To truly kiasu parents, the most important factors when choosing a primary school for their kids are the PSLE cut-off point and the school's level of prestige. A kid who gets into a school with a cut-off point of 260 deserves a Nintendo 3DS for his efforts. Yay.
But for parents who refuse to be that kiasu, there are many other factors you might want to consider when picking a school where your child will spend the next years of his life, such as the following.
DISTANCE FROM HOME
Elite schools tend to have students who live all over the island, some waking up as early as 4am to get to school, which is pretty insane. Some students even travel all the way from Johor Bahru on the yellow Bas Sekolah even though their schools are nowhere near the Causeway.
Well, Singaporeans are some of the world's most sleep deprived people, with 4 in 5 teens from top schools not getting enough sleep. Studying is only partly to blame for this if your kid has to face a long commute to and from home every day. Just as you wouldn't want to take up a job in Tuas if you lived in Simei, spare your kid the pain by opting for a school that's reasonably near home.
While your main concern might be that your kid does well for the PSLE or O levels, his own school experience isn't going to be all about burying his head in textbooks. Your kid's CCAs can be a major part of his life if he's actively involved.
The range of CCAs on offer varies from school to school, and could be a factor in deciding which one to attend.
For instance, Greendale Secondary School offers sailing, canoeing and fencing as CCAs, all of which are rather rare and not offered by many schools.
Students who have an interest or aptitude in a particular area, such as art or music, might want to go to a school where special programmes like the Music Elective Programme or Art Elective Programme are offered.
The list of schools offering MEP can be found here, while schools offering AEP are here. (Students do not necessarily have to go to schools that offer MEP to be enrolled in the programme. But it certainly makes life easier as they will not have to commute to another school for lessons.)
CULTURE / RELIGION
Just as some workplaces are laid back and others toxic, schools can have very different cultures. Some schools are definitely more "pai kia" than others, while even amongst relatively "guai" elite schools, there are subtle cultural differences that will have an impact on the person your child grows up to become.
There is also a religious element that can influence parents' decision to send their kids to a particular school. Christian or Catholic schools set up by missionaries such as ACS, Catholic High and the CHIJ schools have a religious programme in place that might include morning devotion or weekly chapel sessions.
FACILITIES FOR STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
If your child is dyslexic, on the autism spectrum or has ADHD, you'll make life a lot easier for him by enrolling him in a school with facilities that can cater to his needs. All primary schools and certain secondary schools have educators on hand to help children in need of learning and behavioural assistance.
Some schools are also equipped with facilities to support students with hearing loss, visual impairment or physical impairment. Here's a list of schools with such facilities.
This article was first published in MoneySmart.