What’s it like being a parent in Singapore and having to enrol your child into a local primary school? We speak to two sisters about how they went about this tedious process...
Education in Singapore is fast-paced and rigorous. And when it comes to primary school enrolment, there are many steps – and phases – that one has to take. Did you know that the likelihood of your child being accepted into their school-of-choice is higher if you live within a certain radius of that school? Yup, it’s a thing. But what else is there to prepare for prior to the enrolment phase? And how do you tackle the process as a parent? We sat down with two sisters who shared what they had to do for their child’s Primary 1 registration.
(This interview was conducted before the changes to the Primary 1 Registration Framework was announced.)
A tale of two sisters: How May and Priscilla Leow enrolled their daughters in P1
Hi May and Priscilla! Let’s start by sharing about your family, the number of children you have, and what you love most about them.
Priscilla (P): We are a family of three: my husband, our 22-month-old daughter, and myself. Because we don’t have a helper, we have been very hands-on since her birth. Her growth has been very fulfilling and watching her development has been very rewarding.
May (M): We are just an average family with two kids: six-year-old Abigail and one-year-old Amelia. I love that they are girls and I love them for being so sweet all the time. Most of all, I love them for caring and loving each other.
What do you do for a living and what do you love most about it?
M: I was a SAHM (stay-at-home mum) since Abigail’s birth. Now I’m working part-time as a bookkeeper. I love that I’m able to spend time with my children, enjoy hobbies, and also work at the same time!
P: I am a Procurement Lead. I love how proactive this role is and how fast-paced it is.
What’s it like being a mum? What do you enjoy and not like about motherhood?
M: Being a mum is really tough. The toughest part is waking up early to get your day started before they do because if you don’t, nothing gets done! In all seriousness, I enjoy everything about motherhood: the good, the bad, the tears and the sweat because they’re all part of this journey!
P: I feel almighty being a working mum. I feel like I’m moving mountains every single day. Also, I love the amount of love that I experience now. I constantly have the motivation to be better. What I don’t like though, is that it takes a lot to identify myself as an individual aside from being a mum. That’s still a work in progress.
About the Primary 1 enrolment process
Now, talk to us about your selection process. What made you decide on your daughter’s primary school?
M: She is an SG50 baby, and I know that there will be high competition for primary schools as the birth rate in 2015 was high. We didn’t look around for other schools and decided on My Alma Mater, one of the top schools in Singapore and known for its good academic record and strong CCA achievements. More importantly, the school has a long history, tradition, and culture, as well as dedicated teachers – some of mine are still teaching there!
P: We decided on her potential primary school based on its reputation and weighing the chances that we have of getting into the school.
How long have you been planning for P1 enrolment? What steps did you take?
P: We started planning for it even before we had her… when we were looking for resale houses, in fact! Even though we didn’t end up buying a house near the school we wanted, we made sure that there are ample schools in the area as backup.
M: I started planning the year Abigail turned two. We needed to join the alumni and complete certain hours for eligibility under Phase 2A1. I wanted to get it done and dusted before she grew older and will have more classes, which means less time for us to volunteer for our alumni. We managed to complete the hours in a year; all we had to do was wait till it was time to enrol as we were well ahead of time.
Do you think it’s important that your child goes to a good primary school?
M: Yes, as the Singapore education system is very results-orientated. A strong foundation at the primary school level will give her a head-start in this academic race. Also, being in a “better” school with a strong academic background will help to build her resilience to challenges, which will be important to her as she will bring this trait to adulthood. However, this can work both ways and she may turn out to have low self-esteem instead. So no matter which primary school your child gets into, family and parental support are very important!
P: For us, the most important thing is the school’s reputation. We like a school with rich history and alumni for support and exposure. It would be a bonus, of course, if the principal or vice-principal has a good reputation. But those roles rotate so that’s a secondary factor. With a rich history, the whole school is more invested in keeping the reputation up and will have more sight in terms of character building and civic-mindedness.
In your opinion, what makes a good primary school?
M: A good primary school is one where the students receive an enriching, value-added, and holistic education. They are also given opportunities to develop personal attributes such as compassion, kindness, and empathy.
How do you think your daughter’s primary school education will shape the rest of her educational journey?
P: Primary school is where we make some of our first friends. I myself am still in contact with a few primary school friends and they have moulded my character, especially in the upper primary years. Also, having good teachers will help my child in her life too. I had a good primary school teacher who changed my life. She even taught the boys in class on gentlemanly behaviour, and many social norms and expectations that have since died down.
M: I hope she will learn to strive for excellence in an enriching environment and will continue to bring that attribute through to the higher levels.
What was the process your parents went through (for Primary 1) and how do you think it has affected your own education?
P: Our parents went through the balloting process as well and I feel it has benefited my siblings and myself greatly.
M: I think my parents sought to put us in the “best” school they can, and it’s definitely what I am trying to do within my means. I think coming from a school with a rich and long history and culture definitely gave me a strong foundation for the rest of my educational journey.
Would you consider yourself a tiger mum?
P: I don’t see myself as a tiger mum. I believe in holistic education and providing the best environment that I can afford for my child. For me, it’s not just about focusing on academic goals.
Thank you Priscilla and May for your insights on the P1 enrolment process!