Education · Singapore

Primary Schools in Singapore – Electing for a Neighbourhood School

It's that time of the year again! So many parents are stressing over registration, and I am glad that phase of our lives is over.

Ours is an interesting experience. The husband's alma mater used to be 2km (less, if it's a straight line) from our home, but now is located 30km away. We identified another school which we hoped the boys would enter – a more comfortable 8km away from home. We also live a stone's throw away from a neighbourhood school, so that was another consideration. As in, I could literally throw a stone into the school compound. Realistically I wouldn't be able to throw a stone across a main road and not be at risk of injuring anyone, of course. Given previous years statistics, we knew that this neighbourhood school would be a good second choice since as a very new school everyone would be entering in at Phase 2C supplementary and there would still be spaces left over. Actually in previous years there was still space after Phase 3.

Since we qualified for Phase 2B in our preferred school, we registered our eldest there. However, we were balloted out in both Phase 2B and 2C. Yes, twice. What an experience! We decided to put ourselves on the waiting list for the school, and at the end of P1 I even updated them with the son's school results as sometimes schools are more likely to accept students with good grades if there is a vacancy. He's now in P3 and I have yet to hear from the school. But well, we are often not privvy to God's plans, so we took it in our stride. Or more like, no choice right? 😀

So, we registered for the neighbourhood school. The Son was only upset that he was not able to take a bus to school, and enjoyed his first year in school tremendously. Thankfully he had an easy transition as he is an enthusiastic learner and very outgoing. Having attended reputable schools all my life, it probably took me longer than him to adjust to primary school life, and I would have been even more miserable if he had a difficult time settling in. However since primary school education can be pretty demanding in the years following P1, we continue to monitor the boys' progress closely, and I'm always keen on primary syllabus workshops to learn alongside the children.

We have loved the convenience of the school's location. A LOT. I am not an early riser and think that it is almost inhumane that many children in Singapore have to go to school before the sun is even out. I'd be the first to vote for a change in time zone!

Earlier this year when I was looking after the three kids myself, I even had the boys (P1 and P3) walk home from school by themselves. It helps that they do not have to cross the road (only by overhead bridge), and that at the regular dismissal hours there are many other children also going home, so there are many parents, grandparents and helpers eyeballing the kids. I like that there is a lot of interaction with the community this way. The school also regularly organises parenting workshops, and I have met many of my neighbours at these events.

Our younger son is a little more apprehensive about new situations and trying new things, so we decided that he would do better in the same school as his older brother, and I didn't want to go through balloting again or have the hassle of two boys in different schools. Also since all three kids went to a neighbourhood kindergarten, it turns out he was allocated into a class with 5-6 of his kindergarten friends, which was a huge relief for me.

More than that, and after observation for the past 3 years, I can confidently say that I like that the school principal is level headed and has been impressive so far. At the beginning of the year, in an address to parents, she had several nuggets of good advice: that the PSLE is just a small milestone in the children's lives; that given you are able to Google anything these days, values and hard work is more important than rote learning; and that children should learn responsibility and the school will not assist parents to helicopter their children.

She seems to have her heart in the right place, and I've seen her interact with the kids and hope she will continue with her good work in the school. In fact, I have been meaning to write to her to express my appreciation and to encourage her and the teachers to inspire the children. I have also found that many of the teachers very approachable and commendable for their dedication and willingness to meet to discuss the needs of the students.

I also like that the school is a good mix of students, from all social stratas and cultures. Because that is how the real world works. And I mean all sorts. There is even a foreign student in the school who has parents in diplomatic service because I have seen the diplomatic license plate as well as a "Left-hand drive" sticker on the car. A friend said her ang moh neighbours send their kids to our school because it's the closest one that has vacancies for Phase 3. An acquaintance once told me that she wanted her daughter to take horse riding lessons so that she could mix with "that kind" of people. Ok, perhaps there is some truth that sometimes it's not what you know but who you know, but I can't agree with her thinking. We have to be extra mindful of the kind of values we are subtly impressing upon them. In our case, I have explicitly told the boys that they are privelleged, and that I do not want them to be bragging to their classmates about for example, going on holiday.

Is every school a good school? Well, perhaps what is more important is, is the school the right school for my child? Would you child thrive as a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond? Neighbourhood schools might not have as many frills as elite or branded schools, so perhaps children will have less opportunities and exposure. Does that mean that they are lesser off? Well, as parents it is impossible for us to give our children everything – we do the best that we can, and they should do the same, the best that they can. If that is not convincing enough, perhaps you need to also know, that not every child who goes to an elite or branded school automatically does well for their PSLE. And even then not scoring well for PSLE is not an indicator of how well they will do in life.

Initally I was rather surprised or intrigued by the rhetoric I kept hearing from the teachers to us – that we as parents should continue supporting our children. To me, that is a given. I was looking to do more, or perhaps give the child more; but after a while I realised that probably not every student, especially in neighbourhood schools, has or has the luxury of full parental support. Research shows that a supportive and stable family environment, as well as a child's executive functions play very important roles in a child's success in life.

We still have at least another 3 years to go to complete our first primary school journey, and only after then I will probably have a clearer picture of how this school was for my eldest boy. But until then, we are happy with where we are now. These days, there are many options for students. Three medical schools, two law schools, and a plethora of public universities (ok, about 6). Who knows what the next 10, 15 years will see. And, if all else fails, perhaps I will just have to groom them into Instagrammers or whatever is going to be popular down the road!! 😀

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4 thoughts on “Primary Schools in Singapore – Electing for a Neighbourhood School

  1. I share the same sentiments here! Ours also neighbourhood and walkong distance. Save time and money!!😊 Always great to hear how kids are adjusting well and thriving in school and they have such a supportive environment with you all! Jiayou!

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  2. eskew me whilst I share this with my hubby. Hahah. Hubby and I are at opposing ends regarding the type of schools that kiddo should attend. Registration is next year..so HE is freaking out abit. I’m all for neighbourhood schools, but he is for the system, ensuring his kids get into the right social circles, has the best support from school ..yada. So tired just hearing him say all this. I just want my kids to be home early, have a balanced load of homework, and be friends with every other kid that comes his way. He has so many years ahead of him! Thanks for sharing your experiences and affirming my beliefs that every non-branded school CAN be a good school.

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