The P1 Orientation

Columns | November 15, 2011 | By

Blackboard fun

At the P1 orientation session in some schools, after the children are separated from their parents and brought to their classrooms, the kids are given a battery of written tests to determine their ability to handle the work in Primary 1.

Parents of ‘weaker’ students (based on these tests) are encouraged to send their children for enrichment classes during the year-end holidays so that they can catch up with the rest of the cohort by the time they start school the next year.

At the P1 orientation session in my son’s school, after the children were separated from their parents are brought to their classrooms, the kids sat down and watched Justin Bieber’s ‘Never Say Never’ video.

(Now, I know what you’re thinking. It was hard to decide whether to laugh or to cry when my son said this. So I did neither. But whatever you’re thinking, stop it!)

That video could be considered a thoughtful choice, since, interspersed with scenes from The Karate Kid (2010 version starring Jaden Smith a.k.a son of Will MIB Smith), it channels the value of hard work and determination, two values that will come in handy throughout life.

And the song did debut at a very respectable number 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the week ending June 17 2010, (even higher than the Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’), rising to a rather stunning number eight during its sojourn on the charts.

Following the one-and-only-Jay-Bee, my son and his future classmates were treated to another video, ‘A Whole New World’ from the 1992 animated movie Aladdin. Hmmm, was that meant to be a subtle reinforcement to the young ones that they were about to enter a “shining, shimmering, splendid” brave new world?

And after that visual feast, the children were regaled with a story by Jane Belk Moncure called Mr Doodle Had A Poodle, a story about a man trying to get his dog to bark.

My son rated his classroom one-star because it was “very hot even though the air-con was on”. Then he said that it rated four stars because it was very spacious, and “it even has a library corner with a Nancy Drew book!” He was also pleased that the canteen has a western food stall. So I don’t think he suffered any real trauma caused by exposure to the Beeb.

Suffice it to say, I am not particularly concerned about homework stress when my son enters P1 next year. It’s nice that the school is easing the kids into primary education slowly. It’s heartening to know that my child was not simply plucked and plonked into an academic mill upon first contact with the institution that he will spend the next six years of his life in.

This fits in well with the Ministry of Education’s move to lead schools away from the paper race and towards a more holistic education system. By 2013, primary one students will no longer have to sit for examinations. Students will instead be accessed in easier-to-handle “bite-sized” formats.

With these changes, the Ministry hopes to develop children to be “confident persons, self-directed learners and caring citizens”, Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts and Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, has said.

That’s not to say that I am not worried about the kind of panic attacks that the husband and I will go through when it’s time for the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) and all our darling knows are the lyrics to Justin Bieber’s greatest hits. We wouldn’t be true blue Singaporeans otherwise, would we?

And so we still have six weeks to coat our child in the trappings of P1 readiness should we desire to – not! In the meantime, here’s some advice (from more expereinced parents) on what to expect when your child is about to enter primary school.

• Stash your stationery
Barter trade flourishes in primary schools, where budding young economists exchange the contents of their school bags and pencil cases with aplomb: “I’ll give you my eraser but you have to give me your sharpener”, or “If you give me your pencil, I’ll give you my pen”. Of course, some items may be more in demand than others. By the end of her first term in P1, my friend’s daughter had collected over 20 different erasers.

• Label every item
“They go into the music room with one pair of shoes and come out with a different pair,” a teacher warned. So there you have it. The basic rule of P1 is to label everything, right down to socks, underpants (there could be more than viral and germ exchange going on in the school toilets), pencils, erasers, books – generally, whatever your child brings to school should be labelled. But still be prepared to lose some things and gain others. Hey, it’s a win-win situation!

• Prepare for Dr/Ms Jekyll
A boy, who had mostly spent time with his mother and two older sisters before going to primary school, was – according to his own mother – rather genteel. Within one week in an all-boys’ school, he was grubby, messy, dirty, and getting into fights. Ah, but it’s a boys’ school and that’s normal, right? Not when said child brought the behaviour home and started to terrorise his parents and siblings.

• Get ready for shopping sprees…
In the school bookstore, that is, and especially if your child is a female. You see, girls are born with an in-built Shopper App and once she gets a taste of independent spending, that’s it. It goes like this: girl enters school bookshop, sees cute kawaii stationery on shelf, spots a pink eraser with smiley bunny decorations on its cover, locks on target, zooms over, takes it, pays for it, pops it into pencil case after recess time, forgets about it, only to realise that she has no money to buy that super-cute pencil with the furball on top of it during her next visit to school bookshop after school.

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