Character and values education in schools were given a boost when the Education Ministry introduced a curriculum in this area several years ago. In recent years, parents too have been paying attention to character education outside the classroom, say enrichment providers.
Ms Krystal Tan, 40, who founded Krystal Charm Etiquette Academy in 2014, said she used to run holiday classes with as few as four children in a class when the academy was first set up.
Now, she often has to turn some away when the maximum capacity of 12 is reached. Over the school holidays, she will be running two etiquette and character education workshops, lasting for three hours and costing about $100. There will also be three half-day programmes conducted at childcare centres.
During the classes, pupils aged four to 13 will learn about values such as respect, responsibility and empathy through interactive games. For example, children are given flash cards and asked to decide if the scenario depicted reflects a certain value, such as respect.
Scenarios can include greeting a teacher or helping a friend on the slide at the playground.
Ms Clara Tan, 35, who runs Molly Manners Singapore, an etiquette school, has also seen more interest in her classes. The school has received about 30 per cent more inquiries from schools and parents since 2013.
This June holidays, it will be organising three-day holiday camps for children aged four to 12. Prices range from $150 to $220.
“Singapore kids have a sense of entitlement, expecting to be served and spoon-fed. They fail to see themselves as contributors to society as well,” said Ms Clara Tan.
The classes emphasise not just table manners but long-lasting life skills as well. Through interactive activities, discussions, craft and quizzes, children learn concepts like sportsmanship, respect, courtesy skills when using mobile phones, e-mail and texting, and how to talk about money.
“Parents now recognise the importance of soft skills, especially in this global economy where one has to work in groups, mix with people of different nationalities and cultures, and adapt quickly,” she said.
Property agent Jolyn Tan, 46, sent her 12-year-old daughter for classes at Krystal Charm last year. “I was looking for something that wasn’t too focused on academics,” she said, adding that her daughter has “become more conscious of her behaviour and how it impacts other people”.
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.