Wednesday 20 June 2012

Sufficient places for all entering Primary 1 in 2013

With registration for Primary 1 classes starting next month, Stacey Chia looks at what some schools which are not the traditional hot favourites offer to stretch their pupils.
The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2012

PARENTS with children entering Primary 1 next year need not worry about getting them a place in a school.

A Ministry of Education spokesman said there are sufficient vacancies for the 40,000 children expected to register under the seven phases of the registration exercise.

Registration will take place between July 3 and Aug 31.

The number of vacancies for each school by phases will be listed on the ministry's website.

And 42 schools - 34 more than last year - will also carry out their registration for Phases 2C and 2C Supplementary through the Primary 1 Internet System. These phases are for children without siblings in the school or links to the school through their parents.

Parents can still choose to register in person.

Seven primary schools, mostly in the newer towns of Punggol and Sengkang, will welcome their pioneer batches next year, bringing the total number of primary schools to 187.

The following new schools will debut in Punggol and Sengkang: Palm View Primary, Punggol Green Primary, Punggol View Primary, Sengkang Green Primary and Springdale Primary. Westwood Primary will open in Jurong West, and Riverside Primary, in Woodlands.

They will hold information sessions before registration begins. Parents will need to register with the schools to attend these sessions.

Westwood Primary will hold its session this evening at Gek Poh Ville Community Club in Jurong West.

Making a difference with special programmes
It is a way for non-brand name schools to become more attractive
By Stacey Chia, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2012

AS ONE of the top science pupils in her level at Qifa Primary, Angelene Wang, 10, now knows how much she can learn if she goes beyond her textbooks.

A programme in her school gives pupils from the top two Primary 4 and 5 classes a chance to be junior museum guides at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

She and her peers were trained, after which they took turns leading their Primary 3 schoolmates on a tour through the mammal exhibit of the museum at the National University of Singapore.

These junior guides are also taught about conservation and, as they are required to write their own scripts, the experience also becomes an avenue for them to improve their English.

'I learnt things I wouldn't be able to learn from a textbook, and I also became more confident in public speaking,' Angelene said.

Qifa started its scheme in 2008 as an initiative to push its better pupils; other schools have their own ways of widening their pupils' horizons far beyond what is prescribed by the Education Ministry. (See other reports on this page.)

It is a way for every school to become as coveted as any of the brand-name schools that parents try to get their children into.

Henry Park Primary, Rosyth School and Raffles Girls' Primary are among the popular choices.

Since taking over the Education portfolio a year ago, Minister Heng Swee Keat has touted the tagline 'Every school a good school'. In March, he told Parliament schools 'will make a concerted effort to reach out to parents on the programmes they have'.

Education experts said such programmes do influence parents when they are deciding which school is best for their child.

Dr David Fedo, the executive director of Wheelock College Singapore, which runs degree programmes in early childhood education, said: 'Many parents are now vitally interested in making sure the schools and programmes they choose for their children will make them competitive with other children in Singapore.'

For example, Qifa started offering Higher Chinese at Primary 3 this year, as a result of requests from anxious parents.

Madam Jesslin Loong, who heads the school's mother tongue department, said: 'These parents said good schools have Higher Chinese for pupils before Primary 5, and asked why they had to wait.'

Specialised programmes aside, practicality still wins the day. Some parents who spoke to The Straits Times said they went for schools near their homes to spare their child long travelling time daily.

Food business owner Nancy Wong, 35, for example, picked Horizon Primary for her elder son two years ago as it was close by.

But now, proximity is just one reason why she will put her younger son in the school: She has seen how the school emphasises a child's all-round development, 'not just the academics'.

Bank officer Eugene Teo, 37, plans on registering his son in the brand-name Nan Hua Primary School - but only because it is near where they live.

'Even if the school has a good track record, if it's too far away, we'll spend too much time travelling every day,' he said.

Retired school principal Paramita Bandara, 68, said there will still be many parents who want their child in a popular school.

'It's a pity that they still gravitate towards these brand-name schools if they can get a place in them,' she said.

Children in tune with novel learning modes
By Stacey Chia, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2012

WHEN the curtains go up on the musical Annie next month, Maria Goh, 12, will be acting, singing and dancing in a supporting role - that of the orphan Kate.

She does not have professional training in singing but credits her school, St Anthony's Canossian Primary, for building her confidence to perform for an audience.

Because of the way the school fuses social studies with the performing arts, each pupil would have been exposed to six years of music, song and dance by the end of their primary education.

For example, pupils learn about different festivals and celebrations through the use of music.

While learning about Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the girls played the kompang, a traditional Malay drum, said Ms Chua Lee Beng, the head of department for sports, arts and co-curricular activities.

Another example: the use of dance to familiarise the children with major landmarks.

Primary 2 pupils use body movements to mimic the silhouettes of landmarks they learn about, such as the Singapore Flyer and the ArtScience Museum.

Ms Chua said this is 'a novel way to teach a subject that some pupils find somewhat dry'.

With two hours every week given to such lessons, Maria has had many opportunities to sing and dance in front of her peers.

'You become less shy each time you have to perform in front of your classmates,' she said.

Principal Eugenie Tan said the school conceived the programme in 2006 to put more emphasis on the arts.

Without it, many of its pupils may not have exposure to the arts, she said.

The school now operates out of a holding campus in Bedok, but will move into its new building in Bedok North Avenue 4 by next year.

Robots spur pupils to solve problems creatively
By Stacey Chia, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2012

ROBOTS have yet to displace human teachers in the classroom, but they are an integral part of lessons in one suburban primary school.

Since 2008, Chua Chu Kang Primary School has been infusing subjects such as science, mathematics and art with robotics.

For instance, it comes into play in the Primary 5 maths lesson on ratios. Pupils measure the distance over which the robots move and compare it with the number of rotations their wheels make.

During art lessons, Primary 1 and 2 pupils construct and design houses, imaginary animals and ships using Lego sets. This helps to get them interested in building robots later on.

Madam Fauziah Othman, the school's subject head for robotics, said that apart from making learning more fun, robotics also forces pupils to 'exercise their creativity through engagement in basic design problems'.

The school in Choa Chu Kang Avenue 2 was awarded the Programme for School-Based Excellence in Robotics in 2008. This win earned it funds from the Education Ministry that have been ploughed into improving and expanding its robotics programme.

School principal Lee Wai Ling said the programme develops her pupils' critical thinking and information gathering skills.

Preschoolers get preview of Primary 1 life
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 20 Jun 2012

WE NEVER forget our first day at school, which can be an unnerving experience for some children.

Now, one new school has come up with a creative way to ease preschoolers in gently.

It is giving them a chance to experience a day in the life of a Primary 1 pupil even before they are enrolled.

The children will attend lessons and learn to buy food in the canteen as part of an outreach programme at the upcoming Westwood Primary School.

And they will also get a chance to join older pupils in celebrations such as Racial Harmony Day or Sports Day.

For new schools without proven track records, programmes like these are a useful way to promote themselves to parents.

Westwood Primary, in Jurong West, gave the community a first glimpse of what it will look like when it unveiled its architectural model yesterday at Gek Poh Ville Community Club.

Principal-designate Ng Yeow Ling said that the day-in-the-life scheme helps to reach out to parents and ease the transition for their children.

The programme will be launched with the help of preschools and childcare centres in the area.

Westwood Primary is one of seven new schools taking part in the Primary 1 registration between July 3 and Aug 31. Most are in the newer towns of Punggol and Sengkang.

The Ministry of Education has assured parents that there are sufficient places for the 40,000 children expected to enrol in Primary 1 next year. A total of 41,920 vacancies will be offered from 187 schools, said the ministry.

Staff at some of the new schools have been taking a proactive approach by visiting preschools to distribute information brochures.

Some Riverside Primary School staff have been reaching out by going to preschools' meet-the-parents sessions.

Because its building has not yet been completed, Punggol View Primary has had to do without a fixed landline. Vice-principal Chua Chye Hock carries a mobile phone, fielding calls from parents. The phone number is also advertised in brochures.

Speaking to reporters at the soft launch of Westwood Primary yesterday, adviser for Hong Kah North constituency Amy Khor said that children who choose to attend new schools will receive more attention from teachers as the cohort is smaller.

Programmes to engage preschoolers are 'really useful', she added. 'These future P1 kids will have a good idea of what formal education is like and this gets them excited.'

Parent Mohd Rizal, who was at yesterday's launch, said: 'These outreach efforts help the kids to adapt better when they enter school.'

The 34-year-old ancillary police officer, who has a son in K2, added: 'When schools adopt such creative methods, we are more likely to consider sending our children there.'


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