Here's what Singaporean parents are looking for in a school

PHOTO: Pixabay

What strikes frustration into the heart of every MOE teacher? More than their young students, it's parents that are making life difficult for the nation's educators.

Teachers have even taken to the media to denounce helicopter parenting.

But if the results of a recent Institute of Policy Studies survey are to be believed, most Singaporean parents are actually satisfied with the primary education system, with more than 90 per cent of the opinion that the local education system is one of the world's best.

In fact, the survey results are quite revealing, and shed some light on spending trends of Singaporean parents, such as the following:

High PSLE scores are still the most important factor

When asked what makes a school a good school, the #1 factor, cited by 72.8 per cent of parents, was a record of high PSLE scores. The second highest factor, which 70.6 per cent cited, was students from the primary school getting into reputable secondary schools.

At first glance, these results can appear to conflict with parents' actual spending behaviour. While most parents were satisfied with the schools their kids are enrolled in, the shadow education system in the form of private tuition is still a billion dollar industry.

A 2015 poll showed that 7 in 10 parents were sending their children for tuition.

However, this might explain it: 63.4 per cent of parents indicated that the possibility that their child may lose out in the education system in the long run was a source of stress, while 56.8 per cent were stressed out that their child would fail to obtain the grades they were capable of.

It is clear that this fear propels the tuition industry, and drives some parents to make the irrational decision of enrolling their kid in tuition even if they are not sure it is beneficial for his grades.

In another report, only 1/3 of the parents with tuition-going kids polled could say that the tuition had noticeably improved their kids' grades.

Parents are starting to place more importance on extra curricular activities

While baby boomer parents might have objected to their kids taking on too many CCA commitments due to the fact that it would serve as a distraction from their studies, parents of today's primary school cohorts are starting to "want it all" for their kids.

40.2 per cent of the parents surveyed thought it was important that schools offer many enrichment classes.

If they can't find these activities at school, parents are willing to pay for them elsewhere. Reports have shown that Singaporean parents are not averse to spending obscene amounts of cash on enrichment classes for their kids.

Parents who are strapped for cash should look to what schools offer in terms of CCAs and other enrichment activities such as overseas field trips. Enrolling children in activities through their schools is usually cheaper than doing so privately.

So parents who wish to give their children exposure to sports, for instance, can consider enrolling their child in more than one sport CCA as early as possible. If the child doesn't find something he likes, consider cycling through different sports CCAs throughout the primary school years.

Once the kid reaches secondary school age, exploration gets harder due to calculation of CCA points and the fact that many CCAs are competitive and require the student to go for try-outs.

Character-building and inculcation of values - but shouldn't these start at home?

An overwhelming majority of parents felt that character-building was an important factor they looked for when choosing a primary school for their kids. 94.9 per cent rated emphasis on character and values as important.

Is this a realistic expectation? For instance, what should a teacher tell a child if asked about why gay people can't get married in Singapore? What advice should teachers give when faced with students torn between pleasing their parents and exploring their own interests?

Should teachers teach their kids that grades are the most important thing, or that it is okay to take it easy? Put a group of 1,000 parents in a room and they won't be able to agree on what should be taught.

Of course, teachers should teach kids not to cut queues in the canteen, that they must suffer the consequences for breaking school rules, stuff like that. But there is only so much they can do, especially given large class sizes.

This means parents absolutely need to do their own part in determining what values to pass on to their kids, and lead by example. This is one job that can't be outsourced.

What do you look for in a school? Tell us in the comments!

SERVICES