Start of many firsts

Start of many firsts

There were many moments yesterday for double takes at one of Singapore's newest primary schools.

For a start, West Spring Primary School in Bukit Panjang had five sets of twins experiencing their first day at school.

It was also the first day at school for its teachers.

And the school is so new that the 210 Primary 1 children do not even have uniforms.

The other two schools welcoming a first batch were Alexandra Primary in Bukit Merah and Northoaks Primary in Sembawang.

At West Spring Primary School at 7.30am sharp, the pupils began classes in their physical education (PE) attire.

There were tears and fears aplenty from the children, with anxious parents in tow before classes.

Seven-year-old Alena Puah frowned at the cameras while twin brother Alonzo grinned and gamely struck poses.

Their civil servant mother, Mrs Rosalind Puah, 40, said the family chose West Spring Primary because they live in the nearest block, a five-minute walk away. No matter that the Bukit Panjang school was starting on a clean slate and Mrs Puah "didn't know what to expect".

Other primary schools near the Puahs include Greenridge Primary and Beacon Primary.

In a country that is fixated with high scores and school ranking, West Spring Primary has no pedigree.

Unlike established educational powerhouses, the school lacks the clout of a brand name to attract parents and pupils.

But parents have been very supportive of the school, which has a play-based learning approach, said principal Jacinta Lim. The pupils start taking exams only in Primary 2.

CHANGING MINDSET

Mrs Lim said: "The mindset of parents is changing. They understand there are other ways to facilitate learning for their child... We're starting from a clean slate and there's more scope to try out new things."

That includes trying out a new design for a school uniform, which would complement the play-based curriculum. It is still on the drawing board and will be ready in 2016, said Mrs Lim.

Mrs Lim and her vice-principal had selected the colours after "recceing" all the schools in the estate to ensure "we wouldn't be mistaken" for another school.

Alena's father, IT manager Arthur Puah, 42, said: "Starting from scratch means the staff has no baggage. With a new system, it's easier for the principal, vice-principal and teachers to make changes and try new methods."

Mrs Puah added: "We like the way the school defines its value system. The play-based curriculum is also more in line with a new way of learning."

Both made their choice with Alena's welfare in mind.

Mrs Puah said: "The twins have opposite learning styles. West Spring appealed to us as Alena has a shorter attention span, so we thought learning through play would work for her."

West Spring Primary has also set up a buddy system with nearby Zhenghua Secondary School, which will involve older students acting as buddies to the younger ones. They will guide the West Spring pupils during recess time and teach them how to order and pay for food.

A torn Achilles tendon could not keep civil servant Mahadhir Mahmood, 33, away from elder son Aniq Rifqy's first day of school.

"Aniq was so excited, he couldn't sleep the night before. My wife and I decided to accompany him and see what it's like."

Another pupil who turned up bright-eyed was Jayleen Boo.

"She woke up at 5.30am because she couldn't sleep," said her twin brother Julius. "I got up at 6.30am."

FIRSTS

1. No other levels. Just P1

2. No school uniform till 2016

3. No shortage of twins. It has five.

4. No all-books curriculum.


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