This time last year, parents of children who were born in the year of 2006 were frantically preparing their children and themselves for the first year of the wilderness known as Primary One. Now, these parents have gone through it, and are still alive to tell their stories…
1. Children should to be able to read and write
A child who is not good at reading and spelling could easily mistake the sentence, “his friend has twice more” to “his friend has twelve more” in a Mathematics question. The child also has to understand the sentence, in addition to being able to read it. For example, a picture graph may show different kinds of vehicles: eight busses, nine motorcycles and 12 cars. The answer to “How many vehicles are there?” is not three, but that was what my daughter wrote. More importantly, children need to be able to write down their tasks in their diary right from Day 1.
2. Children have to be able to count perfectly
Most children will have no problem with this. Counting to the 100s only starts in term three. There’s simple Addition and subtraction throughout the year, with more challenging stages like multiplication and division using picture graphs, telling the time and money in the second half of the school year. It is more important to teach your child to sit and focus for a length of time on a regular basis so that he can concentrate on what teacher is saying.
3. Children have to be independent toilet users
Toilets at school are just like normal public toilets. They are adult-sized, the toilet paper roll is usually outside the cubicle, and the toilets could be smelly. I taught my daughter to fold toilet paper into two wads: one to wipe the toilet seat before using, and one to wipe herself with. Train your child to use only the required amount of toilet paper, and to wash her hands thoroughly with soap and water after she is done.
4. Children have to be good with money
There will be about eight stalls in the canteen. While lower and higher primary students may have staggered recess times, long queues still exist. Your child will have to select his desired meal, join the queue, buy the food, and eat it – all within 30 minutes. There will be more time for him to play with his friends after eating if he doesn’t have to spend time figuring out which coins to hand over to pay for his meal.
5. Children have to be responsible for their own belongings
Even if all your child’s schooling paraphernalia labelled with her name and class, these may still disappear. Some children find it a great idea to exchange pencils every day. Some others resort to borrowing without returning. As the months pass there will be a gradual improvement to your child’s sense of ownership and a deepening sense of what is right and wrong. In the meantime, teach your child to take care of her belongings and her pocket money. If she says that her friends ask for it, teach her to tell them that she will have to return the leftover money her mummy after school.
6. Children have to be tech-savvy
Today’s children are more tech-savvy. They have to be as the teaching-and-learning exchanges at school are now digitally-advanced. There are E-learning days where children stay home and do their school work on the computer. The short videos and interactive Q&A sessions last between six and 15 minutes each, and require children to log in and handle a mouse. There will be IT training sessions in school to teach them to remember their login name and password and learn basic typing skills. But it would be a good idea to familiarise them with the keyboard and other computer functions beforehand.
7. Children have to be active and physically coordinated
Children have physical education in P1, during which they will be exposed to a variety of activities and games. In some schools, the PAL (Programme for Active Learning) may include sports like inline skating and gymnastics. My neighbours, who have two daughters in P3 and P1, have feet marks on their walls because their girls like to practice their headstands and handstands at home. The main thing to teach your child to be a good sport about these sports. It is all right to trip over his skipping rope as long as he has tried his best, because everyone is good at different things.
8. Children have to be sociable
There are 30 children in a P1 classroom. They will be divided into groups, and each group has its own tasks to encourage teamwork. Over half of the class will be given ‘special’ jobs like a monitor, an IT representative or an environment representative, to nurture responsibility. Parents should be social too. Most parents like to establish networks on social media to keep up with class matters.
9. Children have to be proficient in their mother tongue
Ms. Li, my younger girl’s preschool ‘laoshi’ from China, expressed her surprise at the different levels of expectations between English and Chinese in primary schools here. Her daughters, who are in P5 and P3, attend different schools, one with and one without Higher Chinese. The one without Higher Chinese had a combination of words for ‘ting xie’ for the first three years, before graduating to sentences. The one with Higher Chinese had to learn sentences from P1. Whether your child does Higher Mother Tongue or not, it will be easier for him to manage if he already has a decent foundation in the language before going to P1.
10. Children have to be wary of strangers
There will be security guards and parents outside the school gates during dismissal. No matter how precocious and mature your child is, it is a good idea to keep reminding her of what to do: “Wait inside the gate until I am here”, “Do not cross the road”, and “Do not get into anyone’s car” are a good start. Other people may have good intentions when you are late or when it is pouring, but it is always safer not to take chances. And even if there is an ice cream seller or a playground just opposite the school, remind your child to be patient, to wait for you to bring him there. Teach him to reject kind offers with good manners by saying, “Thank you, Uncle. I prefer to wait here until my mom comes”.