely looking at the long game. Mandarin will be much more useful than Tagalog. As you say 18-20 years from now its a fair bet English and Chinese will be the dominant languages.

French resurgence..............almost fell off my chair laughing :lol:

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Post by Steve1960 » Tue, 15 Apr 2014 4:10 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:Had to laugh. I took frog speak in high school for three years and oddly enough, the only place in my entire life I've used it was in Asia (VN during the war where a lot of the elder VN spoke broken frog speak. After 1968 when I returned, I've never used it since and have forgotten every bit of it. They say, if you don't use it, you lose it. I lost it.
For the first time a couple of weeks ago I had to try and dust off my high school French in Israel. Two instances, never had to do it before despite visiting the country many times in the last 3 years.

First was a taxi driver who only spoke Hebrew and French. Second was finding that the laundry form in the hotel room was only written in Hebrew and French. That one surprised me!

I confess to using Google translate for some of the words when completing the laundry form :oops:

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Post by singapore eagle » Tue, 15 Apr 2014 6:31 pm

Thanks for your replies - especially sms.

I think this all reinforces that it is not a decision to be taken lightly. And that is important not to project any stress/concern that I feel onto the kids!

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Re: The local education system: advice for parents

Post by aster » Sun, 27 Apr 2014 5:52 pm

singapore eagle wrote:- I want my daughters to be able to write and speak perfect English. It seems only the top 1% of the population actually manage this.

- I don’t want my kids to be doing hours of homework at age 7/8/9.

- I don’t want to get sucked into a mentality where we as parents feel pressure and get sucked into tuition and ‘enrichment’. This applies especially to my Singaporean wife who is, shall we say, easily influenced by peers.

Does anyone who has taken their kids through the local system have any advice for us?

Indeed, is there anything that I should be worried about that I’m not worried about?
For starters, I am currently putting my kids through the local educational system, so we are on the same boat. Of course cost is a factor, but for us the most important thing at the moment is... MANDARIN. I really want my kids to grasp the basics of this language, only after that will I consider moving to an International School... in turn simply to SAVE their English. :)

Is maths such a strong point compared to other systems? Last time I checked the likes of Europe, the US, Japan, etc. were churning out the world's best engineers and I don't think anything has changed, so to start drumming up stories about how the maths are stronger than elsewhere seems a bit of a non-starter.

Another area worth looking at is PE as a child needs to develop both mentally and physically. You can only truly develop (and be healthy in the true sense of the word) if both your mental well-being and physical well-being are being focused on. Unfortunately over here it's all about studying, homework, extra tuition, etc. Physical education seems to be frowned upon, like a waste of time. Luckily some schools are different...
Last edited by aster on Mon, 21 Feb 2022 4:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Roasted squid » Tue, 29 Apr 2014 3:22 pm

There is a facebook group called "singapore expats in local schools" with a simple FAQ as well as many, many expat families with kids in local schools from Nursery, Kindergarten, Primary, Secondary, all the way through university. It's a great forum where you can ask folks directly about their experience enrolling in school (both mid-term and during P1 Registration) as well as what school is like now. It's a very active group and people are friendly.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/438205052966017/

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