Yes, kiasu parents have made front page in Sunday Times today. Apparently, an annual fee of $9.6K is a "jaw-dropping" amount that parents are willing to spend on full-day programmes in pre-schools for their kids today. This as compared with the annual $1.6K that "normal" parents spend on half-day programmes in PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Kindergartens.
The story is centred around a heartland family who is spending over 20% of their monthly income on sending their son to Pat’s Schoolhouse for full-day childcare and kindergarten.
Overall, I thought it was good as an informative article, but I’m surprised by its tone which makes it appear as if it is scandalous that heartlanders are starting to send their children to such premium pre-schools.
Come on, some of those pre-schools have been around for decades ,and it is no secret that they are expensive. Pat’s Schoolhouse was already well into the $1000s per month in 2002 when I last enquired. And if middle-income families feel their children have a right to such education, and are willing to pay, so be it. It’s not like they are buying Rolexes for themselves to wear and show off even if they have to eat maggie noodles for the rest of their lives. It is the future of their children that they believe they are investing in. If this makes them "kiasu" in the derogatory sense, then shouldn’t the same be applied to everyone else who could well afford to send their children to such schools?
There is no replacement for family support and love, and charity begins at home. But when it comes to education, only a few lucky children in Singapore can enjoy the patience of a stay home parent who has the time to fully manage and educate the child during early childhood. The alternative is to outsource that task to professionals, and most parents would want their children to get the best they can afford. That translates to getting teachers highly trained in child pedagogy, which of course means they will cost more.
Certainly, price and teachers’ academic qualifications are no guarantee of better service by the pre-schools, but the more personal attention and guidance along with an extensively enriched curriculum provided by the premium schools increase the probability of their success with grooming young children. That’s just common sense. Is it worth the money? That’s entirely dependent on the value that parents themselves perceive of the results. Some, like the Ngs, think it is worth their sacrifices. Others will always pooh-pooh the results saying the same results could have been achieved at lesser cost. It becomes a pointless exercise to try to compare preschools based on cost because they offer different value propositions to different people. In other words, what’s the fuss all about?
Perhaps the Straits Times would do better to put its resources into investigating the tons of commercial programmes that claim to make geniuses of young babies or to get children into GEP classes. That would help shake up that industry and sift out the real stuff from the pretenders. And that is what we KiasuParents really want and appreciate.