Every year in July, there will be letters to newspaper forum pages asking for changes to the Primary 1 registration system. Parents are anxious that their children enter the most popular primary schools. There will always be a group disadvantaged by the rules and wants it changed or the enrolment of popular schools enlarged to give their children a better chance of enrolment.
Here are 2 letters in today’s Straits Times:
- Enlarge popular primary schools http://www.straitstimes.com/STForum/Story/STIStory_692478.html
- Trimming the alumni advantage http://www.straitstimes.com/STForum/Story/STIStory_692477.html
Being actively involved in the school education field for the past 11 years, I am acquainted with many educationalists. I have helped friends enter popular schools as volunteers (some schools are so popular that there are limited vacancies for parent volunteers). Some succeeded eventually to get their children into their choice schools while some were disappointedly turned away after a year of volunteering when they missed out in balloting due to limited vacancies.
My wife and I had decided we need not put our children into the ‘best’ primary schools. We chose to put our children into our alma matar, neighbourhood schools within minutes of our home.
Forum writer Chong Foo Sin suggested that enlarging popular primary schools will allow more to benefit from holistic education system. Being active in the education field, I have seen neighbourhood schools with good holistic programmes as well. Students in popular primary schools may seem to do better for a variety of reasons, including having parents who could afford to send children for more tuition, the streaming policy that put in additional top students into schools with gifted programmes or the schools subjecting students to a lot more examination drill-and-practice to produce better PSLE results.
I have reached a personal conviction that a good set of academic results does not conclusively determine the eventual success of a person. I have also decided to redefine success to be a variety of other achievements beyond academic success. The self-worth of a person should be beyond academic and monetary success.
A true holistic education should not just focus on examination results. Many schools do try to provide holistic education, including popular schools and neighbourhood schools. However, parents tend to measure schools by the PSLE results. Schools know this and have nice banners on their fences announcing the top PLSE scores of their best achievers. Schools that do not achieve outstanding PSLE results are shunned at primary 1 selection.
We complain about Singapore’s education system being stressful but we are unable to let go of an overdependence on using performance at high-stake examinations as the sole measure of success. Parents will say that’s the way society measures success. We glorify scholars and fast-track them in their careers. It is the best way for success as our society knows it. Schools therefore push students hard academically as they currently do.
The debate will go on each year. There will be more forum writers expressing views over primary school enrolment. In October, there will be parents writing to the forum pages upset over unfair difficult examination papers. Each year, there will be anxious parents looking for every bit of advantage for their precious little ones.
Change is a process. Hopefully over time, we can understand success beyond academics. Over time, our society can accept different routes of education and different forms of assessments beyond high-stake standardised tests.