That popular dilemma that's been making the headlines again recently – dropping kids off at school. Should we be doing it? Radio DJ, Jill Lim, looks at the pros and cons, and also highlights a much bigger issue that we should all be worried about...
You’re unlikely to have missed the viral video a couple of weeks ago of the grandfather who was insisting (and that’s putting it lightly) on entering a primary school to drop off his grandchild. The video reignited the long-running debate of whether or not parents in Singapore should be dropping their children off at school. Here’s what both camps have to say…
SHOULD WE BE DROPPING OUR KIDS OFF AT SCHOOL – YAY OR NAY?
First up, my childhood experience…
When I was in primary school, there were two school sessions: 7am-12pm and 1pm-6pm. Even number year groups were morning, and odd were afternoon. But even with this system, the road to the school was always pretty jammed. My mother (who was on the way to school herself to teach) would drop me at the main road most of the time. From there, I’d walk into the school compound. As I got older, she’d drop me at a bus stop about three stops from school.
I did take the school bus home in primary 1, but only for half of primary 3 – mainly due to the high costs of school bus fares (more on that later). At nine years old, I’d walk from school to the interchange, hop on the MRT, take it two stops to another interchange and walk ten minutes home in the evening alone. While I’m impressed I did this so young, I can’t see myself allowing my daughter Lily to do the same. Granted, I live much further away from school now, but still, I’m not sure I’d want her to do the same trip as I did, even if we lived closer. Here are a few other benefits of school drop-off…
Why you should drop your child off at school…
They get more sleep
When I was at school, my parents finished work at 6pm. With or without the school bus, we were all home by 7pm and had dinner at 7.30pm. My bedtime was 9.30pm, and later on 10pm. And remember, I lived pretty near school. I had friends who had to wake up at 5.30am to catch the school bus and would arrive home at 7.30pm to have dinner and be rushed off to bed. Most of the time, they did their homework on the school bus. In this case, the bus schedule really restricted their day and made for late nights and early starts.
You DO get to spend more time with them
Covid-19 aside, most parents work well past 6pm these days, and some get home closer to 8pm. I know I do. Assuming Lily were in primary school now, that would leave me with barely any time with her. Without the early school bus start, parents have the chance to spend time with their children in the mornings before the hectic day. And since all schools are single sessions now, picking them up after school just isn’t an option anymore.
You learn more about their personalities
Although my mum made a conscious effort to spend a lot of quality time with my sister and me over the weekend, it was actually the car rides I remember the most. Even if it was just to go round the corner to pick up toothpaste. A parent would take one of us along in the car just to have that one-on-one time together. It’s a great way to chat with your kids and find out about their life without all the other distractions at home.
As I got older, my parents would offer to pick my friends up or send us places. I think it was so they could eavesdrop on our conversations and see what company we kept. (Take note, Lily – I plan on doing the exact same thing!). But back to the point, the school run is the perfect time to do just this, and sometimes the only time in our busy day.
It costs a lot to have a school bus all-year-round
That’s right; most local schools require you to pay for school buses year-round, even when school isn’t in session! Costs can go up as high as $600 a month depending on the distance and number of children on the bus. Imagine the experiences you can have with your child if you took that $600 and spent it on a trip to the zoo or taking them to a play instead? I’m not trying to tell anyone how to spend their money, but it could be something to cut back on if it’s feasible in your situation.
It isn’t always the more convenient option
As mentioned, I took the school bus back from school when I was in primary 1. I lived relatively near school, which meant my bus was packed. If I took public transport, I’d reach home in just over half an hour. On the school bus, because of the many stops, I’d reach home in well over an hour. My flat at the time was in the middle of a car park, and often the bus driver would drop me off at the main road, which I’d have to cross to get home. Something I didn’t mention to my parents at the time because I thought it was normal. Something I’d be livid to hear if seven-year-old Lily was doing this.
So, for those in favour, I get it. Until something is done about the long working hours in Singapore, I cannot fault parents for wanting to steal as much time with their children as possible. That being said, my take on this was extremely different before having Lily, so let’s look at the other side…
Why you shouldn’t drop your child off at school (and why they should use the school bus or public transport instead)
You need to teach your children independence and not chauffeur them to school
My school advocated for us to be dropped off outside to avoid jams. I can still hear the constant announcements during assembly, “girls, please tell your parents there is no need to be dropped right at the steps of the school. You are all capable of walking in yourselves”. Every time this subject came up in later years, I always had the attitude of, “how daft is this new generation of children? Why can’t they just walk into school or take public transport?”. Although I agree you can definitely teach independence in other ways, being responsible for getting to school does tick this box.
Ask yourself why you’re doing it
A colleague of mine still sends her teenage son to all locations because she wants to know for sure that he makes it there alive. In her words, “what if he gets hit by an e-scooter and he’s lying there injured, and no one helps him”. She also provides constant reminders to her younger daughter not to get into the lift alone with a man because they will touch you inappropriately. While those are valid fears for her, I think saying that something “will” happen and the only reason it doesn’t is your presence, instils more fear in the child. Stop for a moment and really think about it – are you doing the drop off because it’s a time-saver and more convenient? Or, is it just to calm your fears (which might actually create more fears for your kids)?
Arguments aside, here’s the real issue we should all be worried about…
Although the video reignited the drop off debate, an even more worrying takeaway is the behaviour of the adults involved. The driver’s aggression and his willingness to ram the security guard out of the way should shock us all. It also shows children that if you’re loud or aggressive enough, you can bully your way anywhere. Then we have the security guard, so determined to do his job, that he used his body to block a vehicle. Is that teaching children dedication or defiance? Surely, his safety and well-being must be worth more than his desire to stand his ground to an entitled parent?
What I’m getting at is this – shouldn’t this be a topic that comes up at the dinner table instead of discussing the obvious problem of drop-offs? We should always make an effort to touch on the human side of things. Why do you think the driver felt he had to behave that way? Why did the security guard take such a risk to stand his ground? Were they both wrong in some way?
And to get to the bottom of the first question, maybe we should ask the kids. Their answers might surprise us all…
Feature image: Lilartsy via Pexels
What’s your view? DM us and let us know!