School's out, let's get busy

Primary 6 pupil Kellianne Ng is looking forward to going to Paris in the later part of the June school holidays.

It will be her first trip to France, where she will be performing with the Singapore Symphony Children's Choir, and she anticipates it will be a "memorable experience". She turns 12 on Friday, the day she will sing with the choir at the Victoria Concert Hall.

Besides attending choir rehearsals, Kellianne, who also plays the piano and violin, will be preparing for her applications in the Direct School Admission exercise for secondary school based on her musical abilities.

In the midst of it all, she will also be attending supplementary lessons at school and continuing with tuition in all her four subjects during the month-long break.

"In June, I'll also be revising for PSLE almost every day as I'm scared of getting bad results. I think I'm going to burn the midnight oil," says Kellianne, the eldest of three children.

Ideally, she would like to spend more time hanging out with her friends or building the commemorative SG50 Lego set given to students with her younger sister, Sherrianne, 11, but she does not have much free time.

She conscientiously keeps track of her packed June schedule, which includes family outings to Adventure Cove Waterpark in Sentosa.

Her parents, Sherrianne and grand-aunt will be travelling with her on the eight-day trip to Paris.

Kellianne says: "I have a schedule book that I plan on my own as I'm an organised person. I could arrange a time slot for going out with my classmates. However, I have spare time slots only after Paris, when I return to Singapore on June 22. Maybe I can spend time with my classmates revising together."

While it is great that she is such an organised child, experts caution against excessively busy holiday schedules.

Overscheduling can cause some children to become "unhappy and stressed", says psychologist Jeslyn Lim, founder of Mind Culture, which promotes mental wellbeing.

"Remember to leave time for play, which enhances children's imagination and skills, such as managing their emotions." Ms Shelen Ang, head of research and development at Focus on the Family Singapore, a pro-family organisation, says: "I believe the purpose of school holidays is to give students a break from academic matters during the school year. However, parents now often view the holidays as an opportunity for their children to catch up on work and to improve on weaker areas."

Apart from activities related to school, some operators have seen an increase in demand for enrichment courses during the holidays.

Ms Fiona Walker, chief executive officer and principal of schools at Julia Gabriel Education, says: "We have been seeing an increased interest for our enrichment and holiday programmes in recent years. For example, our telephone and walk-in inquiries have risen by 20 per cent compared with last year."

She attributes the increase to parents wanting their children to have "skills that give them a competitive advantage later in life".

For mechanical and electrical designer Ramizah Buang, 47, it is important that her child has "balance" during the school holidays.

Her only child, Aaliyah Ahmad Firdaus Elliott Abdullah, 10, will be working on a fashion show for her school's SG50 celebrations, following the South-east Asian Games in Singapore, attending band practice, studying and going on family outings.

Aaliyah, a Primary 5 pupil, says she intends to hit the school books for an hour each day during the holidays to stay on track.

She says: "It's quite good because you get to learn a lot of things. Sometimes, if you're cut off from studies for too long, your brain doesn't seem to want to work anymore."

Secondary 3 student Tabitha Yeong, 15, however, finds her busy holiday schedule "quite stressful". She will be attending a leadership camp, going for supplementary classes at school, training for her modern dance co-curricular activity as well as studying for common tests in July.

Her family has planned a trip to Phuket, but she says she has to take her holiday homework along on the vacation, so that she can complete it.

From her experience, she feels that "even after a month's holiday in June, I still feel burdened. I don't feel recharged".

She says she does not see much difference between term time and the holidays. "Just that on some days, I get to wake up later than 6am," she says.

Secondary 4 student and published author Gabby Tan Yi En, 16, acknowledges that she has a full plate next month.

She will be occupied with holiday classes at school and studying for her O-level examinations.

She will also be completing Seek, the third book in her dystopian sciencefiction book trilogy for young adults, which she writes under the name Gabby Tye.

She deals with the pressure by taking ownership of the goals she wants to accomplish.

"I feel a lot of pressure, especially to do well and succeed, but I've learnt to deal with it. There's no point worrying needlessly. I think it depends on what you set out to do... and how determined you are to finish what you want to do. I feel that it's important to have some goals in life."

Besides, she knows she will have periods of respite when she will be binge-watching movies and some TV series, in addition to catching screenings at the Singapore International Children's Film Festival and playing with her family's two dogs.

Other children, such as Secondary 1 student Kieran Chew, are looking forward to the holidays with unadulterated enthusiasm.

Besides visiting his grandparents in Segamat, Malaysia, checking out the In Memoriam: Lee Kuan Yew exhibition at the National Museum and baking cookies, he says he wants to "memorise the entire sequence of a pack of playing cards and do the Rubik's Cube in seven minutes".

This article was first published on May 31, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.