Primary 1 in an Inclusive Programme

If you a mom planning to put your child into a primary school in the next 2 years, I can share with you that there is nothing to worry about, if the school that you have selected for your child has an Inclusive Programme.

What do I mean by an Inclusive Programme?

Screen Shot 2014 01 20 at 4 46 08 PMPicture from here

An inclusive programme helps each child makes the best of his or her abilities and do not require him/her to have advanced abilities or knowledge ahead of their expected development, so as to be able to on par with the school standards.

A selective programme in turn means that the school will push each child to have a level of competence that is above the standards of schools across the board.

Since 2012, MOE have stopped releasing statistics for the general public to benchmark the academic performance of one primary school to another. Schools rankings were changed to be based on a set of criteria known as ‘The Masterplan of Awards’ (MOA) in 2012, which will be changed again in 2014.

But this doesn’t stop kiasu parents from ranking schools themselves.

This mom refuses to be stressed by the unrealistic demands society has placed on parents and children, so the ranking of schools have little bearing on my choice of primary school for K. Besides, I have no fear about my child ‘losing out’, despite reading articles like this which will bring out the latent traits of kiasu-ism in any parent.

On the contrary, I am glad that I did not make the choice to go with hb’s alumni which has a selective programme that includes the qualifying criteria of having children of a certain race, as there is no other 2nd language options in that school apart from Chinese. Also, as the child progresses in the school year, not being to afford tuition for most subjects could likely become a disadvantage for a child in the school.

I heaved a sigh of relief when I chanced upon this hearsay from a relative whose friend works as a teacher in Hb’s alumni; The teacher don’t spend alot of time teaching the students, as the majority of them are way ahead of the required curriculum for the subjects, so she dishes out plenty of worksheets instead.

In this school that K attends, he is a minority race in his class, as there are officially 7 chinese students in his class of 30. He has to join another class for his chinese lessons, and I see the advantage of the teacher and child ratio of a small class of 16 children.

He will have little chance of becoming a xenophobic being in this school.

Just this weekend, hb and I visited K’s school for a parent’s briefing on the Holistic Assessment (HA) plans for the year. We were shared details about the Stellar Programme (btw I have yet to see a fairy tale in the range of Big Books) and the Programme for Active Learning which is incorporated into the curriculum.

With these Holistic Assessment plans shared for the academic year, we were given very clear roadmaps on the topics covered and weightage of skills evaluated for the year.

HA 2Holistic Assessments for English

Having to understand this big picture of what K will be taught for the year, tells me that :

1) I am not going to be a smarty pants and teach him what he does not know 2-3 terms ahead. As I only have myself to blame if he gets bored in class and then cause behavioral problems in class.

2) Too many moms are worried about kids not being able to read fluently before they reach Primary 1. I think this worry is unfounded especially if your child is in a preschool, especially a childcare programme or a Montessori. Most preschools have a proper phonics programme in place to provide your child with some foundational skills in learning how to read.

Inclusive primary school programmes will further support in providing explicit instruction in teaching reading in school. K’s school has a reading programme that utilizes the Leap Frog Tag Reading System, where students can being a book home to read with their parents over the weekends. This programme can help the children to revise phonics and improve their reading fluency.

K may be slightly ahead in his English language reading ability, however, he has weaknesses in other subjects, namely, Chinese.

HA 4

3. Having this knowledge of the HA plans for Chinese language, I am able to help him with acquiring the specific skills that he needs.

4. I realized that there isn’t a necessity to ensure that you get the contact numbers of the fellow moms of your child’s classmates as;

– Most school issue the Student Handbook to the students at the start of the school year, where children are expected to write down details of their homework requirements daily, things to do or bring the next day or week.

– There are fixed days for English and Chinese Spelling, and the teachers will inform parents of the spelling schedules at the start of the school year.

– If there are upcoming assessments / tests. A child who is paying attention in class, he should be able to tell you as well.

I think the best way a child learn responsibility is through natural consequences.  I have told K that it is his responsibility to pay attention in class, listen to instructions and try his best in learning what is taught in school. If he doesn’t make an effort to listen to what is needed, he will just have to accept the punishment given by his teacher.

HA 5

After meeting K’s form teacher, my first impressions are that she is friendly and approachable person. And K likes her too, and says that she is caring while at the same time, strict and firm with the children.

This first parent-teacher session of the new school year has opened clear channels of communication between the teachers and parents, and have cleared any doubts I initially had about the academic requirements for Primary 1.

Ultimately I feel that the level of stress your child will be exposed to is related to the demands from the school.  If I were to chose a school with a selective or ‘advantaged’ programme, it would be contradictory if I were to complain that my kid is stressed with too much homework, or not being able to catch up (since 90% of his/her classmates) are at least 1 grade above in their academic competence. Why complain when this is expected?

However, if you are a parent like me, who sees the importance of not quenching a child’s love for learning at an early age, and are aware that childhood is the time where our children define and develop their character. You will likely go with the school with an inclusive system, and not let unrealistic demands snuff out the joy and wonder from his/her childhood.


Share it:

Related posts:

Primary One, The First Two Days

Firstday5I chose the school because the students get to wear black shoes and socks.

Black is a great color as I don’t have to be concerned about the shoes turning filthily grey at the end of the school day. He can even wear the same pair of black socks for 5 days in a row. Just that he will not be too popular amongst his classmates and teacher, with the stench coming from the worn socks.


Actually, I wasn’t too excited about the black shoes, shorts, and the school uniform didn’t rank too high on being the most smartest-looking school uniform around.

And for sure he has to change his socks daily.

Nonetheless, me-thinks he still looks rather cute in his uniform. After all, I am his mom, even when everyone else do not think he is cute anymore, he is cute.

The morning of the first day of school started out fairly well, since K was rather excited about starting new school and meeting new friends. When I first dropped him off at his classroom, he gestured for me to quickly leave, and initiated a conversation with a new classmate.


Then, hb and I excitedly spotted him in the canteen during recess-time with his quiet, responsible and slightly blur Primary 5 ‘buddy’, who was still getting used to his new role that morning.

The buddy-system is helpful for orienting new children to recess time and we found it rather humorous how K interacted with his P.5 ‘buddy’. K was doing the talking most of the time, while the older primary 5 boy kept relatively silent. And hb and I watched at the distance and giggled when the P.5 boy lost K in the canteen for about 3 minutes, and frantically searched around for him. While K stood at another corner of the canteen, looking around for his ‘buddy’ and wondered where he went to.


It was the second half of the day that got a little more challenging, when Kyle was expected to sit down from 9.30pm – 1.30pm (except for toilet breaks in between). Especially when the first two days did not include formal teaching and the lengthy stretches of time were spent completing the worksheets given by the form teacher.

I suppose the worksheets are needed to assess the level of learning, but how about spending a little time to one to two active games to get to know your teacher, or to allow children some opportunities to get to know one another on the first day of school?

There was no activity planned for on the first two days of school, which will help the children to assimilate with their new classmates or manage the short attention spans of nervous and antsy 6 year old children, fundamentally boys.

Why is the school is in such a hurry? The hurry to assess capabilities, to segregate and to ensure efficiencies in the system?

So K’s verdict of first day of school?

I met with a lethargic and grumpy-faced him, who told me at the end of the first day of school, even before we could step out of the school gate. “Let’s get out of here, I am sick of this place.”

Uh oh.

So he got a so-called pep talk from mom after that. I shared with him that “Life isn’t all about doing things that will make you happy. There are things we are expected to do, especially when we grow up that will not give us joy, but we still have to do it anyway. Growing up have its responsibilities.”

Translated in my language : “Life can sometimes suck, but we have to make the best out of it anyway.”

Now that’s really helpful mom.

Should I not be serving a spoonful of reality to my 6 year old who will have to deal with the imperfection of a system for the next 12 years of his schooling life?

I believe in serving a smorgasbord of true realities, not neglecting dessert platters of dreams, also scoping ladles of hope thrown in.

Well, there is such a thing known as healthy cynicism.

A healthy cynic walks into the darkness, looks up from the negativity, drink in some light. Then plunge back into darkness with the light, then work on building a ladder for someone else to walk out of it. In this case, I am building a ladder for my own child, who will eventually find himself on the journey through his schooling life, will largely consist of a frequent movements up and down the ladder.

We can’t change reality, so we manage our expectations and our attitudes towards it. And when our dependence is on God, help will always come on time.

We read this timely word from K’s bible devotion the end of the 1st day of school.

Firstday 3

And these bible verses,

Screen Shot 2014 01 03 at 4 49 54 PM

We will take it a step at a time.

I told Kyle, “Our hope is in our Lord, not in the school, our results, our talents or achievements. As any of that will fail us one time or another. We will face challenges as they come, bravely, even when they are difficult, as He has made us to be able to overcome difficult things. It doesn’t matter even if there are many times that we feel weak and helpless, as our strength comes from God alone. We can do it with God’s help.”

The next day, his grandaunt asked him, “Do you love school?” His response, “Not really, but it is ok.”

All this mom plans to do for K moving forward, is to set 1 hour or 2 if needed after school, for homework or revision, and throw in a 1.5 hour session of Chinese enrichment weekly.

And he will spend the rest of the day in the late afternoon to evenings, in play and more play.



Share it:

Related posts:

Primary 1 Orientation – What to Expect

We didn’t have the luxury to sleep in the Saturday morning of K’s Primary 1 Orientation, and crawled out of bed at 7.30am for a quick breakfast and made our way to K’s new ‘regular’ primary school at 8.30am to attend the Primary 1 Orientation session.

Definition of a Regular Singapore Primary School? 1. A school that is located within a HDB estate. 2. Do not have requirements for the parents to participate in the Parent Volunteer Programme, to be given priority for the child’s registration at the school (since, there are sometimes slots leftover after Phase 2C). And, 3. A school that is NOT listed in this list of Top 21 primary schools.

Here’s sharing my 1st hand experience from a first-time parent of a soon-to-be Primary 1 child, from a Primary 1 Orientation programme of a regular Singapore Primary school:

1. What to bring

Your spouse, or your child’s other guardian. As you will need someone to join the long queues while you take care of other matters, like filling in and handing in the forms. Also do bring a pen and remember your bank account details.

2. Parents Briefing

I received in the mail, about 1 month before, of K’s class details and where to gather for the orientation briefing. So the first thing that caught my attention before entering the school hall was a white board with list of registered students and class allocations.

We made our way to the school hall, where the entrances were flanked with tables labelled with the class names and were manned by the teachers. We collected a file from the teachers, filled with forms that we had to complete and key information to read.


K was first acquainted with his classmates and sat with them for the 1st 15 minutes of the briefing and were ushered with together with the other children, to their respective classrooms. While the parents sat through another 45 mins – 1 hour of a talk by the principal and vice principal, who gave a thorough introduction to the school programmes, practical tips on how to prepare your child (not academic btw), and things to take note of for the 1st day of school on 2nd January 2014.

For parents with children with high separation anxiety, pre-empt your child before the session that he/she will be going to classroom with the teachers and his new friends to do some interesting activities (i.e., worksheets, but you need not to be so explicit about it), while you will be sitting there to listen to a ‘boring’ adult discussion, so you will not be far from him/her.

Now, at this moment when the children are being led to their classrooms, it will be highly embarrassing to be that parent with the child who is wailing in tears and clinging onto you, refusing to join his/her classmates.

In case you are wondering. That didn’t happened to K, of course, as he couldn’t wait to make new friends and explore his new school with his classmates.

Photo 8

All the kids at the orientation seemed to be comfortably adjusted to the new environment, as I hardly saw any reluctant child being led away in pairs to their classrooms by the teachers and the prefect volunteers.

At the parents’ briefing, the principal highlighted 2 programmes that were unique to the school that made learning fun for the children; Drama was added to the curriculum for English and Chinese language learning. And there were 2 sessions of Mass Brain Activities weekly, where the children will get to play with various types of board games which will enhance their :

– Intrinsic motivation to achieve

– Facilitate cross training of the brain

– improve level of concentration and

– It is a reliable method for acquiring mental abilities and memory capacity

3. Forms to Fill

Do bring a pen along with you, to start filling in the forms, while waiting for the parents’ briefing to start. The forms that is needed to be completed include a Giro form, child and parent personal details form, school dental services form, feedback forms, Parent Support Group Form, etc.

Parents were led to the upper primary classrooms to complete these forms and hand the completed forms to the teachers.


4. What to buy

Uniforms, shoes, socks (if it is not the regular white shoes sold at the Bata shops) and school books. Do bring up to $300 to purchase these items, so that you do not have to make a second trip to the school, before school starts to get these things.

5. What else to do

a) Arrange for School transport

b) Recce the Canteen

Have brunch at the canteen while waiting for your child. Hb and I had early lunch at the canteen just to taste the food and find out the prices of the items. From there you can gauge how much will be enough in pocket money to be given to your child. Usually $1.50 – $2.50 will be adequate.

If your child hasn’t been trained how to order his own food independently, it will be a good opportunity to guide him along a practical life experience to use money and count exact change.

This will also be a good time to tell your child what to expect on the 1st day of school. This helps to build the anticipation that school is going to be liberating experience to be able to do things independently like a big boy / girl.

Also you can communicate and demonstrate what is expected, like washing hands before eating and after eating, also clearing own plates after the meal.

c) Explore the school premises


6. Optional. But not necessary.

No harm setting up first positive impressions as the enthusiastic and friendly parent, if you get to meet the form teacher, principal or vice principal.

Hb incidentally borrowed a pen from the Vice Head principal when he was in the queue to buy books, and then introduced me to the principal when I went to look for him in the canteen. Apart from saying ‘Hi, nice to meet you…’, it might be too lame to say, “My son is in 1B class and his teacher is Miss YY.” That will be too much information, really.

So instead of an awkward silence after the initial pleasanteries , I added that I have joined the parent volunteer group, to offer my ‘services’ of being the photographer if needed, so I will be seeing him around in the future.

It is a plus NOT to be a shy parent, remember, enthusiastic and friendly is always good.

7. What else your child needs to know before starting school in January:

a) Independent toileting skills

b) Pack their own bags

c) Transact

d) Tell Time

e) Understand the importance of adhering to school rules (especially for the free-spirited ones)


We walked away 3 hours later with a box of new books, new uniforms and all $250 poorer. But with good first impressions of the school and its teachers, as the orientation programme was well-organised with hassle-free.

The boy then remarked as we left the school, “I made new friends and I like my new school!” Sounds like a promising start to a new year of school very soon…

Photo 9

*All photos taken with my nifty iphone




Share it:

Related posts: