What’s more important in a Singapore school – academic achievement, or a holistic education? HoneyKids Parents’ Panel

What prepares our children for life best? Aiming for academic excellence or embracing individual gifts and enjoying sports and arts too? And who is responsible for helping our kids grow into well-rounded adults? Our Parents' Panel joins the debate.

It’s undeniable that schools in Singapore are highly competitive, and it isn’t always easy for families to handle life in a kiasu culture. Academic pressure on kids can be a real challenge, and many parents want a more holistic approach that helps children explore their talents and interests in a nurturing environment. But do we need to choose between academic achievement and a well-rounded and enjoyable school life for our children? The HoneyKids Parents’ Panel joins the discussion, with more advice on what you need to know when choosing a school for your child in Singapore.

We asked our special guest panel of parents, from GEMS World Academy (Singapore):

How important is it to you for your child to receive a holistic education that embraces the arts and sports as much as academia? And do you believe your child’s school should be playing a key role in helping them develop into well-rounded individuals?

“We choose not to put our children into the local school system as we felt it would be too academically focused for them. We love the international curriculum, particularly the IB program. GEMS World Academy has the right balance by recognising that the arts and sports are extremely important alongside academics, and there are plenty of opportunities for kids to further develop a particular talent.”
Vanessa Errington, British, two children

“Singapore’s highly competitive education system does not concern us. We enrolled our son in GEMS World Academy (Singapore) because while it has a holistic approach to education, it still values great performance. That said, a holistic approach is very important for the development of children. An Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Sentient Quotient (SQ) is more important in today’s world than IQ as the world has become more global. I believe school plays an important part in helping children develop into well-rounded people, but parents should continue this ‘education’ at home.
Ady Yatim, Indonesian, two children

“We carried out detailed research on schools, and one of our reasons for selecting GEMS World Academy (Singapore) was its holistic approach to education. GWA focuses on the arts and sports just as much as academia, and I believe having a well-rounded experience at school is a key foundation for my child’s future. The educators also create a nurturing and safe environment for the children in the classroom. A child spends about half of their waking hours at school, so I do believe their development comes from a partnership between the school and the parents – this partnership is very important to us.“
Sarah Verriest, Australian, one child

“It is a collaborative team effort for parents, the school and teachers to build well-rounded children. The school should create opportunities for constant communication and an objective feedback system between the parents and school staff. There should be agreed goals between parents, staff and kids – especially teenagers. Schools should promote sports and other extracurricular activities to expose the children to various experiences and environments to help them develop into well-rounded children so that they are capable of handling life’s situations.”
Peter Divaker, Indian, two children

“Everyone knows the education system in Singapore is one of the most competitive in the world. My child had first-hand experience of this in a highly regarded local school. There were some undeniable shortcomings, including unrealistic academic expectations of children, a lack of balance between studies and extra-curricular activities, a less than ideal student-teacher ratio and an unhealthy approach to discipline that is based around ‘fear’ of the faculty. I was especially concerned about the concept of student ‘banding’ – where students of higher abilities are separated. My daughter was placed in a ‘gifted’ or ‘express’ class, but the school placed such an emphasis on these students that our daughter’s confidence plummeted dramatically within a term, due to pressure from teachers to excel in all subjects.

When compared to the local system, GEMS World Academy (Singapore) is diametrically opposite. The curriculum offers a holistic, balanced and comprehensive education that doesn’t need to be supplemented with outside activities or tuition. Knowing that the ethos of the curriculum is to concentrate on value-based and experiential learning whilst developing a student’s persona through connections with the community, respect for yourself and others, and celebrating diversity is a great feeling.”
Meera George Harvey, Singaporean, one child

“From my limited knowledge of the academic system in Singapore and observing scores of students at public libraries and cafes either involved in self-study or receiving tutoring, there seems to be intense pressure on achieving excellence and a lot of negativity around not reaching that goal regardless of ability or natural inclination.

For me, a holistic education encompassing academics, sports and the arts is crucial for the development of a healthy, well rounded, happy child who will one day go on to be a well-balanced adult. A holistic education prepares children for real life outside the classroom by equipping them with transferable skills as well as knowledge and a more open world view. It nurtures creativity, encourages risk-taking, teaches reflection and also sows the seeds of social responsibility. A child who is the product of a holistic system of learning in my view is more ‘world-ready’ and ‘life-ready’ compared to a child who has had a purely academically focused education.

Children spend the bulk of their waking hours at school and parents are increasingly looking to the school as a partner in raising their children. I feel that the school plays a key role in helping the children develop into well-rounded adults. While school does not and cannot replace parenting, it does go a long way towards supplementing, enhancing and reinforcing values and life skills learnt at home. Besides, given the nature of children they would be more likely to take on board something that has been taught at school rather than what mum and dad say!”
Alia Contractor, British Pakistani, three children

(Read about the great work Alia’s children Zahra and Hassan have been doing for those in need, in our article on Inspiring kids in Singapore who are fundraising for charity, and their amazing achievements!)

This post is sponsored by GEMS World Academy (Singapore)