Opinion: Preparing For Primary School

I have two bundles of joy – one is already in primary school while the other is going to primary one soon but my experiences with both of them on their learning journey have been vastly different.

The first child, let’s call him Precious,  progressed through primary 1 to 4 with relative ease. He did not need much guidance or help and would manage his school work on his own. He liked reading and would often be chuckling over a book. My memory of him growing up was one filled with all sorts of books and a load of questions. We did a lot of activities and had a lot of experiences. You’d usually find us pottering around, poking some object or appliance to figure out how it works. He started reading early and after a while, did not need me to read to him anymore. By the time he joined primary school, I was not worried about his academic abilities. The lack of examinations in P1 and P2 was also a plus (but I quickly realised that they appeared as quizzes or reviews). In any case, I didn’t have to breathe down his neck even when he joined P3 and we had plenty of time to continue exploring the world on our terms. 

My second child, let’s call her Beloved, is a little different from the first. I noticed that she wasn’t as interested in reading and she explored the world differently. She would run around and touch things but was not as interested in sitting down to read. She was active, confident and content – everything that I would want her to be. As a parent, I just want my kids to be happy but I could not help the concern that I have at the back of my mind.  Much as I believe that every child blossoms at their own time, I became more and more concerned that she wasn’t reading yet. She was often confused by the alphabets and could only manage simple words. Phonics didn’t seem to make much sense to her and when she was asked to write, she would often write in a mirrored manner. That really scared me.

Would she be able to survive in primary school? 

Would she become so dejected by her grades that she loses interest in learning? 

What can I do to help her manage?

Finally, I understand why parents are concerned that the examinations have been removed. 

Without these formal assessments, would we be able to know how our children are doing and intervene quickly enough? 

Though there aren’t formal assessments, the students’ progress is still “tracked”, isn’t it?

What can I do to help my child go through the education system with her confidence intact?

These are still questions I have in my mind but I believe that the approach that I have to take with each child is going to be different. At the end of the day, the school  will  have learning objectives to meet and the student’s understanding will be tested through assessments. I want my children to be confident when this occurs and so I believe that I need to know how they will be tested yet I do not believe in rote learning or spoon-feeding through endless tuition sessions. Instead, I hope that my children will understand the requirements and better still, be able to  figure out how to manage them using their own study techniques.

Give a man a fish and you feed him a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

As my children progress through school, I believe it will be helpful to empower them with the strategies needed to tackle examination questions so that these formal assessments (in our result driven society) will not become a source of pain for them. 

With this hurdle cleared, I believe we can continue to explore the world in ways that go beyond the textbooks. I hope to continue encouraging curiosity, empathy and interest in the world!

If you’d like to find out more about the primary school system in Singapore, do visit our article – FAQs on the Singapore Primary School Education.

Preparing for primary school

My experience as a mother of two

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