Harder. Better. Faster.

Before you start to get any weird ideas about this post, this picture will help you to visualize what this post is all about.


I have been dropped a bomb that I have to try harder to coach Kyle in Chinese by his enrichment teacher, as he is way behind his classmates in Chinese enrichment class. Enrichment class is filled with children who attend Chinese SAP Schools, most who have strong proficiency of the language.

With disbelief I say this; the Chinese SAP School still continues to haunt me even when I made the decision not to put K in my hb’s alumni.

Seeking external help for your child in academics has become an issue of economics. K and another girl in this enrichment class are just about the only ones that don’t attend these schools. So they are the minority, majority demands will always win, as demand translates to dollars and cents for the school.

And I have learnt that not coaching your child with an advance syllabus ahead of what is taught in school, puts him/her in a disadvantage position in Enrichment Class.


This is what I discovered

The enrichment teacher highlighted that the school is only 1 lesson ahead of what is taught in school. I had to clarify what ‘school’ he was referring to, and the teacher mentioned the names of 2 Chinese SAP schools located in the central/west.

This is taught in a P1 enrichment class;

ChineseEnrichment 9 2

The worksheets in Pri 1 Enrichment Class consist of written activities for i) Re-arranging the sentence, ii)Choosing the right chinese character iii)Comprehension with multiple choice, added with 3 more written comprehension questions.

There is no way he is able to do this by himself, without having the teacher sit next to him and guide him letter by letter, word by word.

No wonder the enrichment teacher told me that he needed to catch up, having a slower child like K in the class disrupts group instruction!

ChineseEnrichment 10 2

There is also 1.5 pages of read-aloud passage for the child. I can confidently say that he can only read less than 10 high frequency words in this passage.

Err.. I think looking at this, enrichment school at least 6-12 months ahead of the MOE curriculum!

My conclusion : if u are a parent with a child in a Chinese SAP school, rejoice and do a dance. Your child is close to 1 year ahead of the other children who attend all other schools that follow the MOE syllabus.

As for those who plan to put you child in Chinese SAP school next year or the year after. Its-time-to-PANIC, cos if by any chance your child is like mine, and to make the situation worse, throw in a ‘potato/banana’ mum…your child first year in Primary 1 is about to make you very miserable.


What to do?

I was extremely stressed when I went through the worksheets. The reality is that the gap is tremendous, despite coaching him with Chinese at home.

We have to try many times harder than we are doing now with Chinese home-learning, till we get Chinese characters coming out of our eyes and ears.  I think i will need to get a tuition teacher for K to catch up with Enrichment class.

Does it make sense to be paying for supplementary classes and then working very hard with home learning to ensure he is on par with his classmates standards in enrichment class? Will it make me feel better if he is months ahead (like 12 months…) of his classmate in his school?

Maybe I am the confused parent here. Enrichment likely means ‘further enhancement of already capable standards’ or ‘help for children taking higher Chinese’. I somehow understood that incorrectly.

So instead of taking the jump to look for an alternative group tuition/enrichment classes. I called the teacher and told him that we will move K down a level to K2. What matters is that the pace at K2 is good for him, since it scaffolds his learning and still challenges his learning of the Chinese language.

Here’s Enrichment Class worksheet at the K2 level,

ChineseEnrichment 11 2 ChineseEnrichment 12 2

For those unfamiliar with the MOE syllabus of Chinese, the first 2 semesters of P1 are focused on teaching the children HYPY, Chinese Character recognition does not come in until the last two terms of the year. That is, if your child does not attend a Chinese SAP School.

Incidentally, I found a video on Youtube with the same title as this post; ‘Harder, Better, Faster’ by Daft Punk. The video really ties in with the theme of the pursuit of high achievement in Singapore’s societal culture. You will need to watch the video to the end, to get the gist of the subliminal messages from the song.

Once your children join the Singapore production line, feelings of insecurity and insufficiency will be thrown in as a bonus!



P.S. Don’t ask me what Enrichment school this is, as I am NOT going to divulge the name of the school.

Update 13 Mar PM – I would not say that this is a bad school. K enjoys the format of teaching in this school, as the children learn through games, songs and stories also at P1, and the teachers are caring. I wouldn’t know this problem if the teacher didn’t bother to highlight to me, he could have easily cater to the rest and ignore him in class. It is still a good enrichment school, as I don’t wish to judge the enrichment school as ‘not being a good enrichment school’ just because the class is not catered to one child, my child.

Another March Giveaway!

It’s giveaway month in March, as it is the month of K’s birthday and he is turning 7 very soon! So we want to celebrate with friends who have been reading Catch FortyWinks Blog.

I will be picking 3 random winners from the comments below, so do leave a comment for me and you might be one of the 3 people who will win one of these sets of Chinese Picture Books! Giveaway CLOSED.

Congratulations M Lim, Nancy Cheng and Winnie, you have won a set of Chinese Picture Books each. I will be dropping you an email about your win. 

Screen Shot 2014 03 26 at 8 04 20 PM

ChineseE 4

Share it:

Related posts:


  1. This enrichment class seems to be way ahead even for SAP Schools. My boy in SAP School is still learning HYPY. SAP schools will teach HYPY for 3 mths compared to non-SAPs which teach 6 months. Learning 汉字 at this time is not 1 lesson ahead at all. I agree with you that we shouldn’t be boosting learning at home to “catch up” at enrichment centres. Maybe it’s time to consider a change of the Chinese enrichment centre.
    BTW, I like your generosity and idea of giveaway during K’s birthday month! Sounds a very meaningful giveaway! I hope I win lol!
    Christy @ kidsrsimple.com´s last blog post ..Review – The Ant and The Grasshopper show by I Theatre

  2. “And I have learnt that not coaching your child with an advance syllabus ahead of what is taught in school, puts him/her in a disadvantage position in Enrichment Class.”

    I probably think that if we don’t coach at all before formal schooling in P1, we are already at disadvantage in normal MOE school.

  3. What they are doing in the enrichment center looks like what my son is currently doing in P2. I think it is wise to put him down to the K2 class as it won’t be stressing him out. He is able to learn at his own pace and enjoy chinese.
    Dominique Goh´s last blog post ..Pink blooms at Garden at the Bay

  4. This enrichment centre sounds scary! More like boot camp filled with drills for P1 kids. I think you made the right call to move K to the K2 class, where I’m sure he would enjoy the classes better.
    Adeline´s last blog post ..Silly Things We Say / Do #39 & #40

  5. it is really easy to get caught up in the academic rat race and very, extremely difficult to get out of it unaffected. As you said, all the feelings of insecurity and insufficiency surface, and this is only year 1. There should really be a support group or even therapy for parents who are defenceless against these ‘bombings’.

  6. Frannie Teh says:

    Pull son out after 3 months(in K2) after realizing the group Chinese tuition is not benefiting my son as he seems did not understand what the PRC tutor is saying, cannot blame him as we do not speak Mandarin at home thou it is a class of 4 students only. I was concern as I know I cannot teach him as I cannot even read Chinese nor speak good Mandarin and thou daddy can read and speaks, but emm….:p. Only until when he enter P1, I asked my PRC neighbor if she can tutor my son, and he continue until now. We are pleased with his improvement and recommend her to my other SG neighbor which they too feel their son improved in MTL. Honestly I cannot comment about other tuition class or enrichment, cos we have not put him any such class except MindChamps program which we are so thankful for it. Also drum class cos he is talented in drumming. I always wonder what does other subject tuition centre teach and what kind of homework they give? My suggestion, have a 1-1 tutoring as it is easily customized to your kids standard at the beginning, when he picks up, you may consider group tuition for needed subject. My son appreciate his MTL tuition as he feels good when he can handle school work by himself rather than struggling( boys has ego ahem..). Ha ha now only I collecting Chinese reading material for my boys, hahaha last time very relax and big part cos I do not how to choose and hubby is more relax than me lol. Thank you for sharing and your giveaway Rachel!

  7. You make the right choice trying to fit your child to the right level to boost up his confidence level rather than make him dislike chinese in long run.
    I have a P2 and K2. The chinese they learnt is totally big difference. What your boy doing is so similar to a P2 level. If a kid able to manage of course its beneficial but what if he cant?
    I agree with you all enrichment cannot say good or bad. Parents pay large amount of monies monthly just to get something good but not headache.

    My gals does not attend any enrichment. I am also now struggling to coach my K2 basic HYPY as PCF stop teaching it since 2 years ago. Basic HYPY is important for P1 first 2 term. Follow by recognition. Trying hard to read more chinese books and let her get the hang of understanding it.

    I am glad to come across your blog! Thanks for sharing :)))) It leads me this blur n handful stay home mummy somewhere now….

  8. Sounds scary, I just had my first taste of doing homework with my son. I can’t imagine next time I have to coach these with my son. The work seems so much tougher then our past. I hope all these won’t kill the joy of learning for the kids.
    Jac´s last blog post ..Thoughts: Lessons from Playground

  9. wow what the enrichment ctr is doing for P1 level is even way over my son’s level at P2 in his school. Is this enrichment ctr serious when they said they are just one lesson ahead? It’s totally unbelievable!
    Mamabliss´s last blog post ..Home Learning – Chinese Language

  10. Thank you for the giveaway! Happy birthday K!

    The enrichment lessons seem to be too challenging!
    Waiwai´s last blog post ..Make Amazing with 3M™ Scotch® Expressions Tapes

  11. Nancy Cheng says:

    My child is in P2 and he is in a SAP school. We put him in a SAP school despite his “inability” aka kantang kia in Chinese as it is very near my home and my alma mater. He is needs me to sit beside him to explain or read many words on his worksheets. And no, we don’t advanced teaching at all. Even so, I feel that the P1 worksheet from the enrichment centre is about the standard of my P2 boy’s so-called SAP work. I think you did right by letting him join the K2 class instead. I did the same with my boy’s Chinese S&D class. He joined the class 1 year behind his peers. Most importantly, he enjoys it and his spoken Chinese has improved tremendous with the one year span.

  12. Rather than stress K out in the enrichment class , I believe you did made the right choice by putting him in a class that is right for his pace. I would have done the same. I would rather my child enjoy learning than to be stressed out and reject the subject completely. Actually, I do not like the idea of introducing Hanyu Pinyin at P1. I have a feeling that my child would tend to get mixed up with phonics. Oh dear! I think I am going to be stressed out soon!

  13. I think it’s a good idea that you moved him to the k2 class.

  14. Robert S says:

    Take heart. You are already doing your best. There are more important things in life that an education should teach.

  15. I am flabbergasted by the standard taught by the enrichment school too! but I also think you did the right thingto switch K down to K2 class. I would probably have done the same.

  16. I saw similar worksheets in my son’s files and I freaked out. He is only in K2 this year and in my case, they were worksheets from his childcare centre, not enrichment school. I don’t know if pushing them this early puts them at an advantage when they enter pri 1 next year, but the parent (that’s me) is definitely stressing out now with all the ‘do you know what you are supposed to do?!’ questions.

    I certainly don’t remember doing any sentence rearranging worksheets till I enter pri school.

  17. Jaime chan says:

    Did K just join the enrichment class when he entered p1?

    I am also extremely worried about my children Chinese as both me n hubby are potato ad banana so I have started them Chinese enrichment since 3 and hope it will see it thru p1 at least. If it doesn’t work I wil need to find a private tutor and privately tutor them from p1 onwards

  18. I struggled with Chinese when I was in school and am putting a bit more effort with my pre-schoolers now with the hope that they’d not find Chinese “difficult”. I like reading ur posts abt K’s pri 1 journey… Gives me an idea of what things might be like in 2 years time.
    Ling Siew Ng´s last blog post ..Terrific Three!

  19. Shimin Teng says:

    When MOE tells us not to overprepare our pre schooler for primary 1, give them their much needed childhood etc…yet on the other hand, it is the sad reality that if we parents do not prep them, they will be lagging way behind their peers who have done so.

    I feel for you and Kyle…
    Let’s just do whatever we can to help our children. The rest, leave it to God. He’s always there for us.
    Happy advanced birthday Kyle, I pray you will grow in wisdom and enjoy your Chinese lessons more each day.

    I hope to win the set of books for my k2 son. Thanks!

  20. Thanks for sharing Rachel. We are intending to HS and Chinese is really our biggest hurdle, and I am toying with the idea of sending him to Chinese classes too so that he can have more exposure. Reading this post really gives me a glimpse of what is expected in the system, and I think it was a good move to move K down to K2 level, at least this will not kill interest compared to if he was just left trying to catch up. K is blessed to have a wise mum like you!
    Jus´s last blog post ..Thankful Tuesdays: To the ham in my sandwich

  21. Thank you for sharing, it helps to learn more about what’s happening to those before our kids. I think that you did the right thing, since K doesn’t go to an SAP school and you don’t need to stress yourself out just so he can keep up in enrichment class!
    Edlyn @MummyEd´s last blog post ..How to plan a regional family holiday getaway

  22. I AM HYPERVENTILATING! this is P1 standard? Can I read this? No! Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I want to stay safe in K2 land forever!!!
    Adora´s last blog post ..The Break-Up

  23. Carol Lim says:

    Hmmm…I think it’s just too much to demand and expect of our young. It’s insane that a child should need to learn P2 level stuff outside of school when he or she is in P1 level in school. What has Singapore become?

  24. joyce koo says:


    switch him to k2 level so that he can absorb better and after which,he would be able to soar high,you have my full support

  25. Thanks for sharing Rachel. I believe K will be able to do it! Happy Birthday K!!
    Winnie´s last blog post ..Why I breastfed for EV for 14 mths, and AA for 24mths (and still going)

  26. Blessed Birthday K!

  27. I’ve registered my girl in a sap sch last year due to the cca it offers n the thought of pushing her Chinese to a higher level , hoping she ll have a good foundation in Chinese. After we failed in the 2c balloting n she got into a neighborhood sch , I thought it maybe a blessing in disguise as my girl had previously commented that she dislike Chinese even though I feel she’s doing well. A non sap sch will not give her so much stress. After almost 3mths of primary sch life, I believe getting into a non sap sch proves to be e right choice. She has been telling me how much she enjoys her mt classes n will initiate to read up text in her textbook. She has also done well in her recent Chinese assessments. I believe u have done the right decision to put him a level down. Adding pressure to child may make the child resist or hate e subject more. I’ve heard that sap sch teachers doesn’t teach much as the teachers expected the kids’ tuition/ enrichment to have prepared them well? I think parents can go ahead n enrol e kids in as many enrichments as poss bt ultimately it’s e child’s attitude in wanting to learn, improve n contribute to e society in future .

  28. My girl is weak in her word recognition too but have so much interest in reading books with pictures that she can relate to with the words that are being read to her.

    Thanks for your sharing it really “open” my eyes, i try not to be a kiasu mum and let her play and enjoy however it seems this is impossible, kids nowadays seems to be having enrichment classes for all subjects and of course including Chinese. Aaaaah.. headache..

  29. we have yet to resort to Chinese enrichment … Malcolm barely passed his HYPY spelling in P1 and the Chinese teacher hinted for him to get tuition to prepare for P2 and 3 … but I maintain my stand … what’s need to be learn, he learns in school .. his Chinese eventually got better but due to his less than desired result during the beginning of the year, he couldn’t do Higher Chinese. I foresee him having a hard time with his Chinese when we returned but we talked about this and had come to a decision that he will take it as it comes … so work hard he will when we get back. Personally, I don’t see the need to chase or match a standard that is being set ridiculously high. In my opinion, that’s the first trap into this never ending rat race.

  30. Sometimes it’s so tough to walk away from this endless pursuit for better grades, comparison with other kids and so on. But for the good of our kids, the right thing needs to be done and I believe you have done so.

  31. Can I also ask where you got these sets of books from? They look like interesting and helpful resources for teaching Chinese to young kids.

  32. Thanks for sharing Rachel! I am actually getting nuggets of “truth” in your blog post… it is so difficult and different these days. I am glad I am not a today child but a being a parent today isn’t stress-free either! I shudder at the thought of my boys going P1….. trying to speak more Mandarin at home for starters now! :)
    Evelyn´s last blog post ..What brothers do….

  33. Wow… this sure is an eye-opening post. Thanks for sharing the challenges and the standards required these days! I think nurturing the love of learning and the love of using the language is key, i hope the system doesn’t cause that to fizzle out! Jiayou K and Happy Birthday!

  34. Hope to win these books so that i can expose my child to love chinese!

  35. It does sound intimidating. Actually my jaws dropped when i discovered what Pri 1 standard was 3 yrs ago. I had a weak foundation and detest learning mandarin (am also a potato before being a mum), therefore I was determined to not let that happen to my kids. I knew how difficult it is once a sense of fear or dislike sets in. So both my hubby and I spoke only mandarin to the kids since birth. I had struggled a lot and my learning curve was super steep when I started teaching them mandarin. However, the years of grueling myself to brush up my mandarin is bearing some fruits now as my kids speak fluently and like learning the language. To me, the level that your child is already sufficient. Having done what you did, is great. Most importantly, the language must be living(alive with rich literature content apart from the basic necessary drills) and meaningful to him. Perhaps can excite him with mandarin comics (my boys just jump in excitement over Tom and Jerry Chinese comics and smurfs), change the audio to Chinese of tv programmes (e.g disney junior or enjoy Chinese movies) or introduce Chinese songs that might interest him? I depend heavily on this two websites for my Chinese teaching. The first is an English Chinese translation site which you also can use your mouse to ‘write’ chinese character on it and when i do that, the character appears, then i copy that character to the second website for details on number of strokes and the order of strokes.


    Hope you find them useful. Jiayou in your nurturing of our mother tongue!

    Angelia´s last blog post ..Should I get a helper? That was the question