All of us want the best for our children, but what is the best for the child when it comes to choosing a primary school? I think a lot of people will answer that they want a good school for the child. But what is the good school for most people may not be a good school for your child.
I notice that a lot of parents will see whether the school had good PSLE results, whether there is any affiliation to any secondary school etc.
Personally, I had a different set of criteria:
Environment which suits the learning ability of the child
Every child is different, some are competitive while others cower in the face of competition. Putting a child who needs push (or competition) to excel in a top school will bring out the potential in the child. Putting him in a not so competitive school may breed complacency in him if he is top of the form all the time. On the other hand, putting a child who cannot be pressured to perform in a top school will only result in the child suffering his childhood years.
I have a friend who was an old boy of a top school. Naturally, he sent his son there when it was time for Primary 1. Although it was only much later that the child was diagnosed with learning disability, even when he was in kindergarten, he already had difficulty in speaking and socializing with other children. Being in the top school, he was often left behind as all the other kids were way ahead of him. Sometimes, he would be left sitting in front to play by himself while the other kids were learning. We cannot expect the teacher to cater to 1 particular student while she has 30 other kids to take care of. Consequently, my friend pulled the son out of the school before the end of Primary 1.
On the other hand, there is another boy who is very intelligent. However, he is ‘afraid to lose’. This means that if he feels that he will lose in something, he will not even try. Putting him in a neighbourhood school actually boosted his confidence over the years. Though there were equally intelligent kids in his class, most of the others did not have much of a strong headstart in pre-school education. Without much ‘competition’, his teachers were quick to identify him and often put in him lead roles in class. This has allowed his confidence to grow and he has now fitted comfortably into a GEP school.
What is your view of how much homework the school should give? Personally, I detest homework especially in Primary 1. I feel that the child should view the school as a fun place to play when he is first exposed to mainstream school. When I was choosing a school for my son, I was recommended that a neighbourhood school was very, very good. Upon further probing, I found that it is because the school gives lots of homework even to P1s. Needless to say, I did not even consider the school. However, some parents feel that the kids need homework to occupy their time to prevent them from mischief when the parents are at work.
Distance from home to the school
There is merit in sending a child to a school near home rather than to another far away. Some school buses pick up the child at a ridiculously early time, especially if the child lives far away. Do you think it is important for the child to have the extra half an hour of sleep each morning? Sending the child to school yourself will save some time, but don’t forget that a lot of other parents do the same and you would expect to see a long queue of cars getting into the school in the mornings.
And in some schools, the school buses do not serve areas that are too far away as there is less demand after the normal school times. For example, there may be enough students during normal school times but not enough to run a service just for those coming home after their CCA.
Single session schools
Until the government changes all schools to single session, there are still some schools which hold their P1 and P2 classes in the afternoon. If your child does not have the habit of waking up early, it may be good to slowly ease them into mainstream school with not too many changes in their lifestyle and allow them to sleep in. However, if your child is an early bird, being in the morning session allows a lot more flexibility in scheduling other fun activities in the afternoons (example catching a movie, going to the playground in the evenings).
What home support you have is crucial too as you may have to consider who looks after your child or where he can go to before / after school.
Discipline and character building
Closely linked to the learning environment is also the level of discipline in the schools. Are you comfortable with how the school disciplines errant students? You may think that the school is too strict while another parent may not think so. But do consider how your child reacts to the kind of discipline.
There are many more other considerations which I have not yet listed and some people will have different views from me.