The case of “volunteerism” for school enrolment

As parents with would-be primary school attending students would know, the primary school enrolment for Singaporean children born in 2011 starts towards end of the month.

Primary school enrolment in Singapore is neither a simple nor complicated process. You just have a lot of phases to navigate through. Depending on what type of connections you have, or the nature of the relationship, your child can either qualify in the early phases, or later phases.

And depending on the reputation of the schools, some might even have all slots taken up pretty early in the process. This is so especially for the top, branded schools in the country.

Ally is turning 3 in a few months time but I already have peers and friends, whose children are around her age, or even younger, talking about joining alumni, or doing parent volunteering at the schools or RC volunteering in order to get an edge to get their kids in these branded schools in future.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the initiative. And I think it’s great that parents are volunteering and this provides their kids with a great example of how we should contribute to the society.

Except that more often than not, such volunteerism ends up with some level of expectation of having something in return, and in this case, getting your child to be in the early phases of school enrolment, thus giving them a comparative advantage. 

Which perhaps goes against the notion of volunteerism?

If their child doesn’t get to go through the earlier phase of the school balloting, would they still have done so?

Unfortunately, the answer is a likely no.

In most of these situations, the children might be staying a distant away from the school. With the early timing that schools start in Singapore (yes I think you need to reach school by 7:15 am or something in time for morning assembly), imagine what time the poor kid will need to wake up to get ready for school.

One of Dave’s cousin sent his son to a top boys’ school in the eastern part of Singapore. They live in the north and the boy normally goes to school via school bus. Every morning, he has to wake up at 5:20 am so that he can get ready in time when the schoolbus picks him up by 5:50am.

And this is not 50 years ago, where public transport was not that advanced, where students have to walk a distance to get to the nearest school. This is 2017!

I am in no position to judge other parents’ choices for their kids but sometimes I tend to think that we are too warped up over the notion of “giving the best” to your child, taking it too literally sometimes.

Some argue that brand names schools are better because they offer a more “holistic” education program, and the exposure and programs there are different. Despite the government’s attempt to make “every school a good school“, unfortunately, this is something that the public doesn’t quite buy in, for pretty obvious reasons that I shall not elaborate here.

Having said that, does your child needs to go to a top school?

I know of parents who moved away or buy a second property (for those that could afford) so that their child can be staying near the school, or to get the advantage of getting a slot in the school.

Parents go to great lengths for their children. But sometimes, it might not necessarily be the best for the kid.

So what is best then? It differs with each kid. And sometimes we could help them to find that at an early age, but some, perhaps much later.

At least for now, Dave and I do not see the need to do so. At 3, unless Ally is a prodigy of some sort, her interests and talents are probably not going to manifest until much later. And during then, we can decide.

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