Choosing a Primary School in 2024: Are CCAs Important?

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Still deciding which primary school to register your child in?

Typically, parents in Singapore will consider the following factors:

  • School reputation: Many popular schools are known for their academic rigour, or for excellence in specific CCAs (co-curricular activities).
  • Affiliation: Primary schools with affiliations to secondary schools are sought after. Having an affiliation advantage allows students to qualify for affiliated secondary schools without top grades.
  • Location: A primary schooler’s schedule can become hectic, especially if they’re very involved in their CCA. A shorter commute is always preferred!

If the above are not your main considerations, and you’re open to looking at a wider selection of primary schools, you can use the Ministry of Education’s SchoolFinder tool to browse schools. 

Apart from filtering schools by their location and programmes, you can also shortlist schools by their CCAs. Why are CCAs important? Read on to find out!

Must my child join a CCA in primary school?

Typically, primary schools don’t insist on CCA participation, although they do encourage it. 

You may also have noticed that in well-known primary schools, CCA participation is the norm. This is where you’ll often find the ‘all-rounder’ students, who excel in their studies and do well at their hobbies. For such students, CCA involvement doesn’t taper off in Primary 6 — instead, they learn to fit in their training activities alongside preparation efforts for the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination). 

Although it can be stressful, there are benefits to this approach. First of all, to be ready for tertiary education as well as the world of work, book smarts are no longer the main priority. Instead, good universities and prominent workplaces often look for something more — they value individuals who are highly curious about the world, and display eagerness to learn from experiences beyond textbooks. 

Joining a CCA in primary school is an easy way to let your child pursue or discover an interest that is separate from academics. In the process of honing a skill, they will also develop qualities such as resilience and attention to detail. If they should be given the honour of representing the school in events and competitions, there will be plenty to gain from such experiences, where they will have to collaborate with teammates, manage competition pressure, and learn to pick themselves up after setbacks.

Should CCAs be a main factor when choosing a primary school?

This depends on your child, as well as your family’s preferences. There are two typical scenarios where a school’s CCAs might become a top consideration:

  • Scenario A: Your child has a specific interest such as photography, and you would like them to hone this skill in school.
  • Scenario B: You’re deciding between several shortlisted schools, and need a tie-breaker to pick the top choice.

In either of these instances, it will be helpful to look at the many niche activities offered by primary schools these days, catering for diverse interests from strategy games to playing the harmonica. 

Of course, if your child is already eying competitions or a Direct School Admission pathway for secondary schools, it’s essential to pick a primary school that will nurture their talent, and this could outweigh other factors such as location. If this is your focus, it’s best to consult your child’s coaches or experienced parents for school recommendations.

What if my child doesn’t have specific interests?

For children who don’t have strong interests, CCAs could offer good exposure at low cost.

Here’s an example: Perhaps you’d like your child to incorporate more exercise into their routine, but they don’t have a preferred sport as yet. You can look for primary schools that offer a ‘modular sports’ CCA — this is a programme that allows students to try various sports instead of committing to a particular sport. If your child eventually finds a sport that they really like, you can enrol them in a private training school or seek out a secondary school to further this interest. If not, it’s simply a stress-free way of discovering different sports.

For non-modular CCAs, students may be expected to commit for a year before switching to a new activity. If this is important to you, seek clarifications with your schools of interest before you register your child.

What are some unusual CCAs that primary schools offer?

It’s best if you browse the full list of CCAs using the MOE’s SchoolFinder tool

As a taster, we’ve provided a list of 15 less-common primary school CCAs, along with the schools that offer them (based on SchoolFinder data). 

In our list, we’ve included a CCA called ‘Mathematics’ — this is not an extension of what’s taught in maths classes. In maths clubs, students gather to solve problems and improve their logical and creative thinking skills. In Queenstown Primary, maths club members will also get a chance to facilitate maths trails for their schoolmates. 

Please note that the list below is not exhaustive, and that schools may offer similar activities under a different name. For example, some schools may combine debating with drama, instead of public speaking. Also, be prepared that schools may discontinue their CCAs due to a lack of demand or logistical issues. Do check directly with your schools of interest for the latest information on their CCAs.

Want to chat with other parents about registering for a primary school? Join the conversation on the KiasuParents forum!