Tuition For Primary 1: Too Early Or Good To Start Young?

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Is tuition necessary for Primary 1 students?

The truth is that tuition is never absolutely necessary, but of course different students (or parents) will have different needs and goals, where having extra attention and coaching might be beneficial.

Not surprisingly, tuition is a commonly discussed topic on our KiasuParents forum, and here are what some parents have to say:

“My advice to parents of P1s is to focus more on study skills and study habits… [The early] years are more profitably spent making sure they know how to be responsible for daily homework, keep to a schedule, focus and not be distracted, pack their own bags, remember instructions, etc… A child struggling with content may need tuition if the parents can’t help, but unnecessary tuition can deprive a child of the opportunity to learn independence.” slmkhoo

“If kids struggle with P1 work and parents cannot teach, or have no time to teach them, then tuition is necessary to help kids cope… And if you expect amazing results in P3, and kids are slow learners, then it is also challenging to just do nothing and wait until the P3 exam period to catch up.” — manorway

A KSP member also cited several scenarios where parents might prefer to send a child for tuition from Primary 1, such as when both parents are tied up with work, are not proficient in a language, or simply do not want to be bogged down by the details of the school curriculum.

If you’re curious about what skills might be prioritised during the primary years, you can take your cue from current education minister Lawrence Wong’s announcement about the Ministry of Education’s strategies for our post-Covid landscape. This includes a greater push to develop learning beyond book smarts.

In fact, Minister Wong’s words could provide a valuable perspective for your child’s learning:

“The way forward for us is to continue to emphasize our competitive advantage and our human strengths — the ability to build relationships with one another, to collaborate and work in teams, to be able to think creatively… to brainstorm and challenge one another and then develop better solutions together.”

Without tests and exams to worry about, parents should focus on using the Primary 1 and 2 years to help children adjust to the social aspects of school, and to develop good learning habits. It’s also a chance to let your child explore extracurricular interests, and most of all, to enjoy quality time with friends and family.

How would you know if your Primary 1 child requires additional help? Well, if your child is progressing in a typical fashion, you will likely not hear from any teacher until the parent-teacher meeting! So if you do get a call from your child’s teacher, there’s a good chance that some intervention may be required.

Below are three scenarios where you may wish to consider getting support:

  1. Your Child Is Struggling With Reading, Writing, And Simple Math

Most preschools teach kids to read and write, so the reality is that many kids do enter Primary 1 being able to read and write independently. Many parents would also agree that getting a child to read early is almost a guarantee of school success.

But not to worry if your child has entered primary school without literacy skills — all primary schools have a Learning Support Programme (LSP) for Primary 1 students who need help with English and Maths. Such students will be identified through a screening test, which is held upon school entry. Thereafter, those who require help will attend sessions in small groups of eight to 10 students, conducted by trained teachers.

Schools may differ in their practices, but LSP sessions will usually take place during curriculum time. Students who continue to face literacy issues after intervention will be screened for dyslexia.

(Read our story: Can A Child Survive P1 Without Knowing How To Read?)

  1. Your Child May Have Learning Issues

Sometimes, children with learning challenges do slip through the system’s checks, and they may not receive attention until the upper primary years, when their poor grades trigger alarm bells.

For primary schoolers, some tell-tale signs of a learning disability might be:

  • Difficulties with reading — remembering sight words, sounding out words, and reading comprehension
  • Difficulties with basic spelling and grammar — for instance, does it take hours to prepare for a spelling test?
  • Difficulties with math concepts 
  • A lack of organisational skills, such as the ability to pack one’s schoolbag for the next day, or being unable to keep track of one’s homework
  • Not understanding oral instructions 
  • Difficulties with verbal expression
  • Acting out over minor situations
  • Being easily distracted, or finding it hard to listen to others

(Read our story: Could Your Child Have A Learning Disability? Know The Signs And Seek Help Early)

  1. Your Home Does Not Provide Exposure For A Language

Even the quickest learners would find it difficult to pick up a language that no one speaks at home, and typically, those who seek tuition in P1 look for second language tutors to fill the gap.

If your child is having basic comprehension issues in class, you will probably hear from the relevant teacher soon enough. Some conscientious teachers will offer remedial sessions even in P1, and they may advise you to help your child pick up the language by reading stories or watching videos together.

For those who’ve looked up tips for mastering a second language online, you may have read that a child needs to be exposed to a second/minority language for at least 30% of his or her waking hours, in order for learning to set in. One language teacher and parent estimates that this amounts to about 20 to 25 hours per week, and he recommends the following activities to make up the time:

  • Reading aloud
  • Doing homework together
  • Fun interactions to focus exclusively on the minority language
  • Watching TV
  • Listening to music

Frankly, this is a tall order for many parents, which explains why second language tuition is such a popular option! Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to mastering a language, and getting an early start means you’ll have ample time to find the tutor who can best spark your child’s interest.

(Read our story: Mastering A Second Language: What Does Research Really Tell Us?)

Hoping to connect with other parents to discuss P1 tuition? Join the conversation here!