Thursday, February 1, 2018

Visiting Secondary School Open House @ Primary 5

On certain months every year, Secondary schools in Singapore will host open house for the 12 years old & their parents to visit so that they can take a peek at the school's facility, culture, environment, the CCA offered for DSA or Direct School Admission enrollment (there may be some changes next year so look out for the announcement from Ministry of Education), courses and options available after 4 years with the school.

Besides hosting open house we understand that different Secondary schools will visit Primary schools to introduce Secondary school life to the P6s with more in depth details where subjects, CCAs, programmes - Applied Learning or Learning for Life programme, etc will be covered.  We would like to leave this to the respective schools because I am sure they can provide all the necessary information to the kids.  Sure saves me the trouble of running around to gather the information (can slack must slack a bit hahaha!) but of course we still have to read up about it so that we can give advise to him when the time comes.  

Couple of few years ago I have heard friends with their then P6 or Primary 6 kids exclaimed that they should have went for Secondary school open house a year before because there are so many secondary schools and only a few days within the year to visit as many as possible.  

I took a mental note on that last year and THINK we probably should be a little bit kiasu and follow the crowd to attend as many Secondary school open house as possible this year since DinoBoy is in P5.  Months passed and guess what, I have forgotten about it till now!  Just shows how oblivious and forgetful Mum I am *opps!*  Luckily all is not lost coz some schools are hosting open house in November and we managed to go for it *phew!*

For those who are not familiar with Singapore education system you must be wondering why the kan cheongness or anxious feeling from the parents on selection of Secondary schools besides being a major exam for our kids and another phrase in their education journey.  With a few uncertain factors such as the deciding T-scores and COP or Cut Off Point, we really do not know where our kids will stand in the whole cohort of P6s in Singapore until the day they receive their PSLE result slip.  The feeling of uncertainty of the future can be really daunting especially when we cannot do anything to it till the very last minute.  The worse part is to shortlist 6 schools based on the result and submit the Secondary School List within a short time frame!  How not to have a nervous breakdown?

To settle this uneasy feeling of uncertainty, we create the "What-Ifs" scenario such as "What if I suay suay scored below 200?" - spend 5 years in either Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) lor, then "What if the Lord blessed or Guan Yin Ma or Tee Kong por-pi us and I scored over 290?" - the top schools will be fighting to have you in their school, the news media will want to interview you, your family and even your pet if you have one!  Errmm... the news media thingy most likely won't happen since the top scorer details are kept secret by MOE.

Okay okay, jokes aside.

Hence the hard working, ever so resourceful parents try to find out all about the Best/Better/Good/Average schools lest that small piece of paper throw us a curved ball, we will be well prepared to hit the ball back hard and move forward without breaking a sweat.

Regardless what news that small piece of paper brings, do remember that your child has did his or her best and you should celebrate the end of a tough 6 years journey you have walked through together and reaching the Finish Line together, side by side.
Why did we go ahead with Secondary School open house visiting?
During my time I didn't have the opportunity to go to any Secondary school open house, thinking back I wonder if they have such thing back then or not, anyway it was never a MUST or a concern to our parents who left it basically to us to decide.  I remember I "anyhow" picked 6 schools, clueless about the COP and every thing.  Of course I did not get into the top 3 choices and landed in my Secondary school, much to my Mum's dismay (Ya, she didn't think the school is a good school).  Fast forward to now, these open house are suddenly a matter that must not be taken lightly.

Whatever the reasons the P5s parents have for attending the open house, I believe every one of them has the best interest in their heart for their kids.  For us (IF we were able to attend the open house through the whole year) it is not to make a beeline to the schools that we want him to get in and make the decision for him.  Instead we went forth with one mentality and that is to just look-see look-see, this is because I think at the age of 11 and at this stage of his life, DinoBoy still does not know what lies in future for him.  To him its just going into another school to "study further", something that he dreaded since P1. He still does not know the importance of the 4 years secondary school life and that a good school or even a school that caters to his interest or preference will path a better way for his future. 

We wanted to let DinoBoy have a feel how Secondary school life will be for him 2 years later, to experience the different vibes & culture happening in both a SAP/elite school and a neighbourhood school, thus helping him in shortlisting a few schools that he feels strongly about and wish to further his 4 years Secondary education with in due time. 

Yes, the ultimate decision will come from DinoBoy.  We have groomed and raised him to be independent in his thinking and decision making, seeking us for advise when he is unsure.  So, as much as this school selection is a HUGE decision that can't be messed around, we still prefer to let him handle it.  We will of course provide advise and guidance or clear his doubts and queries on this issue but we will not interfere with his decision.  Wouldn't it be too much a risk for that?  Of course it is but we believe it is important that he feels comfortable and has a sense of connection with the school because he is going to spend most of the day, 6 days a week in that environment with his peers, gaining the necessary secondary school knowledge, supporting his interest and preparing for the future.

So, a few days before the open house date in November 2017, we short listed 3 schools to visit, 2 of them have wushu or martial arts as a niche CCA because DinoBoy has a passion for it and wishes to continue learning it, the other one is a reputable neighbourhood school.

What we did and noticed
It was interesting to see how the schools look so different the minute you stepped through the gate, it is not simply a building(s) that houses students for most part of the day as perceived from the outside any more.  The 3 schools that we visited were totally different from each other, from the school's environment, their students' behavior & attitude, the layout of the school.  You could say that we experienced culture shock 3 times all over again when we entered each school.

The schools hosted the open house with guided tour where their students will bring the parents and kids to designated spots around the school, introducing the school's history, the building, the size ("our school is one of the biggest in Singapore, it's about the size of 9 football fields." "O~kay~ so???" I thought to myself, me bad...), of course letting us know the school's achievements, the numerous trophies they won by different clubs and CCA.  After the tour you are free to roam around the school compound and visit any CCA rooms or booth or watch any CCA performance at the scheduled timing.

I let DinoBoy took the lead during the open house since this is all about him and his future, he asked the students questions if he has queries, tried his hands on a couple of things such as robotics, Chinese Calligraphy, science experience in a science lab etc.

What surprised me was that he actually sat down to play a game of Chinese Chess, double surprise that he beat the student in the game!  I knew he played Chinese Chest with DinoPapa these few years and since it was Father-Son bonding session I did not joined in nor know how well he played.  I told him that "the korkor pang zui lah~", which means that older boy probably did not put in 100% effort and gave him chance to beat him.  Trying not to make him get too big headed because the other boy supposedly to be way better than him.

Of course he watched the wushu performance too (how can we miss that!), he was wide eyed  and amazed by one of the school's wushu team performance, I think he would have jumped in to join them if there were no barriers separating them.

One of the school hang student's paintings on the wall along the corridors, these paintings are so exquisitely drawn with well presented specific themes that I think they are all talented painters or artists.  I understand later that school does not offer Arts as a course, too bad, I think many students would thrive in it.

At the end of the tour or before you leave the school, you will be required to do a feed back on your experience. We did ours or rather DinoBoy did his review using in iPads (so high tech), I have no idea what the questions are because I have no chance of even seeing it.

Our Conclusion
DinoBoy enjoyed all 3 school's open house, taking in every thing he saw and experienced, a few days later he told us firmly that he changed his mind about the Secondary school he wants to attend, he now wanted to go to one of the school we went to that day.  He hasn't visited the school he had his eye on since P3 though, so I will try to bring him to that school's open house if I can, see whether he will have any change of heart again or not.

Me?  "How come my secondary school don't have this back then?" "Why my secondary school not so cool as this?" "What! they have THIS (3D printer) now???"  These are some of the things that went through my mind through that day.  Ya I know, a bit mountain tortise right!  However, it has also broaden my mind and sight, allowing me to see how far secondary school and our education system has evolved.  They are more interactive, interesting and engaging as compared to my time.

Do I encourage Primary 5 kids to attend these open house?

Sure!  It is always better to be prepared and plan early for a new chapter in your life, to set your sights far enough so that you have a goal in near future to fight for.  A peep into the secondary school(s) your child is interested may provide more information than their pamphlets, website or that dreadful COP (the higher the marks does not mean the school culture and environment is good).  

You can revisit the school again a year later to see if you still feel the same as before or take the opportunity to visit other schools that you may have interest now.

Useful Links
If you and your child are clueless on the secondary school that he or she would like to attend, I find that the following websites helps to give an insight on the schools and helps to narrow down a handful for consideration at later date.

School Information Service - It is a website run by MOE, over here you can find all the basic information about all the schools in Singapore; primary, secondary and junior college.  You can search to find out the schools that are within certain distance from your house or based on the CCA available in the schools etc.

Secondary School Ranking (based on cut-off for 2017 intake) - Unsure of the school's COP? Click this link to find out the rank as at November 2017. There are some minor changes on the COP after the secondary 1 posting exercise but it there should not be a huge different, if you want to know the exact COP of a particular school(s), do a search on the web and you will probably get it.  Or you could wait till the school distribute the Secondary Schools handbook by MOE (or whatever they are being called) to the students sometime during the later half of the year,

Secondary School's Open House Dates
Besides the major open house exercise in November every year, the secondary schools will host their open house on individual dates too.  You can either check the school's website or join a forum or facebook group to be kept informed of the dates.

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Last but not least, primary school journey is not an easy one, PSLE should be viewed as important examination as it's a "test" to further separate the kids into different path, a start of another chapter in your kid's life.   I shall stress once again that as parents, we should stand by our kids, support them in every way we could.

And please try to set a realistic target for your kids to achieve based on their academic.  If for the past 5 years they are the above average score student please do not try to pump them with more tuition in hope to push them to be A-Star students within the next few months, I agree that it works on some kids but it also do not work on some kids.  Know your kid's ability before wasting precious time and money unnecessarily.

With so many kids suicide cases we have heard or read in the newspaper these couple of years, we really have to be mindful of our actions and words, we even have to keep our emotions in check too because kids can pick up our negative emotions like with a snap of the fingers.  Do keep an open communication channel with your kid, involve them in every decision that has to do with their study and education, listen to them when they voice out their worries or concerns, let them know that you are there for them.

Before I end off, I have a couple of things to say...

To all kids taking PSLE this year, do you best, don't let that small slip of paper beat you down!  If you did not do well, move forward and make it better in the next chapter.  Perhaps Fate seen a potential inside you that you are unaware and has planned out something for you.  

To all the parents with kids taking PSLE this year, be nervous, be unsettling, be lost but allow these negative feelings to invade your heart and mind for a short period of time.  After that, cast them out of your body, get out from that dark corner and brace yourself to face the challenges that this crucial year will throw at your way.  Fight them with your child!

All the best to 2018 PSLE Parents and Kids!


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