Neighbourhood school versus “elite” school, which will be better for your child? This question arises without fail, every year, when the Primary 1 registration date draws near.
Locally, “elite” schools refer to those that have instant name recognition. Such schools tend to be popular choices for parents, and balloting for places from Phase 2B (or even earlier) is almost a given. Some of these schools are also located in wealthier neighbourhoods such as Bukit Timah. The perceived advantages of attending such schools include quality learning, strong support from alumni, and a “better” network. Students from many elite schools will also enjoy priority entry into affiliated secondary schools—how the new PSLE scoring system affects this process remains to be seen.
Ultimately, what you choose depends on your personal values and the learning experience that you want for your child. Your best bet is to trust your instincts, and to remember that you have your child’s interests at heart.
Whether neighbourhood schools are your first choice or your fallback option, here are some things that you may not have known about them.
A Diverse Community
A local mum blogger shared with KiasuParents last year that she was disappointed when she did not secure a spot for her sons in a popular school, but has since had a change of heart. “In my sons’ school there is a wider cultural mix, which is good. From the parent workshops, I’ve met parents who are Spanish, Australian, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, and PRC nationals,” she says. “We also meet people from different walks of life; my son’s close friend goes home by himself and is sometimes alone for a while because his parents are hawkers. So it’s definitely more diverse than being among kids who are chauffeured and have the latest gadgets, and it keeps me grounded too.” (Read her story here.)
Unique Learning Programmes
Browse the Ministry of Education’s School Information Service site, and you will be able to filter schools by learning programmes and activities that your child may be interested in. For instance, Jiemin Primary School in Yishun has been featured in the media for its Journalist Club, which is part of its Applied Learning Programme for English. In this club, students are armed with DSLR cameras, iPads, and microphones to record newsworthy events around the school, and they contribute articles to the school’s newsletters. This is not done without guidance; the students receive regular training in questioning, storytelling, and presentation techniques—essential skills that will serve them well in the future.
Fair Play For CCAs
In some “elite” primary schools, it is not unheard of for parents to identify the school’s co-curricular activities—and the respective coaches—while their children are still in preschool or kindergarten. To give their children an edge in a sport or activity, these parents will send their preschoolers or kindergarteners to train with the school coaches, if they have an external training facility. Naturally, such children are likelier to be talent spotted and selected to represent the school for performances and competitions. As a result, children who are using the primary school years to explore different interests may have fewer opportunities to develop their talents.
To ensure that all children have meaningful CCA experiences, some schools such as North Vista Primary in Sengkang have adopted the modular CCA approach, where students are encouraged to try up to three different CCAs in a year. In Xingnan Primary School in Jurong West, these enrichment activities are conducted during curriculum time.
Grooming Future Leaders
A number of primary schools in Singapore are offering a leadership programme during curriculum time, known as “The Leader In Me.” It is based on the principles espoused in the bestselling motivational guide, “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.” In this programme, children learn to set priorities and goals, and they are encouraged to be proactive, and to seek solutions that will benefit the community. Neighbourhood schools that have implemented “The Leader In Me” include Oasis Primary in Punggol and Palm View Primary in Sengkang.
No “Top” Classes
Some schools in Singapore have done away with segregating pupils according to their results. Zhangde Primary School in Tiong Bahru is one neighbourhood school that has done so. Not all parents believe in the merits of mixed-ability classes, but they certainly have their benefits. “It’s all about helping and pushing each other to strive for our best. If we can help our classmates, why not?” says a student from Zhangde Primary School.