updated 11 Dec 2011, 09:29
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Mon, Jan 17, 2011
The New Paper
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Okay to be kiasu for your kids
by Eugene Wee

KIASU. Crazy. Mad.

These were some of the words I've heard people use to describe the parents who were queuing overnight at a popular pre-school earlier this week.

And that was just to get on the waiting list for the 2013 intake.

These were the same words used by some to describe parents who spend over $10,000 a year to send their children to brand-name pre-schools when heartland ones charge less than half that. Crazy, right? After all, it's only pre-school.

I agree, to a certain extent.

Child development experts agree that the first five years of a child's life is the most important because that's when the brain develops the most dramatically.

That said, a lot of things can go very right or very wrong between the time they graduate from kindergarten and when they receive their degrees.

I asked a few friends who are doing relatively well in life - a doctor, a lawyer and two senior managers at an MNC - where they did their pre-school.

All spent their kindergarten years in a school at the void deck of an HDB flat.

So while attending pre-school is undoubtedly an important phase in a child's education, it is debatable whether an expensive popular pre-school would get your child further ahead than a mainstream one.

Here's where I qualify the "to a certain extent" part.

Method of teaching

I send my three-year-old son to a brand-name pre-school that charges over $1,000 a month for a full-day programme.

Why is that? Because after checking out a range of pre-schools, I believe that my son's school's method of teaching Mother Tongue works the best.

Considering that his father flunked O-level Chinese exams thrice, he isn't going to get any help with the language at home.

And it's working out great for my son - he speaks Mandarin almost as well as he does English. Would he have picked up the same things in a mainstream pre-school? I don't know.

Other reasons I don't mind paying more is that the school has a great playground, large and comfortable classrooms and a great snack and lunch menu. And it gives us a very well-made scrapbook of pictures of him taken during his school year at the end of the term.

I'm lucky enough to be able to afford the fees. If not, I'd be happy sending him to a school with good teachers but without the frills that my son enjoys now.

Ultimately, I think it's perfectly okay for parents to want to send their children to popular pre-schools, enrol them in enrichment classes and send them for tuition classes in between. However, that should be IF the child enjoys it and is able to handle the sheer number of activities. This makes you neither a bad nor a good parent.

How good a parent you are eventually boils down to the attention, love and support you give your children, regardless of what school he attends.

And no amount of money, queuing or connections you have will help in this respect.


This article was first published in The New Paper.

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