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Aspirations for Secondary Education – Who gets to decide?

Sometimes I wonder to myself if I was the one taking the PSLE exam or my kid. I seem to be more anxious than my nonchalant kid.  As parents, we want to provide the best for our kids. Like other Singaporean parents, we ferry them to enrichment lessons, providing them with opportunities and encouragement.

Long time ago, I have gathered from friends that top students are not produced overnight. They are being “hot house” and prep with tons of exam papers so as to achieve their maximum potential leading to the PSLE exam. I once believed in that too.

I had a great plan then starting from P1. I was a “wannabe kiasu” mum, setting the timetable and giving out the extra assessment and ensuring that kiddo completes her assignment on time. Now comes the hard part. Its easy to assign work but do they get completed? I often break into my unbecoming “tiger mummy moments” and end up threathening the child, “Do this or else no TV!”. This went on for a couple of years with not much progress. Nothing seems to motivate my child.

My DD happens to belong to the group known as “potential to excel if she puts in more hard work” type. Some parents would know what I mean. Some kids just needs to be pushed academically, they are extremely bright but has a mind of their own. I remembered asking her around P4, “don’t you want to get into the top Secondary school, so and so is in RGS, don’t you aspire to go there?” Her answer at that time was deemed diplomatic, ” I don’t know”.

Well, to give some credit to DD, she gets into the top class with minimal effort. There are alot of smart and hardworking kids in her class who are way ahead of her academically. These are the kids that will end up in the mainstream top schools. But DD is on a different track. She is a talented dancer and sometime around P5, she has quietly decided that she wants to go to SOTA, like some of her seniors in dance school. She broke this decision to me in one of those heart to heart talk between mother and daughter and told me that she has over the years put in so much hardwork building up her dance portfolio and that its time to put into good use. At that moment, my dream of her getting into RGS crushed right in front of me. Why SOTA? I had no knowledge of SOTA other than its an Arts School smack in Orchard Road. Being worried kiasu parents, my immediate reaction was , “aiyoh, die lah, everyday go Orchard Road jalan jalan how?”

I refused to give in or talk about it for the next few months. Everytime she mentions SOTA, I just ask her not to waste time talking about it as she is not going there. Dancing is just CCA, just focus on PSLE and everything else will be fine.  After many months of praying and speaking with parents who have kids going to SOTA, it just dawned upon me one day that I was being really selfish. I shut my girl off for pursuing her dream, her passion and all these years of dancing and winning dance competitions all came down to this harsh reality…. am I going to deny her of a DSA chance to get into SOTA?

My heart started to soften and I began to search the SOTA website for information. I attended the symposium talk and open house and even allowed her to join its Junior Academy. By now, I am convinced that SOTA is really for the artistically gifted child who wants to pursue their passion on top of being academically focus. Not every child’s destiny is to go to the top schools even if their results qualify them to.

My DD has finished her SOTA auditions and we will know the outcome in early August. In any case, my advice to all “kiasu wannabe” parents, don’t typecast your child too early. Every child is different and they respond to the carrot differently. Some will bite, some just won’t.

For myself, I am just going to chill and wait for the DSA outcome and continue to be encouraging and supportive. I have come a long way and I know many parents are just as anxious about the school choices to pick. Sometimes, it may be good to ask the child about their choice. Some parents may wonder how do they decide at age 12? Well, you might be surprised what goes on in their young minds. After all, they are the ones taking the PSLE, not you.







Hi I am new to this site and wondering if someone can help me. I am hoping to know a few things:-

1. Some colour about the experience kids have at Sota for dance.

2. Are kids allowed to specialize in different art forms from the one they are admitted via DSA?

3. What opportunities lie for kids who graduate from Sota?

4. How different is IB program from mainstream and what are the benefits..


Any thoughts or information will be greatly appreciated.



all I can say is let us not succumb to rat race in primary schoo

all I can say is let us not succumb to rat race in primary school.. do not let our children lose their childhood this way… childhood memories shld be about play and dreams.. not grilling…


(am also trying to constantly remind myself)

— a kiasu parent who is trying not to be kiasu

Well said!  

Well said!


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