Community centre enrichment classes: cheaper, but are they worth it?

By Stephanie Yeo   — January 31, 2017
  • Enrichment classes in community centres
    1 / 4 Enrichment classes in community centres

    If you’re just beginning to look for enrichment classes for your children, you’ll find a huge disparity in fees. Kids taking ballet, for instance, can pay about $10 per class at a community centre (CC), or $30 in private schools.

    Carmee Lim, mentor principal at Mindchamps, and a former principal of Raffles Girls’ School for 12 years, says it’s not unusual for parents to gravitate towards well-known name brands because of their prestige. “Of course, parents will want to give their children the best,” she shares, “And if they can afford it, then why not?”

    But she advises that a higher price does not necessarily mean better quality, as rental costs and the need for administrative staff could play a part in the fees.

    Parents may choose a commercial centre over a CC simply because the two are not marketed in the same way, observes Dr May Lim, assistant professor and deputy director for the Centre for Learning Environment and Assessment Development at the Singapore Institute of Technology

    Related: 5 ways to raise a bilingual child 

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  • Cheaper, but is it worth it?
    2 / 4 Cheaper, but is it worth it?

    Private schools can have strong branding, and often showcase the success stories of their students, adds Dr Lim, who is an occupational therapist by training. Conversely, parents do not know how previous students benefitted from a CC class, not because it hasn’t provided the same results, but simply because they aren’t broadcast in the same way.

    “In fact, many local CC classes are also run by people who are very talented and passionate, and interested in helping the local community,” Dr Lim shares.

    Related: 7 ways to help your child write better 

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  • Pros and cons
    3 / 4 Pros and cons

    Of course, there are some benefits that private schools offer which CCs cannot. Because CCs don’t have pro-rated course fees, teachers usually cannot offer potential students the chance of a trial course, says ballet teacher Joni Tan, who teaches at Kampong Chai Chee CC. She has previously taught at CHIJ, the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, as well as the Cheng Ballet Academy,

    She adds that because of space constraints at the CC, it’s rare that she can allow a makeup class should a student fall sick or travel out of the country.

    Another factor to consider is the class ratio, Dr Lim adds. “CC courses often take in large classes so, in a way, that’s probably the main disadvantage,” she explains. “It’s not necessarily easy for one or two teachers to pay attention to a very large class.”

    Related: These are the most important skills your child needs to succeed in primary school 

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  • Choose wisely
    4 / 4 Choose wisely

    When shortlisting centres, Carmee doles out the following piece of advice: always visit the school to get a feel of the environment, the atmosphere and, most importantly, the people. Dr Lim suggests hanging around the class and talking to other parents whose children are there. Make an effort to observe the class and how the teacher is interacting with and encouraging students.

    And don’t let “losing face” lead you to a more expensive school just for the prestige factor. Always consider your budget, Dr Lim advises. “There’s nothing wrong with cheaper classes,” Dr Lim says. “For all you know, it might be the local CC’s art teacher who is able to best connect with your child.”

    Related: 5 ways to get your child to read more


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