Go to an average neighborhood school, article suggests

Every once in a while an article like this turns up.

The article is almost formulaic, insert the name of the student, state the really good school and replace it with a neighborhood school and then accessorize it the student’s justification for the choice. Suddenly the neighborhood school looks not too shabby at all. Then rinse and repeat every time the PSLE results are about to be released.

I hope I can clarify the viewpoint so that more people are educated about the school choices. There are many reasons why students want to get to good schools. Prestige and the generally competent level of educators in such schools are often cited. But more importantly these good schools often run integrated programs (IP). Where students bypass the O levels and head straight to the Singaporean A levels (the Singaporean version of A level is some of the toughest examinations and it far exceeds that of the international version).

In doing so, these IP schools generally have a bit more time in their hands because they don’t have to prep their students for the O levels. With the extra time, the teachers frequently start teaching A level syllabus. So in the end, the students are ahead of their neighborhood school compatriots.

In this scenario being ahead matters, because the A levels is so tough and it is the bottleneck to the local universities where every studentship is hotly contested for. This as well as the scholarship opportunities that open up locally or internationally.

On the other hand, there is an interest to coax students to enroll into the neighborhood schools because the student numbers are declining in such schools and there is a huge amount of resources (human and material) that has already been deployed. If the student numbers are not up then these schools eventually have to close or merge leading to extra headcount and deserted infrastructure.

Also, even if the neighborhood school have caring teachers, good students are the exception and not the norm. If I am the teacher of a class of 30 where there is 1 bright student and 29 other students who are struggling. I would make sure the 29 other students pass. Because the KPI of schools given by MOE (Ministry of Education) is pass-rate not distinction rates. So the needs of the bright student will not be served. Which likely mean their potential will not be explored or stretched. This is even more important considering the high level required at the subsequent A level examinations.

This is not to say the neighborhood school paradigm is completely useless. If the student just want to achieve good O level results and then filter into alternative schooling options such as the local polytechnics, then this is a viable option.

So it really depends on the end point objectives. Once the end objective is clear then the option should be straight forward. In contrast choosing to go into a school simply because the student can spend less time commuting is naive firstly because how big is Singapore? And also not to forget thousands of students cross the causeway from JB into Singapore on a daily basis and spend far more time traveling compared to an average commute of a Singaporean student. They do so with the belief that Singapore offers a superior education compared to the Malaysian standards.

And the unwritten ‘in-between the lines’ rational of the taxi-driver father (assuming a single salary since the mother was not reported to be working) is that going to a good school (hence higher fees and expenditure) will be a serious tax on the small income. But of course, the article will not admit to that otherwise it will completely defeat the purpose of the article won’t it? COMMENT.


  • On November 21, 2016