Wednesday, 13 July 2011

eye of a needle : singapore schools

Spot the Difference:

Company to Jobhunter:
Sorry. As of the moment, we do not have any vacancy. But, if you leave your resume, we can call you of any slot available.

Schools in Singapore to Applicants:
Sorry. As of the moment, we do not have any vacancy. But if you leave your son's credentials, we can call you of any slot available.

I thought I already graduated from scenes like this. But apparently, not. School hunting here is like applying for that elusive job. There are many companies you would sell your soul to employ your God-given talents & skills; companies you heard to be giving-away up to 16th month bonuses. But sadly, they don't have a place for you. (I was praying for this with Smart, but it was Globe that hired me.) (until now, i cannot forget that :)

I heard a lot about of Singaporean Education, mainly horror stories.

Schools are tough. Competition to get into a good school is cut-throat. Kids take extra tutorial lessons on reading and math, even the smart ones. Tutorial businesses, is as common as beauty parlors in the residential areas.

Teen Suicides. Teens literally jumping off the building due to sheer pressure (5 to 8 suicides, in the age range of 10-19 in the last 5 years) In a country of only 4M pop, if this will not scare you, I don't know what else will.

Plus, the parents extend the most pressure, too. They have this colloquial term for parents who drive their kids to excel. Excellence in both academics and extra-curriculars. KIASU. Sounds like the legendary best-selling book, Tiger Mom, right? If you've read the book, you'll know. These parents even have a network here, if you wanna know, go to

Primary school is one-big preparation, for what they call PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exams). Primary 6 students sit on this nationwide examinations, and they are ranked among their peers. One's destiny of getting into an excellent secondary school, and consequently a great university or college, will depend on your PSLE scores. It's like NCEE before, in our time in the Philippines. :) Imagine, putting your elementary school students into such pressure.

So, there we were, scouting for a primary school for my eldest. It's tough. We tried 5 schools within 5km periphery of our neighborhood. No Vacancy! To say they are strict in the number of kids per class is an understatement. My heart was set on a De La Salle school. A private school, quite pricey. We need to tighten our belts, i wanted a Catholic School.. i want rosaries, novenas.. the works! No Vacancy!

If this were the Philippines, anong no vacancy? If you can afford our tuition, by all means, we welcome your son. :)

So we trekked to Mt. Sinai to appeal to the gods. The Ministry of Education requires all children 6yo up to be in school. It is a criminal offense if parents neglect to do so. Parents can get imprisoned. So, naturally, it is their duty to provide us a school, since we cannot find any available.

One can get spoiled transacting with the government here. They're so efficient and organized. I felt like I was doing my banking, caliber BDO along Ayala Avenue. The government staff are in business suits. They can even time my waiting time. You're #3, that's 10 minutes wait to serve you.

So, you need a school for your son? Ok give us two weeks. They didn't even ask for my hubby's background, how long we were in Singapore, blah..blah. Those stuff are probably contained in the ID, i was telling you about. My Dossier. :)

Good thing, we also had our dependents' pass already. Otherwise, my son, will be treated as an international student, and he has to sit in examinations, for the government to place him in the correct level and the school might not be our choice. I know parents who literally have to move residence, because the school their kids qualified are too far.

We got a call two days after. We have a school for your son. It's also within the periphery of your place. Call blah..blah..blah.. They are expecting you. How about that!

This is not his school ID. This is the bus/mrt card for students, so they pay cheaper. Issued by the bus company. (which is government-owned)

Teck Whye Primary School ( is just beside the La Salle School I wanted. This is a public school. So, no denominations. Tuition fees? Let's just say the monthly school bus fee is more expensive than the monthly tuition fee. This is Singaporean public school, afterall, where 20% of their humongous national budget is alloted to education.

The school year here starts January. So, Hans is continuing his primary one until December. I needed to enroll him ASAP, i dont want him idle and pestering me at home (let's be honest, moms!) waiting for January.

Making my hair grey lately is the required Mother Tongue subject. We chose Mandarin lessons over Tamil and Malay. (Parang sa atin, we study Filipino, our mother tongue) I did study Mandarin before in Manila, but i forgot most of them now. So, in a week or two, i would need to look for a chinese tutor. Might as well, sit in. :)

As for Ivan, he doesn't start formal education by 2013. I'm taking my time looking for a pre-school. Besides, I need to polish his English so he can communicate with his peers. This guys speak kantong tagalog ..astig..baliw.. BFF jolie, manang-mana :)

Though I'm a stay-at-home- mother, I don't plan on becoming a KIASU or a Tiger Mom. It's not necessary for me that they top the class or be the best among their peers.

Heaven knows my parents did not raise me that way, also. I distinctly remember, "Dewie, After ng homework mo na yan, Bantay ka sa Tindahan. Mag repack ng Asukal." That's my mother.

But still, I excelled because I love learning.

This is what I want my kids to develop, The Love of Learning.

With that, the rest will take care of itself.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. so this is what i call...the adjusting mom to the education system. with all those blah blha blah that you mention, it's tough! i passed thru those and will still have a long wait, to finish the difficult path. it's just like learning again from the primary level. we're living in other countries, that's tough for moms like us.
    "Mamma...mi puoi auitare a congiugare queste..." (Ma, can you help me conjugate these...)
    i mean that's italian, for God's sake. If it's in English i won't even blink. =)

    that's a typical Jaki of mine. He's 9 years old and heading to Grade 5 this September. after that he'll have an "entrance exam" for middle school. bakit ba ang hihirap ng aral sa ibang bansa? grfade 4 pa lang anak ko, geometry at geography na...pang hi school yun nung time ko ah. well, i will also say, blah, blah, blah...hahaha. ganun talaga. we have to continue learning.

    on Italy's view, school enrolment is tough too. Public schools are not bad at all. mura nga ang tuition kesa mga ek ek na miscelleneaous.
    my Zendra is naka "waiting list" sa preschool for this september. she's too young pa daw, but acceptable din pag me "pwesto".

  3. kids up to 14 years old here don't pay the bus, train or any means of public vehicles. ok yun, nakakatipid. school tuitions are according to annual income. i have to be wise, yung income ko lang ipinass ko. i got low annual income, that means social level: FREE! books, free! school lunch/snacks: FREE!

    i could probably get going, talking about kids and school in an italian perpective...pero dapat i blog ko na nga lang, hahaha. natutuwa akong mag read ng blogs mo, ganado ring mag comment.

    thanks for sharing!

  4. hi teena,

    thanks for the time.

    Nakaktuwa naman dyan. free lahat for Jaki. galing ano. kaya pala maraming pambili ng fashionable clothes for Z. wala na sa budget ang education, at allowance ni kuya.

    hindi kayo tinitignan as both parents earning? well, take advantage na lang while ur there.

    natutuwa ako sa mga first world countries who gives back their people. sa atin, ni wala kang matikman sa gobierno. feel mo lang yung mga kaltas, pero walang return.

    no wonder, layasan ng layasan mga kababayan natin.

    thanks again for your title. hope Z gets into the school she wants :)

  5. yes, we seldom complain of the taxes here, after all, bumabalik naman. aside from the "sweldo" of the kids added to the pay slip, minsan nakakatsamba pa nga na free sa school. marami namang help or assistance na give ang government, tyaga lang sa pagpila, pag-asikaso.

    i want Zen to be where Jaki went for pre-school. kabilang kanto ng school ni Jaki. it's a real plus to just walk after fetching Jaki from his school (which is so near our home), isang kanto lang. the education is fine, even public. susko, yun ba namang 18 lang kayo sa isang class, whole day in school, pag walang natutunan ang kid, bopols talaga, hehehe. Jaki's too young (9 yrs old) to be in grade five, but i guess he's coping well. kaso hindi nagmana ng math virtue ng dad ko. sana hindi nagbabanta na nagmana sa akin sa numbers, hahaha. yun lang medyo 7 ang grade nya. highest is 10.

    normal ba sa grade 4 yung nagdidivide ng 307,987 by 567? susko...makakalbo anak ko..i mean ako (kasi feeling math guru ako) division si so complicated the italian way..baligtad ang format =) kalokah.
    o sige, 1:20am na, bk me typo error ha...mwah.

  6. Hi Dewie! I knew I signed up for a blog a year ago. Finally, I can comment na!!!! I thoroughly enjoyed your stories! Very helpful and funny at the same time. I am proud of you, friend!

  7. My child studies in this sch too