With homework and revision to tackle during the school term, you may consider co-curricular activities (CCA) a superfluous frill. Isn’t having a CCA in primary school just going to add to your kid’s already packed school day?
But some parents share that these non-academic activities have offered their kids a priceless education – in life – that cannot be found in a typical classroom lesson.
When Misha Misra picked up rope-skipping in Primary 2, her mum felt that her co-curricular activity (CCA) choice was a tad boring. But four years on, Er May Hua’s views on the sport have changed drastically.
“I was amazed to see my daughter execute so many different skipping patterns using a jump rope. It also taught her resilience and not to give up easily – values which she applied to her academic studies,” the stay-at-home mum shares.
Being actively involved in her CCA has helped West Grove Primary student Eunice Teo build character, leadership skills and discover her talent and passion for dance.
At the same time, it has provided an outlet for Eunice to relieve stress, shares her mother, Jenny Wong, 43.
“Eunice particularly enjoys showcasing her talent in dance. She used to be afraid to perform, but is now a confident person on stage after going through all the competitions and performances,” says Jenny, a senior research and development chemist.
Kids learn life skills from CCA
To promote a balanced and holistic development, the Ministry of Education (MOE) strongly encourages all students to take up a CCA in primary school.
Through their CCAs, students can discover their strengths and talents while developing values and competencies that will prepare them for a rapidly changing world, says Christina Lim, deputy director of CCA, Student Development Curriculum Division at MOE.
While CCAs are not mandatory, West Grove Primary’s principal Mrs Chandler Jay Siva feels that they are a must-have for children: “CCAs teach resilience, how to pick yourself up when you meet with setbacks and overcome challenges – skills necessary for a child to be successful in life.”
(Also read: 10 critical life skills you need to teach your kid)
How to choose a CCA in primary school
Most schools offer four main categories of CCAs. They include:
• Uniformed groups such as Girls’ and Boys’ Brigade, Scouts and Brownies, National Education club, and so on.
• Clubs and societies, which may include a robotics club, science club or book club.
• Visual and performing arts groups such as dance, drama and Chinese orchestra.
• Sports CCAs span a wide range of options, from swimming to badminton to basketball and more.
Find out what your kid’s school has to offer. Many schools organise CCA fairs or recruitment drives for students to learn more about the various CCAs and try out the different activities, Christina says.
(Also read: Best enrichment classes for primary school kids)
If the school doesn’t offer your kid’s CCA
Some schools permit students to take up CCAs that are not in their standard list of CCAs.
“For instance, wushu is not in West Grove Primary’s list of CCA. However, there are a number of students who are interested in wushu. We allow parents to send their children for wushu lessons and let the instructor use the school’s premises so that it is more convenient for our students,” Mrs Chandler says.
In such instances, parents usually bear the cost of the lessons. Your child can also represent the school in competitions, even if the school does not offer the particular sport or activity in its list of CCAs, Mrs Chandler says. Check with your kid’s teachers to find out more.
CCA is not about winning awards
Whatever CCA your child chooses, the focus should not be on winning awards. It is important for you and your kid to look at the larger picture –think about what he can learn, rather than what he can win, Mrs Chandler says.
“CCAs are an essential part of every child’s development. If the child wins a competition, that’s a bonus. It is more important to appreciate the child’s work and effort,” she says.
Can kids take more than one CCA?
Some parents may request for their child to take up two CCAs. That is possible, if your child can manage his school and family life, and there is an open enrollment space in the CCA, Mrs Chandler says.
In general, students are exposed to CCAs from Primary 3, but this varies from school to school.
For instance, West Grove Primary offers Primary 2 children the option of joining certain CCAs early.
“At the end of Primary 2, if they feel like they want a change, we allow them to do that although we generally advise them not to keep switching CCAs. We strongly believe that children should be given possibilities and opportunities to explore and discover where their interests lie,” Mrs Chandler says.
Consider your child’s schedule. Most CCAs take up around two hours per week. Some may be more time-consuming, especially if your child is participating in competitions, performances and events.
For example, Eunice usually spends two hours a week in school on her dance practice, which could increase to four to six hours per week whenever she prepares for performances and competitions.
Is the CCA the right fit?
How can you tell if my child’s CCA choice is right for him? Spend time speaking to your kid about his likes, dislikes and his interests. Consider specific skills and the dispositions you would like him to develop, too, Christina says.
For example, if your child is the physically active type, games and sports may be suitable for him, Mrs Chandler says.
“And if the child is the type who can’t sit still, consider a uniformed group perhaps? In a uniformed group, students go through a process where certain skills, attitudes and behaviour, such as focus, self-discipline and social responsibility, are intentionally cultivated through drills and community work,” she adds.
She encourages parents to let their children explore their interests and look for opportunities to grow them.
“But if the child says ‘I really hate it’, I would suggest letting the child change his CCA. When it comes to CCAs, passion and interest matter. How can a child enjoy doing something he is not interested in?” she says.
Primary schools with unusual CCAs
Dancesport: Edgefeld Primary School offers this combination of competitive standard ballroom and Latin American dancing.
Synchronised swimming: At Methodist Girls’ School (Primary), your kid can take up this sport that is a blend of meticulously coordinated acrobatics, swimming and dance.
In-line skating: Your kid will learn the basics of in-line skating, as well as a range of techniques and movements at Elias Park Primary School.
Needlework Club: Pick up sewing skills, which can be applied in everyday life, at Zhangde Primary School. Some of the products students created have helped raise funds for charity organisations.
Young Inventors Club: At Keming Primary School, your kid will develop skills in design thinking strategies, problem-solving, critical thinking and project presentations.
Comics Club: Kids in Tao Nan School learn about tools and techniques in comic drawing. They will also learn the fundamentals of storytelling and storyboarding.
Photos: SPH Chinese Media Group