Does your child really need all that extra academic coaching before she enters P1? Judging from healthy enrolment numbers in P1 preparatory courses offered by enrichment schools here, it seems many parents are still leaving nothing to chance, despite little emphasis on exams in lower primary school these days.
And Crestar Learning Centre has seen a significant jump in the number of pupils for its maths prep programme, despite having started it only around three years ago.
While some enrichment centres have traditionally offered short-term courses ranging from 10 lessons to 10 weeks, others – like the ones at the three centres mentioned above – span a year or more. In fact, preparation in Molin starts as early as N2, because constant and regular coaching is seen to be more effective, a spokesman tells Young Parents.
AN EXTRA HELPING HAND
While a Crestar spokesman observes that some working parents choose to enrol their children in prep classes because they are unable to consistently coach them at home, other education experts point out that the updated syllabi and skills to be learnt in schools may overwhelm the average family.
Mala Sundram, Julia Gabriel Centre’s head of department (Speech and Drama, and Readers and Writers), explains that bite-sized assessments are now held on a regular basis to determine each pupil’s competence in the areas of reading, writing and speaking.
“(Parents) get feedback on their child’s learning on a termly basis, and often act to close the gap in their kid’s learning by choosing preparatory classes in the initial primary school years.
“Bite-sized assessments continue to exert some pressure on parents, if they feel that their child may not be coping as well in these tasks as his or her peers.”
Veronica Denise Goh, an early childhood and special-needs consultant and curriculum developer who works with preschools in Singapore as well as in the region, sums it up: “Just because schools have taken examinations out of the lower primary levels does not mean that there is less stress for children.”
She notes that over the years, what primary schools expect children to know is increasing, and at an earlier age.
“What kids used to learn at, say Primary 3, is now learnt at Primary 1, and so on,” she says.
However, she is against sending young children for additional classes. “We do not see what our children have to give up in order for them to keep up – playtime, outdoor time, rest time, earlier sleeping hours. All these things are important to developing a holistic child.
“If preschools provide the right curriculum to children – which is play-based – kids will be ready for primary school when they reach that stage.
“And if what parents want is to ensure that their children are capable of meeting the stress of primary school, to retain and memorise information, be obedient, to sit down and listen, then academic-based preschools are already preparing them for that.”
Related: Which preschool is right for Junior?
Daphne Yeoh, principal of Sengkang Green Primary School, acknowledges that there are variations in what is taught across preschool centres, but agrees with Veronica that kids who attend a kindergarten programme are generally prepared for P1.