My Son Can’t Get Into My School of First Choice!

It’s OK. Take a deep breath. Nothing bad will happen to your child.

Keep calm and carry on.

A lot of parents have been panicking recently and indulge into self-blame: Why haven’t I volunteered enough so my child can get into the best primary school? There are so many primary schools; which is the best? Will my kid’s future be affected because he didn’t get to the school of his choice?

As a practical and kiasu person, I will tell you that you are fretting over nothing. I think all primary schools here are great in Singapore and we can worry about the “branding” of the school later, when your child is in his secondary school years and beyond.

Here are four reasons why you should take a chill pill.

1. All Singapore primary schools are great

I cannot claim I am the expert in this but I did relief teach in several schools over the past decade, tutored children from different schools and have friends who are primary school teachers. I have seen the teaching materials, the dedication of the teachers and I grew up as part of the Singapore education system. Our school system is ranked fifth in the whole world last year, according to a report by the Pearson Group. Even the worst in Singapore can’t be all that bad, right?

With the social media, kiasu parents and stiff competition these days, I think all teachers and schools in Singapore are striving to be the best.

2. Personal experience

I was from Yishun Primary School, a neighbourhood school.

Back in the 1980s, parents didn’t care as much but I think my mates and I turned out alright. I did well enough for my PSLE to go to the Chinese High (now called Hwachong Institution.) Some of my classmates went to Raffles Institution, St Nicholas Girls’ and moved on to have great careers in life. There was even a classmate who became a president’s scholar.

3. Parents Matter Most

Most importantly, in the primary school years, parents are the most important. You influence your child the most in his childhood.

You are the person the child depends on his whole life- he listens to you more than anyone else. Your values are his values. We have seen how musicians breed children who become musicians because of the nurturing from young. Look at Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra or Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole. In politics, we have George Bush and George Bush Jr who are both U.S. presidents.

According to Dancy Hango, a researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science, parental involvement in their children’s lives can have a “lasting impact” on well-being. The investment in the child’s potential human capital through relationships, or social capital, is crucial for educational success, said James Coleman in his report in the American Journal of Sociology in 1977. Regardless which school your child is enrolled in, without your valuable input, he may not achieve as much.

And during the Primary school years, most of the time, we will be able to coach our children in their school work.

4. It’s only primary school

If this were high school, I would agree the choice of school is crucial because the child is entering puberty. That’s when there’s a strong desire for autonomy and distance from the family. You wouldn’t be able to influence him even if you wanted to.

And perhaps, we would have forgotten our secondary school chemistry and wouldn’t be able to coach him as well.

If this is a choice between going to Harvard or some unknown community college in the suburbs, yes, one needs to be make a wise decision. But always put things in perspective- this is JUST primary school. The child can manage if he goes to a less well-known school. And when he grows up, no matter how fussy the organization is, nobody will ask which primary school he is from when applying for jobs. Trust me.

What you could do instead

I spoke to a lot of parents recently and they complained how their children are not enjoying their childhood and they would prefer their child to have fun and “not become a cyborg,” as one father put it.

Then start making the change. It begins from you.

In the children’s most impressionable years, it’s the parents’ onus to impart the values they deem to be most important to their kids. Studies are important indeed, especially in Singapore. But you are the best person, not the school, who knows what your child’s talents are. A good school can complement your child’s growth but the parent’s role can never be substituted.

My father talked to me about current affairs when I was a kid and encouraged me to submit essays to the papers. I had a whole file of my compositions printed on the local papers by the time I was 12. He realized my passion for broadcasting and bought me a radio when I was 10: I would always be so grateful to him for that.

I was a radio DJ for a few years, while I was studying for my degree. I moved on to be a journalist at international organizations. And I may not have pursued my passion for writing if my dad hadn’t encouraged me when I was young.

To be sure, it’s definitely assuring to have great, caring teachers and the “best” school for your child. The years between six and 14 are a time of important development advances that establish children’s sense of identity, according to Jacquelynne S. Eccles, a professor of education the University of Michigan.

But the truth is only you can be the best mentor for him. Great if your child got into the school of his choice, but if he didn’t, it’s not the end of the world.

Because your child still has you— his greatest asset. So relax now, enjoy your time with your kid, while he still doesn’t mind hanging out with you. 😉

Wei writes financial news in the day and solves PSLE problems at night. 

This article first appeared on KiasuParents.