SingaporeMotherhood | Preschooler & Up

October 2011

Preparing For P1

Come January each year, thousands of six-year-olds in Singapore enter a brand new stage of life — the start of their primary school years. If your child has gone through preschool education here, he should be able to adjust well to the environment. Because, you see, for a six-year-old child, going to P1 is fun and exciting. New schoolbag, new uniform, new shoes and socks, new wallet, new pencil case, new stationery, new everything — hey, what’s there not to like?

But seriously, the transition is not so hard; children adapt easily and more quickly than you’d think. “Kids these days adjust into a new environment faster and better so there’s really nothing to worry about,” assures editorial administrator Farlinzah Mahmood, whose two children are currently in primary school.


“They make friends easily and there is no more hysterical crying even on the first day of school. It helps that the school will automatically ‘ban’ parents from entering the grounds after the first day. This will give the kids more independence and no separation anxiety,” she explains.

So it’s the parents – yes, us – who are kancheong, kiasu, and quaking in their shoes as our kids race towards the beginning of formal education.

Most parents begin talking to their child about P1 sometime during the year before the event happens. Any earlier than that is out of the question. As entrepreneur mum Catherine Foo points out, “I did not see a point in panicking him (my son) any earlier.”

However, the academic aspect of preparation usually takes place way before that. Stay-at-home-mum Georgina Lim enrolled her daughter in various academic and non-academic courses as early as she could. “Having a strong foundation leads to less stress in P1, so she can fully relax and not lose interest in studying. It’s better to start early as younger kids absorb things like sponges, especially in their first six years of life,” the ex-marketing officer believes.

One common ground that most parents tread upon: Chinese enrichment classes. At least four out of five children in my son’s kindergarten class are enrolled in one of these. A classmate of his, whose parents are Indonesian, has been attending weekly two-hour Mandarin classes since he was three. This year, he was enrolled in an additional Chinese class dedicated to P1 preparation. Says mum Inggrid Leman: “I am not sure which one helps him more, because he doesn’t want to speak Mandarin when I ask him. How not to worry?”

It’s a notion that many other parents subscribe to. “If you don’t prepare, you may regret it if your kids can’t catch up on school,” admits Georgina. Indeed, attending an enrichment class – or two or even three during weekends – is the rule rather than the exception these days.

Still, some caution against teaching a child too much before he or she enters P1. Catherine shares, “I had a conversation today with a friend who is a Primary School teacher and she said that she’s experienced kids who are downright bored because they have been taught everything in advance by their parents or more often than not, their enrichment centres or tuition teachers.”

Read on to find out what some mummies are doing to prepare their K2 kids for the great P1 adventure next year. What are you doing to help your child get ready?

Georgina Lim, 40, Stay-at-home-mum to two girls, aged 4 and 6 years

How are you preparing your child for P1?

Building a strong foundation by sending her to various courses, so that in early primary she will not have to attend academic enrichment classes outside of school. Instead she will be able to enjoy other classes like chess and fencing.

What have other parents told you about preparing your child for P1?

Watch and observe for any change in character and behaviour, like wanting to go to the school bookshop to spend money.

First day of P1: what will you be doing?

My husband and I will definitely send her to school and stay there if permitted. We are so excited!

Catherine Foo, 33, Entrepreneur, mum to a girl, 4, and a boy, 6

How are you preparing your child for P1?

We’ve talked about how he will need to be much more independent when he goes to P1. I’ve started asking him to buy food and pay for groceries by himself. The next step is to give him some money in his own wallet and teach him how to handle money on a daily basis. He is also taking Chinese enrichment classes because we do not speak Mandarin at home.

What have other parents told you about preparing your child for P1?

They’ve told me that P1 is a big deal but not as big a deal as the ‘jump’ between P2 and P3!

First day of P1: what will you be doing?

I will be hovering around in the school canteen, trying to catch a glimpse of my son and praying hard that he will make good friends in class.

Sim Bee Hoon, 41, Stay-at-home-mum to two boys aged 6 and 9 years

Why is it important to prepare your child for P1?

Kindergarten life is very relaxed, carefree and will be very different compared with P1 in Singapore.

How are you preparing your child for P1?

Told him he’ll be in the same school as his brother and got him a new school bag. And I am going to introduce him to Hanyu Pinyin during the year-end school holidays.

Is such a thing as too much preparation for P1?

I feel that many parents have started sending their children to classes too early, fearing that their kids will not be able to catch up in class later. In fact, many children are so ‘prepared’, they feel bored when they are in P1.

First day of P1: what will you be doing?

Be in school and take some pictures!

Charlene Spencer, 42, Regional HR Advisor and mum to two girls aged 4 and 6 years

Why do you think it is important to prepare your child for P1?

Culture shock. You move from a three-hour session to six hours, an informal learning environment to a very serious classroom with a MOE-dictated national curriculum, packed or school-provided lunches to having to buy your own and knowing how to count money, an increase in class numbers resulting in less personal attention on each child etc.

What have other parents told you about preparing your child for P1?

All advice has been geared towards academic preparation: make sure that before your child goes to P1, she can read, send her to P1 preparation classes, Chinese classes and so on or else child will feel very lost, cannot keep up and will suffer.

First day of P1: what will you be doing?

Stay at home and hope for the best!

Inggrid Leman, 30, Stay-at-home-mum to two boys aged 5 and 6 years

Why do you think it is important to prepare your child for P1?

So that he will be able to follow the lessons without any problems.

How are you preparing your child for P1?

He has a private tutor for Mandarin. So far, whenever there is a parent-teacher meeting at school, the teacher says there is nothing to worry about. But how not to, if I don’t hear him talking in Chinese? Sometimes, I know there are characters which have been taught, but he’s forgotten them when I ask him what they are. This worries me a lot.

First day of P1: what will you be doing?

Packing him a lunchbox is a must! And I will send him to and pick him up from school of course.

Choi Jin Sook, 41, Stay-at-home-mum to twin girls aged 6

Why do you think it is important to prepare your children for P1?

The school hours are longer than in kindergarten. They will be separated from their mother for a longer time, and they will have to take care of their own problems in school.

How are you preparing your children for P1?

I tell them that in P1, there will be less individual attention given to them than in kindergarten, so they will have to be more independent. I am also teaching them about proper manners and friendship.

First day of P1: what will you be doing?

I’ll be encouraging my girls to adapt as well as they have done in kindergarten, and telling them that they are doing great!

Farlinzah Mahmood, 38, editorial administrator, mum to a girl, 7, and a boy, 11

How did you prepare your children for P1?

I talked to them about how real school is different from their preschool. It was more of a mental preparation.

Your children take Malay as a second language. Was there any need to prepare them? 

I’ve heard of some Malay parents sending their kids for Malay tuition while the kids are in kindergarten. I never did that for my kids as we converse both in English and Malay at home and we watch programmes in both languages as well. And while they were attending preschool, Malay was taught as their second language, so I felt that was good enough. I try to get them to read books in both languages as well.

In hindsight, what do you wish you had done in preparation for your kids to go to P1?

I would probably have sent them for Math enrichment classes to prepare them for Primary-level Mathematics. It isn’t easy these days, even at Primary 1.

Get the official lowdown on Primary Education from MOE
 Attend MOE’s Preparing Your Child For Primary School seminar

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Preparing For P1