Wednesday 4 January 2012

No one path to success for pupils; Fathers need to take a more active role

Important to know strengths of each child: Minister
By Amelia Tan & Lin Zhaowei, The Straits Times, 4 Jan 2012

IT DOES not matter if your child is in a neighbourhood school, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat told parents yesterday.

What really counts is how well suited children are to the schools they are in, and how involved parents are in their children's education.

The minister was speaking as 38,600 six-year-olds entered Primary 1 yesterday.

Mr Heng said it is important that parents recognise each child is different as 'not everyone will be in the same mould and not everyone will share the same interests'.

There are multiple pathways in Singapore's education system to cater to the strengths and interests of each child, he added.

The minister urged parents to play an active role in their children's education by encouraging them to discover their interests and communicate with their teachers frequently.

'The best does not mean that there is only one path to success, that there is only one best,' Mr Heng told parents at Chongzheng Primary in Tampines Street 21. 'What is most important is to find the most appropriate way to help each and every child succeed. And this is what the ministry is committed to doing.'

Parents at Chongzheng Primary agreed that children in neighbourhood schools can also excel given the right support from parents and their teachers.

Business support manager Foo Tiang Jing, 42, said he thought about sending his son to Red Swastika, a popular school in Bedok. But he decided to send him to Chongzheng Primary instead as he was concerned that his son might feel stressed in a brand-name school.

'The teachers in Chongzheng put in a lot of effort and regularly update me on his progress in school by e-mail or by phone,' he said. 'And that is why I decided to send my younger daughter to the school too.'

Yesterday was the first day of school for 500,000 primary and secondary students.

Frontier Primary, located in Jurong West Street 61, welcomed its first cohort of Primary 1 pupils. It is the only new school to open this year and took in 240 children across eight classes.

Principal Martin Koh told reporters that it will be focusing on aesthetics, such as drawing and singing, as a way of providing a rounded education.

Frontier is the first of 11 new schools to be opened by 2014, as all primary schools in Singapore go single-session.

Like the others, it has facilities such as an indoor sports hall, a synthetic field, performance arts studios and a student care centre. Each classroom is equipped with a sink for hygiene reasons.

These facilities and fittings were recommended by a government review committee on primary education in 2009.

Mr Koh said that he received a lot of interest from parents after a successful soft launch at a community centre last June, which attracted more than 600 people.

He said the school may start taking in pupils of other levels from next year, after the building is completed.

Frontier Primary will have between 1,400 and 1,500 pupils by 2017.

Its new facilities, single-session programme and student care centre have already won over parents.

It received around 270 applications for the 240 places this year, even though the school has no previous track record.

Accounts executive Koh Poh Heok, 36, said she gave up a place in West Grove Primary, a popular school in the neighbourhood, because of the in-house student care centre and the morning session at Frontier.

She had already volunteered at West Grove for more than 40 hours, which would have qualified her son for a place there.

'I wanted a school that has a student care centre, so my son can remain in school after he finishes classes,' she said.

Dads need to take active role in raising kids: Heng Swee Keat
By Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia, 3 Jan 2012

Fathers need to take a more active role in sharing the responsibilities of raising children, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Mr Heng said this during a visit to Chongzheng Primary, on the first day of school in 2012.

Addressing parents of the school's Primary 1 students, he stressed on the important influence fathers have on their children.

"I've spoken to quite a number of the dads. They've been very involved, and that's very positive for our children. I also mentioned that today, we have many more working mothers and that it is very helpful for dads to share the responsibility of raising the child and to share the joy," said Mr Heng.

Chongzheng Primary is one of 46 schools to have the "Back to School with Dads" programme - one that encourages, among other bonding activities, fathers to take their children to school.

The school also has a strong parental support group that organises activities and programmes.

Elaine Quek, principal of Chongzheng Primary, said: "Where dads are concerned, one good outcome of our parent support groups is that we have both our chairperson and our vice-chairperson who are fathers. They also send a very clear signal to all parents, especially fathers, that they also have a role to play."

The school has 180 Primary 1 students this year among its total student population of 1,255.

About 38,600 students in Singapore entered Primary 1 this year.

Mr Heng also provided an update on the setting up of a committee to administer and look into how the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism will be used.

The fund has received more than S$58 million (as of 27 December 2011) in donations and pledges to support the teaching and learning of English and mother tongue languages.

Mr Heng, who is chairing the committee, said members will come from a broad cross-segment of the community. They will also include Members of Parliament.

He said: "We're looking at a number of possible members for the committee. These are people who have a deep interest in the teaching and promotion of mother tongue languages, as well as people with deep expertise in this area.

"So in the coming days, we'll be approaching some of these members to invite them to join us in this committee. Once the committee is set up, we will get down to working out the possible programmes."

Mr Heng also commented on a letter sent to MediaCorp's Today newspaper by a junior college student on the apparent disparities in the quality of learning environments.

In the letter, the student said brighter students should get the better facilities "in order to excel and grow."

Mr Heng said: "MOE is committed to providing multiple pathways for our students to succeed. And as part of these multiple pathways, we have to ensure that we provide the appropriate facilities and teaching resources so that those educational objectives can be achieved.

"It's not appropriate to compare one to the other. Such comparisons are not helpful. What is most important is that we must do all this in a cost-effective way, and in a way that allows us to achieve the educational objectives."

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