My eldest child will be in primary one next year and hence starts the proverbial parental paranoia as my wife and I fuss over the choice of schools. We would have to undergo the often painful process of applying to the school of choice some time in June or July this year, under the different phases of primary one registration set by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore – depending on which category we are in.
Unlike many Singaporean parents, my wife and I have vowed in the past NEVER to be obsessed with getting our children to the “best” primary schools by resorting to inappropriate means (I am so beside myself in trying not to use the word unethical) like offering ourselves as parent volunteers, renting a flat at close proximity to a school of choice, using the residential address of a relative who lives near a school of choice as our own and even pull strings from above.
It is distasteful to witness how some celebrity parents in our education-crazy nation offer themselves to labour for free at an “elite” primary school so that their children can get a place…and only to be disappointed when they fail to do so. One wonders the moral implications of such a practice.
Admittedly, I do subscribe to the credal notion that “bad company corrupts good morals” and that it is often much easier to be influenced by mischief than by civility and discipline. A school which offers a positive environment for academic and moral learning will deserve my acclaim and cheer more than one that breeds apathy, sloth and ill discipline.
I have observed how former Rafflesians (people associated with the Raffles education brand) conduct themselves even as conscripted military personnel during my time undergoing “national service” as a Singaporean male (I was rather blessed to be acquainted with many scholars during my army days) – they demonstrated a general sense of refinement, civility and dignity of speech and conduct. It is so common to hear distasteful language in the military that it becomes almost heavenly (to me, at least) to be around civilised gentlemen for a change.
That said, it is also important to note where such civility comes from – the school or the home. I for one attended a neighbourhood primary school that was filled with rascals and no wonder, the poor institution had since been closed down. One wonders if that was the reason why I was first in my class for almost every academic year. I am not boasting here as I am of very average intelligence. While my peers love to play football and pick up fights, I would be sitting in the library devouring my favourite novels. While many would loiter around the void decks of flats around the estate or play sports after school, I would head straight home for a good meal and spend time with my family.
Of course, times have changed. It was a lot easier to be a good kid in the 1980s, where entertainment for a child was limited to sports, board games or books. In stark contrast, children nowadays are bombarded with television console games (x-box, playstation), online internet games, the iPhone and iPad, internet films, strange noise masquerading as music, etc. With so much to choose from, children would take the path of least discipline.
It amuses me how a child would be sent confusing signals if his teachers and friends speak good English and practise civil discourse while his parents holler at each other with smatterings of uncouth and distasteful vocabulary.
Then again, perhaps such a child would have the “best” of both worlds, if by “best” one is refering to exposure to the “real” world where there is much diversity of life and opinion.
So…where should we register our son?
As proximity is a cardinal priority for us, we have thus only a few schools to choose from, out of which there is only one which is considered “elite”. The demand for this particular school is ridiculously high and our chances at success if we apply is minimal.
Unless the gods favour us.
Which, in my humble opinion, is but a gambling bet.