SINGAPORE - Learning table manners, taking personality tests and coming up with business plans - these are what children are doing in primary schools these days.
Primary 4 pupil Tan Mei Yi from Greenridge Primary learnt goal setting through a mega snakes-and-ladders board game, in which she and her friends raced to reach the end after doing tasks.
Bukit Panjang Primary 4 pupil Chan Wan Keng picked up tips on motivation and leadership while balancing ice cream sticks on a tennis ball. "I learnt to be mindful of the strengths and weaknesses of others, and cooperate with my team members," she said.
More schools are offering enrichment activities - either on their own or through vendors - that teach children life skills usually associated with adult life, from entrepreneurship to public speaking and leadership.
At least three major enrichment organisations and one leadership group offering such programmes told The Straits Times that they have seen more interest from primary schools in recent years.
Elmer Lau, training director of Acorn Training Consultancy, which runs leadership and communication programmes, said it worked with 14 primary schools in 2005. This grew by three times to 45 schools last year.
Ng Hau Yee, executive director of Junior Achievement Singapore, which conducts workshops on business skills and financial literacy, said it trained 60 primary school pupils in 2008.
It reached out to some 10,000 pupils in the next four years.
J. D. Lee, head of the youth division at Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Group, said it has seen more than 110,000 pupils from 55 primary schools join its programmes over the last decade.
These include workshops and talks on motivation, community work and leadership. The number of primary schools involved has grown by about 5 per cent a year for the last five years, he said.
Some schools also offer enrichment activities linked to life skills.
For instance, Chongfu School in Yishun - which usually holds an annual camp filled with sports activities - will have a day camp this year for lower primary pupils to learn skills like tying knots and basic dining etiquette.
Its principal, Foo Mui Chuw, said: "We want children to be responsible individuals. These are things they can learn when they are young."
An Education Ministry spokesman said schools conduct enrichment activities to broaden the curriculum according to students' needs and interests.
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.
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