Anxiety Over Primary One

Columns | June 25, 2012 | By

Little girl drawing pictures

Since the dates were announced by the Ministry of Education, my husband and I have been reminding each other daily how many days there are left to the Big Day. We are counting down to 19 July 2012, when Phase 2B of the Primary One Registration for the next academic year, 2013, is open. My husband even told me, in all seriousness, that if anything should happen to him in the next few weeks, I must “die die” not forget 19 July.

This is going to be the most important day in my daughter’s academic life. It is also a day that will make a difference in my younger daughter’s and my future grand-daughters’ lives. Forgetting it would defeat the purpose of us having moved into this expensive neighbourhood, and diminish our chances of getting our girls into this popular convent school.

Since my daughter learnt to walk, we have been attending primary school preparation seminars, held by various organisers. We were hoping to find out what we had not known yet. Strangely enough, although we should now know everything there is to know about choosing, registering and starting primary school, a huge cloud of anxiety continues to hover over our household.

We are lucky to be able to make use of our church membership to get ourselves the right to register on 19 July, instead of on a later date in the month. And we are again lucky that a new policy preferring citizens has come out in time to boost in our chances. After all these blessings we enjoy, surely we can be confident about our girls’ future. Are we?

As we see it, the way to a good future is firstly to gain entry into a top school. Secondly, it is not to be at the bottom of the class once in there. So, when a colleague told me of an English course that successfully transformed his boy into a five-year-old who read deeply and widely, I ‘kiasu-ly’ registered my girl into the same course the minute she turned four. From there, we slowly built up her collection of courses to attend. Among others are Chinese, more Chinese, and of course, Mathematics.

A Math class was in the area, and a myriad of other classes are offered by our local community centre. So, she who had already been taking music and ballet lessons, added art and of course, Math, to her weekly academic diet. Now at six and a half, she attends K2 classes on weekdays, and seven classes over Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays.

They are: one-to-one Chinese tuition, Karate, Math, piano, hanyu pinyin, English and ballet. Thankfully, most of the time she is enthusiastic about adding more and going to them all. I asked her just last Sunday, if she would be interested in picking up chess. The chess club is just below her ballet studio.

A little bird told me that when a child enters Primary One, she must be able to be able to buy her own food, go to toilet unassisted, be responsible for her own belongings, and cope with the high academic demands.

Although my girl has been attending full-day school-cum-child care since she was 18 months old, my husband and I cannot help but worry about the unknown. Not only because of the non-uniform preschool curriculum in Singapore, but also because we don’t really know how she compares to other children her age. So, when in doubt, over-preparation is best.

Every night when she still has time after her Math, English, Chinese, school homework and piano practise, she will learn to count coins or do some activity books. Not the kind that the bookshop sells for primary school children. Although they may prove to be an effective motivation for some parents, they are still too scary for us to look at.

I don’t mean to be like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand upon encountering a threat, but sadly, if those are really the standards for primary school here, our girl is not there yet. Luckily, there are still six more months to go.

I know a mother who was ready to pull out her hair over her boys who were always at a loss as to where their belongings had gone to. They have to constantly buy stationery, even water bottles. Isn’t it frustrating?

But I also received an odd report from an acquaintance, who said that his boy is adapting to primary school easily. A picky eater, the boy simply avoids buying food at school and brings his own lunchbox from home. While the Math questions are new to him because they are disguised as stories, his abacus training helps him to think fast. So far, he has not encountered any difficulty.

The moment of truth is fast approaching. We will see if our anxieties were all for nought, and if my girl’s enrichment classes can really be her wings. No matter where she ends up, I hope she will be happy with her school, teachers, and friends. I hope she will be able to adjust well, and continue to fertilise her inquiring mind.

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