How to choose a Primary School without Parent Volunteering

Choose primary school

If you have children and are living in Singapore, you probably are already in the rat race to secure the best Primary School.
Rat race at age 7? Ermm.. then you are too late.
This race can start as early as when your child is 4 years old and no, your child is not in the race, but YOU are in the race.

The Primary 1 registration starts in July and is divided into different phases. (Skip this part and scroll down if you already know these phases very well)
Phase 1 –
For a child who has a sibling studying in the primary school of choice

Registration: 3-4 July

Phase 2A(1) –

(a) For a child whose parent is a former student of the primary school and who has joined the alumni association as a member not later than 30 June 2013.

(b) For a child whose parent is a member of the School Advisory / Management Committee

Registration: 8 July

Phase 2A(2) –

(a) For a child whose parent or sibling has studied in the primary school of choice

(b) For a child whose parent is a staff member of the primary school of choice

Registration: 14 – 15 July

Phase 2B –

(a) For a child whose parent has joined the primary school as a parent volunteer not later than 1 July 2013 and has given at least 40 hours of voluntary service to the school by 30 June 2014

(b) For a child whose parent is a member endorsed by the church/clan directly connected with the primary school

(c) For a child whose parent is endorsed as an active community leader

Registration: 21 – 22 July

Phase 2C –

For all children who are eligible for Primary One in the following year and are not yet registered in a primary school

Registration: 30-31 July, 1 Aug

Phase 2C Supplementary –

For a child who is not yet registered in a primary school after Phase 2C

Registration: 12-13 Aug

Phase 3 – For a child who is neither a Singapore Citizen nor a Singapore Permanent Resident

Registration: 28 Aug

Read here for more on P1 registration.

Most parents are worried about their children not being able to get into the good schools (branded schools) and usually start to up their chance by doing the following:
1) be a parent volunteer to get into Phase 2B
2) be an alumni to get into Phase 2A (1)
3) be a grassroots leader to get into Phase 2B
4) some get their kids baptized to become Catholic in order to have a good chance to get into good Catholic Schools (this will be for Phase 2B)
5) some moved house just to be within 1km and do one of the above to get an even better chance
6) some lied and get into trouble with the law and face expulsion after that

Not worth going much of these efforts in my opinion. Why? What if after doing all these, your child does not get into the choice school? You would have wasted lots of time and even money. What if your child gets into the choice school and falls short of your expectations in academic? You may start to vent your frustrations on your child for sacrificing so much time/money for a misfit school.

When XX was 5, I contemplated to be a parent volunteer. However, I knew I was not too willing to put in 100 hours or more to increase my chance in Phase 2B balloting (The popular schools require much more hours to be clocked for Parent Volunteering). There was no guarantee that my child would secure a place in the choice school after so much effort. It would be still subject to balloting. There was risk involved. Besides, Kel was against it too, worrying that such efforts would place too much stress on our children to perform well in school since their mum did so much for them after all.

Hence, we did a few things to finally decide to not be a parent volunteer and risk balloting under 1km distance in Phase 2C.

1) Know the shortlisted schools well
I went to to check out which schools are within 1 km viscinity. Then, check out their niche programme in each school. Some of them has basketball as their niche CCA (Co-Curriculum Activity), some of them offered Higher Chinese Language subject, etc and see which one you think would best suit your child.

2) Distance
One of the top criteria is that the school has to be as close to our house as possible. We do not want our children to travel from one end of Singapore to the other end just to be in the best school. Fatigue is the top killer in affecting academic performance.
Distance is a no-brainer since we have only Phase 2C which is balloting on 1km residential-school distance to try our luck.

3) School values have to be aligned with our own values
Go to the school’s webpage and check out what are their mission and values. It is important that the mission of the school is in line with your belief. For example, I look for schools which emphasize on values and character building more than academic performance. If the school is emphasizing on academic excellence more than teaching values, it would be out of my list of schools to aim for. I want my kids 6 years education to be one that teaches them to be good citizens and have good character.

4) Check out the school principal
Go to the school’s webpage again and read the principal’s profile. A good principal is very, very important since he/she is the guiding light and is able to steer the school towards the right direction. In fact, when Kel and I were deciding which school to aim for, we called up the schools and asked to speak to the principal. Not all schools will entertain you of course. But for those that you have shortlisted for your child, call up the schools to check if they have open house and whether you can speak to the principal, if not, the vice-principal.

5) Have a backup school if you are risking balloting
This is so important if you are trying to ballot for a popular school. At least if the balloting results is negative, you are comfortable to send you child to the second choice neighbourhood school. Usually, this school will not be a popular one as vacancies in popular neighbourhood schools will have been taken up after Phase 2C.
Before risking the balloting of our 1st choice popular school, we spoke to the principal of an unpopular neighbourhood school, which for some reasons was avoided by many living in the same area. To our surprise, after speaking to this principal, we were convinced that these students were in good hands as she introduced her school system to us. The school apparently had a bad reputation because of its unaffiliated Secondary School having the same school name. However, the principal implemented many systems that help to ensure students have ample assistance in academic and have plenty of room to explore learning through various fun activities. We knew that if we got balloted out of our choice school, we would have this school to fall back on.

For our experience, we were lucky to get into our choice school in the Phase 2C balloting. It was a nerve-wrecking experience anticipating the results. However, we took comfort that if we could not get into this school, we still had a good backup school. This was our choice school because it emphasizes greatly on values and Chinese traditions. Another reason was it is a co-ed school meaning it has boys and girls in the same school. Hence, we need not worry about going through this entire phase of choosing a Primary School again for our subsequent kids.

To parents out there who are undecided on whether to commit to parent volunteering and whether to go into popular schools versus neighbourhood schools, I hope the sharing of my experience here helps.

What’s your take on parent volunteering? What are your criteria in choosing Primary School?

11 thoughts on “How to choose a Primary School without Parent Volunteering

  1. I’m almost relieved we don’t have to think too hard about this. We’re in phase 3 so very little we can do. Let you know how it goes in August!

    But I do agree it’s a big risk to put in so many hours (with parents often having younger kids at home to look after) and then no guarantees. The worst schools in Singapore actually still seem pretty good by my standards.

    • I was wondering if you’ll be enrolling P into Australian School. Why not? I like their hats and uniform. But then I am honored that you will put them in Singapore schools which means you have confidence in our school system. However I’ll be eager to know our take on more homework compared to Aussie schools 🙂

      • They have the best hats. And I wouldn’t rule it out entirely for the future if things don’t work out.

        But there are a variety of other reasons we’re not going that way next year – and in fact, I may have to write a post on it. Reasons range from the academic, to the social/classroom environment. There’s also a cost difference.

        The basic summary though is we think we can get *at least* as good an education at a local school, and in any case, at the end of the day, we heard it’s easier to change *to* an international school than *from* one so we may as well start out on the right foot.

        I do think the homework might be more at Singaporean schools 🙂 .

    • Oh we are a small country and densely populated too! So, we have many schools within 1km, with each turn, you see a school haha! 🙂 Some of the schools are so popular even though there are 10 other schools nearby which have full capacity too.

  2. This is a very useful post for parents! Totally agree with your point (4). How a school is like, the culture, atmosphere, attitudes of teachers etc, is greatly affected by who the P is!

  3. Pingback: How to deal with children with behavioural problems (Part 2) – Put down your expectations on your child | Kids "R" Simple

  4. Pingback: Work, Life, Singapore, Primary One School Registration, and Gaming The System | Journeys of the Fabulist

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