In Parenting, WOMEN

The Reality of Preschool Education

About 2 weeks’ ago, I was caught with immense surprise when Caden showed me his notices from his nursery. Nonchalantly, I took a glimpse of  the notices but when I looked closer and scrutinized the notices, his nursery bill had been inflated. For the next 9 weeks, I was to pay S$1213.00 for him to learn his phonics, draw and write illegible alphabets. The bill had increased from S$1078 previously. After receiving the inflated bill, I discussed this issue with my husband and both of us decided it was best that we took him out from the school. First of all, he was learning a repetition of the curriculum which he was taught 2 semesters ago and I did not foresee the need to send him to nursery which was for 3 days a week and for 2 hours each time, just to learn phonics and play with his friends. I rather use this money to enroll him into classes which he really needs like Mandarin classes for example and swimming classes to improve his lungs.

Furthermore, I am not very sure how the nursery education in his school deserves so much. I am paying an amount which I can pay as salaries to employ 3 foreign helpers to take care of Caden and more importantly, I was unable to justify the benefit of his nursery education for him versus cost of his education to us. For us, as parents to send their children to the best preschools, we have to fork out a premium and more importantly, we do not have any support from the Government except the measly grant if the mother is working.

From my personal experience, I have tried to many ways to reduce the cost of Caden’s preschool education by trying to enroll Caden into the PAP nursery along Serangoon Road. I paid a visit to the Branch with Caden and my helper. I was shocked, taken aback and astonished by the dilapidated condition of school. I was led into the Principal’s office but in my mind, many questions like “Will Caden be exposed to the Rotavirus?” “Will he get Hand Foot Mouth Disease as the classroom looks old and dirty?” “Is the curriculum good enough?”, “Will he be learning anything?” And the questions in my mind go on and on and they bothered me.

After a chat with the Principal, I decided that this was not the kind of environment that I wanted Caden to thrive and develop in. On our way out after the chat, Caden was questioned by 2 preschoolers from the PAP Branch on why he was at their premise. The way they talk personified the gangster spirit of the Old Hougang.

I have also been to at least 2 childcare centres near my house. Before our second son Charles was born in November 2011, we were deciding whether to employ extra help or send Caden to childcare. However, all the sanitary standards of the childcare centres which we visited were below average. The food they provided was incomparable to what my mom or my helper would give to Caden. In addition, Caden eats really slowly and I think before he can even finish half the banana, the mealtime for the kids are over. What’s more, the childcare teachers have at least 10 preschoolers to take care of, and I doubt Caden will be given much attention.

Before sending him to the pricey nursery class, we had in fact sent him to a well-known childcare centre when he turned 18 months because I was afraid he would lose out on his social developmental skills, and also on his learning capabilities. For the childcare centre we sent him to, the facilities were good and there were only 3 other children in the class. But by the 4th day Caden was sent there, he caught the flu bug. He ran a high fever which could not subside and was unwell for nearly a month. Because of the flu bug which he had caught, he had to stay in hospital for nearly a week without recovering from his high fever. The hospital did nothing to get Caden better and in the end, we had to send him to a private pediatrician, who finally gave him antibiotics and he was well after a week. I blamed my stupidity and kiasuism for causing Caden to be hospitalized and for him to suffer so much for the one month that he was ill.

After the episode, I pulled Caden out of the childcare. We had to forfeit some of the deposit but it was a wise and calculated choice. With the disparity in preschool education from PAP to Chiltern House to Pat’s Schoolhouse, I am glad that the government is finally seeing this as a problem and trying to tackle the problem head-on by setting up a Ministry answerable to preschool education. Premier preschool education are meant for parents with social network, with lots of money and with status or those who want status. It would be silly not to think that this applies to the whole education system in Singapore.

I was talking to an associate last evening and she had decided to leave her job so that she could tuition her daughter who was going for PSLE later this year. After talking to her, I felt that perhaps I should think about migration for the sake of my children. Caden speaks English very well but he does not understand Mandarin or just refuses to speak Mandarin. I have to admit that I am not putting enough effort to tutor him on this weak subject. With the monies saved from attending the “elite” nursery program, I can send him for Chinese Enrichment Classes. I am also able to afford more cute and enticing picture books which I would try to read to him every night.

I guess it is really up to the parents like myself to look closely at the type of education being provided at the preschool and gauge if the program is helpful to the child. However, there are many parents in Singapore who really don’t have the time to look at their children’s homework. They are either too busy living their own lives or earning their keep to provide warm and good food on the table. The high standard of living in Singapore is putting so much toll on parents that many feel extremely stressed out by the rat race at work, at home and in society.

I was pretty stressed out lately because I was starting my own online business and I had to answer to everything as I was running the business by myself. The stress level was heightened when a few of my closest kin and kith did not approve of me leaving my cozy and well-paying job to start a business. After the launch of my new business, I had more time to myself because all the sourcing for products was done, the website was launched and all I need to do was more branding, advertising and marketing. So when my associate told me how stressful primary school was and that she had to leave her job to coach her child for PSLE, I was brought back to reality and to being a mom to my children. Last night, I discussed in detail with my husband on how we should educate our children.

Since early this year, I have developed the notion and view of migrating for the sake of my kids. It was not this tough when I took my PSLE. My mother just made sure that I studied. We must not forget that she had a hard job working full-time as a nurse with 3 rotating shifts.  Sometimes, my mother hardly gets any sleep if she worked 2 shifts a day. I still managed to score above average that was needed to get myself into a Special-Assisted Plan School. Furthermore, I still had play time and fun time playing my Barbie Dolls and reading Sweet Valley High. I do not see the free time for my children and if I am still in Singapore at the time my son goes to primary school, I would probably be faring them to and from tuition classes and their extra-curricular activities.

I am not sure if I will carry out my big plan of migration but I am certainly thinking about it. The kids are not stressed out but we parents certainly are. We want to make sure that they have a good education so that they can at least pay for their groceries when they turn 21. I doubt with the rate of inflation in Singapore, they can even buy their own place by the time they are 30 years old.

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