Tips on choosing Primary School

I started to regret why I promised Dian and Lucky to write about this topic because as I started writing, I just realized how large this topic can be. For new parents, enrolling their child to school is a new milestone just like exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, introducing solid food, baby’s first step and somehow as time flies by, it is school time soon.

Having two kids who are already in high school and primary, I get these questions from time to time on how do I choose school for my kids. Getting my daughter enrolled to primary school during pandemic was quite a drama 🥹, hence why I thought I should write about this. There is no simple answer or guide on how to choose a school for your child. What I am sharing is what I think you should consider as your thought process in selecting a school for your child.

No school is perfect, even the most expensive school.

You simply cannot have it all. Rank the 3 aspects below to what matter most for you
– Secular School Vs Religious School
– Private School Vs State School
– School curriculum (National – Curriculum/Cambridge/IB) and teaching method (Teacher-Centered Instruction, Small Group Instruction, Montessori, Cooperative Learning etc).
For example if choosing Religious School is what is most important to you, then you can cross out State School and focus on Private School. Bear in mind that if you are looking for combination of Religious School with curriculum outside national curriculum and non conventional teaching method, you will only find a handful of school which fit the criteria.

Start working on education blue print journey for your children

I start with visualizing university choices. I keep my option open for University in the country and abroad depending on what course of study will my child choose later on. Eg. If he wants to be a doctor or a lawyer he will have to study in the country instead of abroad. From university, work backward to senior high school and junior high school. Use the 3 aspects above as a framework. Do you want private school or state school? These choices will affect your decision for primary school. eg. If you want state junior high school then don’t choose primary school with IB curriculum and English as primary language. This blue print is not cast in stone and you will make changes along the way to adjust to your children interest and talent and another equally important factor to add is your financial condition; How much can you afford.

At this stage I’m assuming you’re more or less have some idea about your child education blueprint so you can start shortlisting Primary School for your child. Now I can start with my tips.

  1. Know your children preferred method of learning and at which environment they can thrive well. Not all children respond well to conventional teaching method. Some children learn better in a smaller classroom setting. When choosing Primary School, don’t always aim for a famous school with a good ranking or accreditation. Rather choose a school which is a good fit for your child’s character and can help him/her grow to be the best version of him/herself. Eg. if you know your child can’t sit still to focus, don’t dream in putting him into conventional school where he’s not going to thrive and can resort to him not liking school.
  2. Choose Kindergarten which support the Primary School you are aiming for your child. Some primary school have their own kindergarten and they will prioritize students from their own kindergarten. If your dream Primary School doesn’t have a kindergarten, check their entrance test requirement. Some Primary School required their student to already be able to read so ensure the kindergarten can cater to that. If your dream primary school teaches primarily in English, choose Kindergarten which use english as their primary language.
  3. Entrance exam for school can start as early as the month of August, which is almost 11 months before the school starts and you will be asked to pay to secure your seat once you child acceptance is confirmed. Know this so you can prepare your financial accordingly. If you go to financial planner, the advise for fund allocated school education is usually 10-20% of both parent’s take home pay.
  4. Inflation in school fee is real and higher than the price of chilly in the market. Plan your education fund well thru multiple instruments with different timing. Short term for Kindergarten and Primary School, mid to long term for High School and University.
  5. School location is equally important. Ideally school location should be close from home for Kindergarten and Primary. Or for Primary school at least between your home and Office, if you’re a working Mom like me. Believe me there will be days where you will be Assistant-less or driver-less.
  6. Your child’s age when they enter Primary 1 matter in certain school. If you want to enroll in state school, the minimal age is 7 years old. Private school is more lenient. Most still accept less than 6 years old if the child will turn 6 at least in the month of October. However know there are also private school which only accept the student to be at least 6 years old by end of May. Do your research!
  7. Attend the open house and listen to the Headmaster/mistress and teacher presentation. School usually give discount for application fee if you buy it during open house. Ask to visit the school outside open house so you can see how the school is run. This was not possible during pandemic but with school back offline this should be doable. Ask the headmaster/mistress how the communication channel between parents and teachers work. If your child faces trouble or difficulty at school is there a channel to talk to the teacher and how the escalation to Headmaster/mistress works.

I hope this article serves its purpose and help you in selecting school for your child 😉

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