No goodie bags, no sweet treats and no gifts. Instead, a simple birthday song sung in class should suffice.
Some primary schools are laying down the law on birthday festivities in schools, saying they should be kept to “no frills” celebrations.
This, they say, will curb concerns about food allergies and the consumption of junk food.
Just as important, it prevents pupils from making comparisons between the haves and the have-nots.
The Straits Times found that at least six schools have issued such guidelines in recent years. They are: Dazhong Primary School, Pei Chun Public School, Geylang Methodist School (Primary), Oasis Primary School, Springdale Primary School and Riverside Primary School.
The Ministry of Education has no policy on the matter and allows individual schools to decide.
But some parents are unhappy about it, arguing that they celebrated their children’s birthdays in pre-school and that they should be allowed to continue the custom in primary school.
Many reasons for saying ‘no’ to parties
Housewife Betha Bhanu Valli Kalyani, 36, who has a son in Primary 2 in Springdale Primary, used to mark birthdays with him in pre-school by distributing goodie bags containing toys and tidbits to his classmates, in addition to ordering balloons and a cake.
“A birthday rolls around only once a year, and he used to have celebrations in kindergarten, so I don’t see why he is not allowed to do so now,” she said.
Ms Geraldine Tan, 41, who has a son in Primary 2 at Holy Innocents’ Primary School, said his school does not discourage such celebrations.
Making comparisons “is part and parcel of life, and shielding children from that is a little excessive”, said Ms Tan, who is self-employed.
But the schools say that they have their reasons for saying no.
In a circular sent to parents in January, Oasis Primary in Punggol told parents not to organise birthday celebrations within the school.
As these celebrations “invariably involve food”, there are concerns that this may trigger food allergies, principal, Mrs Ong-Chew Lu See, wrote in the circular.
“There is also a concern that the pupils will start to compare between the haves and the have-nots. While we want our students to build quality relationships within the class, we do not want to encourage comparison among them,” she added.