Study – Why Singaporean Parents are Kiasu



Do not be mistaken, Family matters: The role of parents in Singapore education is not about failing schools or failing children in Singapore.

Neither is it about dysfunctional families and their consequences. Rather, the thrust of the book concerns how parents in Singapore manage their children’s education and contribute to the national effort of capacity building in today’s competitive international economy. More specifically, it is about lived experiences of Singaporean parents responding to a uniquely local phenomenon called “Kiasu” (literally means ‘afraid to lose’) in a highly meritocratic and competitive society. Others have made similar observation of this preoccupation with succeeding in education: “A major concern of many parents in Singapore is how well their children will perform in school learning tasks, what marks or grades they will obtain in school and national examinations and consequently which secondary school or junior college their children get admitted to” (Quah et al., 1997, p.319). However, the active mainstreaming of parental involvement in schooling in Singapore is a relatively recent occurrence. Its marginal status was due to “a paternalistic and centrally-controlled education system in past decades” (p. 6). New policy initiatives to engage parents in a tripartite partnership of home-school-community began only in 1998 when the then educational Minister emphasized “the tapping of parental resources for schooling, and the sharing of the responsibility for the education of children with parents as well as other ‘stakeholders’” (p. 7).

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