Kandie can't afford private pre-schools for their kids
Most Singaporeans don't think twice about spending on their kids, especially when it comes to education. But that doesn't mean that parents — celebrities included — don't budget for expenses when they're raising a family.
For Andie Chen and his wife Kate Pang, when it was time to send their son Aden to school, they looked for a pre-school that they were comfortable with.
Some of the things they sought, the dad-of-two shared, were the school's proximity to their home and a good learning atmosphere.
The couple checked out some private pre-schools that their friends had recommended but were surprised that the well-known ones were charging fees that ranged between $1,600 and $2,000 per month.
"I thought maybe I should do it," Andie mused, "then I remembered that two years later, I'd be sending (daughter) Avery there."
The savvy dad did his sums and realised that his kids might chalk up $4,000 per month in school fees alone if they were studying in private pre-schools.
And what if baby No.3 comes along?
In the final episode of Real or Not?!, the 34-year-old actor talked about his experience at school and what he thought of the local education system, now that he's a dad himself.
GETTING A GOOD START IN LIFE
With private schools out of the picture, Andie took a look around and found an NTUC pre-school that fitted what he and his wife were looking for.
At these government-supported childcare centres, monthly fees range between $3 to $390 after subsidies, depending on the family's household income. Finding out which subsidies were available to his family was quite simple, he said, as it only involved chatting with the school and signing up for them.
Some of these monthly subsidies include the basic subsidy (up to $300 for full-day childcare; up to $600 for full-day infant care) and an additional subsidy for families with working mothers, depending on their income tier.
"$300 makes up about a third of the school fees," Andie noted.
Currently, one in two children has a place in a government-supported pre-school. By 2025, that number will rise to eight in 10 kids.
More families will benefit from the Additional Subsidy and Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) from this year, as the gross monthly household income ceiling is raised from $7,500 to $12,000.
Pre-school subsidies across all income tiers will also be increased. By 2022, KidSTART will help 5,000 more children from needy families.
Fortunately, primary school fees, capped at $13 per month, are a lot more affordable as compared to pre-school expenses, Andie noted.
Beside school fees, other expenses such as enrichment programme fees can be paid for using the students' EduSave accounts, which receive annual top-ups ($380 for primary school; $440 for secondary school).
NURTURING KIDS' TALENTS
As Aden turns seven next year, Andie said he's bracing himself for Primary 1.
"Primary school is a totally different ball game, they start to do homework and stuff," Andie explained.
To help children discover the joy of learning and move away from a focus on grades, there will be no more mid-year examinations for Primary 3 and 5 pupils, as well as Secondary 1 and 3 students, by 2021.
This move is something that Andie agrees with. "I'm against testing your kids too early because there are too many factors [involved]," he said.
The dad is also keeping close tabs on changes in the local education system and added he's a big fan of the introduction of subject-based banding for PSLE students.
Sharing his own experience, Andie said: "When I was in school, my overall grades were decent. But my Maths was bad, so I was placed in a really bad class."
Come 2024, Normal and Express streams will become a thing of the past as they get replaced by subject-based banding.
The programme, which will be piloted in 28 secondary schools this year, will see students taking subjects at three levels — G1, G2 and G3 — based on their abilities and strengths.
For instance, a student like Andie, who was good at Chinese and History, could take those subjects at G3, and his weaker subject Maths at G1 or G2.
"Nurturing talents in arts and sports, not just academics... I think it's a step in the right direction," Andie observed.
Meanwhile, children with special needs will also receive greater support. Three new special-education campuses have opened since 2016, with a new one to be ready by 2023.
GROOMING HIS SUCCESSORS?
They're no strangers to the camera.
Aden, five, and Avery, three, are the stars of their own YouTube channel Kandie Network, run by daddy Andie and mummy Kate, a host-actress herself.
In the videos, the adorable kids can be seen exploring new places and trying out various activities with their parents, offering a glimpse into their family life.
Through these clips, Andie gets to see how independent they can be, for example in a recent video where Aden and Avery tried taking public transport by themselves.
So, is the celebrity couple grooming their kids to be the Next Big Thing in showbiz?
"If they like it, they do it. If they don't like it, they don't do it lah," Andie said. "Sometimes they just want to play instead of filming, but for the most part, they do enjoy being on camera."
While some parents might encourage their kids to pursue certain things, the actor prefers to expose his children to as many activities as possible and try to support their interests. For example, Aden has been taking classes in martial arts and abacus.
"If they choose acting, I know it's going to be a rough road, but I'd be able to help them."
PURSUING HIS PASSION
When the actor parted ways with Mediacorp in 2017, there was speculation that he was leaving due to a lack of opportunities in the traditional TV and movie industry.
"We actually have more projects. There's less on TV but we have online channels and stuff," the Star Search 2007 winner clarified.
But Andie, who had been acting for over a decade, realised that he had reached the point where he couldn't do the same thing over and over again.
Therefore, he decided to start a new chapter in his career and branch out into digital media.
His background in filmmaking came in handy as Andie set up his own company to pursue projects such as Kandie Family, The Andie Chen Talkshow and Vagabond with Jade Seah.
Andie shared that he started the parenting channel Kandie Family in 2016 as an experiment but he has since handed the reins over to Kate.
"I started thinking about what I wanted to put my time and effort into… that later developed into The Andie Chen Talkshow." On the show, he has candid conversations with people in the creative industry as they talk about their journey to success.
Although Andie is devoting his time to numerous projects, that doesn't mean that fans won't be able to see him on TV anymore.
In fact, he has a number of works slated for release this year — English drama Ti Tou Dao and feature films The Fate Keepers and Late Night Ride.
With his kids now engaged in learning at pre-school, Andie said he can get his work done while still being a responsible dad.
"Parenthood has been a pretty fun journey."
Real or Not?! is a six-part talk show featuring celebrities discussing their experiences with issues of the day. Andie Chen is the guest for the final episode.