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Can A Primary School Determine Your Child’s Future Success?

Primary School

With this year’s Primary 1 registration process almost drawing to a close, schools have been allocated to most children. If your child did not gain entry to a first-choice school, you may be feeling anxious or dejected, and you are not alone. 

“I was honestly a little mopey, for at least six months!” confesses a mother whose eldest child was balloted out of their preferred school in both Phases 2B and 2C. “But it helped that he was enjoying school, so I guess after a while I stopped feeling sorry for myself and focused more on what was important for him.” (Read her story here.)

Recently, a long-dormant discussion thread on our KSP forum was revived, which asked the question, “Are our children’s futures predicated on the quality of their primary schools?” Read on to find out what our KSP community thinks.

Kids Can Forge Their Own Destinies

Whichever school your child lands in, you can encourage him or her to strive to make a difference in the school, using his or her innate talents or skills, suggests ChiefKiasu

“It is our children that make the schools, and not the other way around,” he adds. “Our kids can be the pioneers that brought their schools to the top. Imagine the pride that their children will have when they become students of those schools [in future].”

Yet, is this idealistic thinking? Perhaps so, as the most popular schools have a long history, or they may have been chosen by the Ministry of Education to run programmes such as the Gifted Education Programme, which would naturally help them to draw in the brightest students, and hence produce better results compared to other schools. 

But here’s another way to look at it:

“I am a ‘product’ of a neighbourhood school. I had an excellent foundation, thanks to good teachers. To this day, I still remember the things they taught me,” recalls foreverj. “Where is my primary school now? It is still faithfully educating the young in my old neighbourhood. Is it famous now? Not really, it’s still an ordinary neighbourhood school. But it has produced batches of successful, well-adjusted citizens who have contributed much to our society.”

Just Doing Our Bit As Parents

Given a choice, most parents would want their children to be in a school that will develop them to their fullest potential.

“Established primary schools [have built their reputations on more than] academic achievements,” contends verykiasu2010. “They have a comprehensive range of enrichment courses to supplement the core curriculum, and they have a huge range of approved vendors that have worked with them over the years to make the provision of enrichment courses seamless. And their parent association is very involved. Their systems and processes are proven every year to deliver.”

The perceived value of these established schools drives parents, year after year, to find ways and means of helping their children to gain a coveted spot. To some, this is a parental duty that must be undertaken.

“Our role as parents is to provide that opportunity for a chance of a lifetime to kickstart the schooling years in a school that offers a more rounded curriculum,” says jedamum. “Until our kids can be independent to chart their own paths, we have to at least try to make options available for them to choose.”

Forward-looking parents are even thinking about school choice as a benefit for future generations. 

“Having had to enrol my own children in school, I lamented why my mother didn’t try harder to send me to [a better school],” says luvmum. “At least, I’ve now put my child in a better school, which will pave a future route for my children’s children, provided the system remains unchanged.”

Parents may differ on just how much effort they’re willing to expend on getting their children into quality schools. But whatever the end result, if you have done what you felt was best for your child, that’s all that counts. It’s time to move on to the next stage of preparing your child for primary school life.

The Classic Dilemma: Big Pond Vs. Small Pond

If many of the brightest children are headed towards popular schools, is that necessarily a better environment for your child?

“I tend to agree that by placing your child in a better school, you may find a better learning environment, teachers with better morale, and students who are very encouraged to learn, whether on their own or because of parents who give them the extra push,” says luvmum. “The desire to excel is greater, compared to a [less-popular] school.”

Some parents may feel that it is easier to shine in a more relaxed environment, while others are of the view that it is better to be “average” in a highly competitive setting. Yet, there’s no telling how children will eventually progress in life. Freesia shares this anecdote:

“My sister’s friend, who used to be the captain of an elite school sports team, is today a teacher teaching in a neighbourhood school. Of course, this is an honourable profession. On the other hand, I know of someone else who grew up in a neighbouhood school environment — an average performer with teachers not even bothering to look at her. She made it in life by getting through tough interviews, to work as a professional alongside colleagues from Oxford and Cambridge, and she was making more than SGD250k a year by her mid-twenties.”

Again, it all boils down to each parent’s definition of “success” in life, and the values that one chooses to impart to one’s children. Parent jedamum offers this equation: 

“Primary schools have little influence if the parents have a big influence. Primary schools have a big influence if the parents have little influence. Secondary schools have a big influence, but this in turn is influenced by the academic results of the Primary School Leaving Examination.”

“I think anyone’s future is predicated on many factors, and a good primary school is just one factor,” concludes hb. “But it’s a factor that seems to be within our control, unlike other factors such as intelligence, peer influence, and sheer luck. Being ‘kiasu parents’ we try to control what we can. And cross our fingers on the rest.”

What do you feel about the impact of primary school choice on your children’s future? Join the conversation here.

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