Tue, Jan 05, 2010
The Straits Times
Something's new for new school year

By Goh Chin Lian

Six-year-old Madihah Mohammad Yusri Yubhi will enter Primary 1 tomorrow.

Her parents were educated here in madrasahs (Islamic religious schools), and furthered their Islamic studies at Al-Azhar University in Egypt. But they have decided to enrol Madihah in Junyuan Primary School in Tampines.

Said her father, Ustaz Mohammad Yusri Yubhi Md Yusoff, 34, who is the imam of Al-Falah Mosque in Cairnhill Place: 'As religious teachers, we can personally teach her religious education, instil good moral values and bring her up as a good Muslim.

'In my personal view, it's good to give her a different social background. Our hope is for our daughter to become a scientist or a researcher, and the primary school education system here will prepare her for it.'

Madihah is among about 39,000 pupils whom the Ministry of Education (MOE) expects to begin Primary 1 tomorrow.

Smallest P1 cohort

About 500,000: Number of primary and secondary students going back to school tomorrow. About 8 per cent are permanent residents and 4 per cent international students, said the Ministry of Education (MOE), adding that these figures have been stable over the last few years.

39,000: Number of children expected to begin Primary 1 this year. It is the smallest cohort in more than a decade, down from the peak of 50,204 in 2000 and 8 per cent less than last year's 42,500.

190: Number of children confirmed to have deferred going to Primary 1 this year, for a year. MOE said the deferments are mostly due to medical reasons and late admission to kindergarten.

Eight: Number of primary and secondary schools that will move to holding sites in old school buildings for the new semester, while their premises get a makeover.

Also the number of primary and secondary schools with newly upgraded buildings and facilities this year.

Eight in 10: Proportion of the 1,200 small buses ferrying children that have been fitted with seat belts.

In April last year, the Land Transport Authority required new small buses to have seat belts and existing small buses to install them by 2011.

At Junyuan Primary, the occasion is made even more special as the 22-year-old school has just moved into newly upgraded premises. A key feature is an eco-garden next to the science laboratory, which will be fitted with a wireless IT system so teachers can teach by the pond with tablet PCs, said principal Law Li Mei.

The classrooms come with interactive white boards and touch-sensitive screens that allow for digital projections.

Other additions include an indoor sports hall, a covered basketball court, a playground incorporating fitness training and a soccer field covered with synthetic grass.

This makeover is part of MOE's efforts, starting in 1999, to progressively upgrade or rebuild schools to the latest standards.

Also newly upgraded for this school year are Tampines Primary and six secondary schools. New facilities in some of these schools include a 400m track, a performing arts auditorium, and laboratories with equipment for data logging and chemical analysis.

To familiarise students with their new premises, schools like Cedar Girls' Secondary, River Valley High and Junyuan Primary held their orientation events last week.

Junyuan Primary also briefed parents on ways to help their children adjust to Primary 1, given that the school premises are bigger and have more pupils and teachers than kindergartens.

Still, one parent, Madam Alice Ng, 42, expects her son Xavier Soh, six, to be anxious on his first day.

'He's scared of new things and he doesn't dare to buy food on his own. I'll prepare bread and biscuits for him,' said Madam Ng, a clerk.

Another parent, IT manager Jowie De Leon, 35, said his daughter Pauline, six, was thrilled to go to school after seeing the books and uniform he had bought.

The Filipino national has taken her to visit the school three times on weekends, so she could familiarise herself with the surroundings.

Also excited about tomorrow is Madihah, who attended a kindergarten at Kampung Siglap Mosque.

Her father, who has two sons aged four years and 10 months respectively, said he has bought Primary 1 assessment books for her in preparation for the new school year.

Tonight, Madihah will keep to her usual bedtime of 9pm and wake up at 6am tomorrow.

Her parents will accompany her on the 15-minute walk to school.

Photo: ST File, graphics: Lim Kaili

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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