Mdm Sim Siew Tin outlines what parents can expect from primary schools in the near future.
"It takes a whole village to raise a child," said Mdm Sim Siew Tin, Principal of Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School. And there was indeed a kampung spirit in the air as more than 700 parents gathered at the school for a MOE seminar on "Preparing Your Child for Primary Education" on 26 February 2011.
Though ancient in provenance, the wisdom of the African proverb still rings true in the message of the seminar's presenters - Mdm Sim and Mdm Tuminah Sujak, Chairman of Admiralty Primary School's Parent Support Group - who shared how both the school and family play equal roles in laying a strong foundation for a child's education journey.
Providing holistic support
Mdm Sim began by outlining a selection of initiatives that MOE had put in place to engage young learners in primary school. In the classroom, pupils are becoming active participants who learn through role-play and other interactive methods. With MOE's Programme for Active Learning (PAL) extended to 36 schools this year, more Pri 1 and Pri 2 pupils have the chance to engage in the performing arts, visual arts, outdoor education, sports and games.
Parents can expect a shift towards a more holistic primary school experience.
This shift towards holistic education also entails scheduling changes. Mdm Sim explained to parents that over the next few years, all primary schools in Singapore would become single-session. This will allow more time for children to develop their bodies and minds in non-academic activities, and there would be facilities such as indoor sports halls and performing arts studios to facilitate this as well.
"We want to create a more conducive environment for learning," explained Mdm Sim, "So it's all about creating programmes that are both enjoyable and effective."
Early and continuous preparation
A parent of two boys, Mdm Tuminah, gave a personal account of her experience in preparing her children for primary school.
By establishing routines, Mdm Tuminah Sujak prepared her children for primary school.
"Before they started Pri 1, I would bring them to the primary school near our home so they would get used to flag-raising and recess," she recounted. "In particular, I would tell my younger son who is a slow eater, 'See? Recess time is only 20 minutes - you need to eat faster!'"
Such outings, according to Mdm Tuminah, helped to make the transition to primary school a "more positive experience" for her children. She added that even after a child begins Pri 1, it is important for parents to create routines that allow time and space for not just schoolwork, but also independent learning.
"I drew up a timetable for my children. They have become so used to following this schedule that even when I'm not in, they know what to do when they return home from school and get their homework done," she said.
Aim for confidence and curiosity
The speakers were also joined by two MOE superintendents and five principals from other schools for a lively Q&A session. One question on the theme of preparation was "How long would it take for my child to adjust from pre-school to Pri 1?"
Getting a clearer picture of what lies ahead for their children in primary school.
In response, the panel noted that every child had his own pace and the adjustment period depended on many factors. A child born in December, for example, might need more time as his psychomotor skills may be less developed than a January baby. Some children may also hide their intelligence and abilities behind a shy demeanour and would need time to reveal their potential. Instead of focusing solely on marks and scores, the panel stressed that parents should pay equal attention to building up their child's confidence level and curiosity to learn new things.
Replying to another query on why some primary schools had varying minimum requirements for parent volunteer work, the panel highlighted that MOE has a guideline of forty hours. Individual schools, however, could set their own requirements depending on their needs and the nature of the projects. Parents were advised to contact the school directly to find out how both parties could best work together.
After the wrap-up, participant Mr Fahrurazi bin Abas shared that the seminar had given him a clearer picture of the Pri 1 registration process. "When the principal explained the phasing system, I realised that our address does not fall within the 1-2 km radius according to the Singapore Land Authority map," he revealed, "So we will need to reconsider the choice of school to apply to for my son."
Sharing his take on the seminar, another participant, Mr Anthony Lee said, "There are many things about primary education that my wife and I are unsure of. My daughter is only in kindergarten, but we are glad we came today to get a better understanding of what is to come."