Tuesday, July 7, 2015

School Hunting

And.. July comes creeping in.

In less than 6 months, Aiden will step foot into what he calls the "Big Boy School". Which school is he going to? Well... I'm ashamed to say that I do not know. Unlike other helicopter mothers, I have yet to do my share of school hunting.

Of course, I have enrolled him for Standard One with a public school via the Ministry of Education. Don't get me wrong, I have absolutely no issues with public schools. I mean, I'm a product of a public school - and I guess I turned out somewhat alright. And we have a great certified 'smart school' in the neighbourhood, so I'm a happy Mummy.

So why go school hunting? I guess I wanted to see what the hype all about is with national private schools. (Hubby and I both collectively agreed that we wouldn't look into international schools just yet. Shelving that idea at least until he's a bit older.) You see... there must be a reason why private schools are so popular nowadays, despite having to pay through your nose... I'm guessing top notch facilities, smaller class sizes, character building, unique extra curriculum activities and balanced co-curriculum, among others.

My reason is slightly different though. I am worried about Aiden's ability to speak in Malay *hangs head in shame*. Despite conversing to him in Malay, his language of preference is still English. And have you seen the placement tests for Standard One? Try googling "Soalan Ujian Diagnostik Tahun Satu" to get a feel for it. Let me give you an example below:

Like seriously, do you think my boy would know what is a sauh or better yet peria? I tried it out with some of my Chinese friends, and even they couldn't name anchor and bitter gourd in Malay.

Well this post is not about public versus private schools. But rather, to share my checklist that I tick off when school hunting. If you have more to add, do share!

Medium of Instruction
This one is really a no brainer. Most private schools use English as their medium of instruction, except when teaching Malay of course. But I do make the effort to check, just in case.

Additional Syllabus
Despite it being a national private schools, some schools over additional syllabus. One private school I went to offered Singaporean Maths, Science and English over and above the national curriculum.

Class Size
This is not just maximum size per class, but also how many classes of Standard One they would expect to have, how many homeroom teachers per class, and total expected Standard One students per year.

We usually request to see the timetable. It gives a feel on how packed the timetable is, when they get breaks etc. Also, how many times they have agama class because religious study is important to us. Also general school hours and what time they get out of school, because then I would have to factor in time for kelas mengaji etc, if the school doesn't provide so. One school I visited even had pre-arranged vans to send the kids for solat Jumaat at the local mosque!

Recess, Lunch and Food
Since private schools usually go over lunchtime, I would request to see their recess and lunch meal plans. All the private schools I visited included prepaid meals in their fees, so I don't have to worry about Aiden having to buy food on his own. One school actually practices a no-cash policy; instead the kids are given a card (which the parents can reload) so they use the card to buy snacks or drinks from the school convenience store. Certainly diminishes the possibility of stolen money or bullying, I hope?

Classroom and General Facilities
This is the school facilities, such as classroom, workshops, computer room etc. They are generally all air conditioned. Also availability of lockers to store text books overnight.

Class Streaming and Assessment Tests
None of the schools I visited practiced class streaming. But they had assessment entrance exams. Best to check what the school requires for entry.

Extra Curricular Activities, Clubs and Sports
Well none of the schools we went to offered golf *giggles*, but all offered soccer. Some even had more unique sports to offer such as fencing etc. Swimming is usually a compulsory subject. One school had a separate smaller pool for Standard 3 and below, while another had an Olympic sized pool for all. Of course, I preferred the latter.

KAFA (additional Agama class)
If offered, this is a major plus point for us. With both of us working, we really do not have time (and transport) to ensure Aiden gets after school KAFA. To have school and KAFA all under one roof is certainly very convenient for us.

Fees, Uniforms and such
This is one which may make or break the deal for us. Get a copy of their fee structure, check the payment terms (by month, per semester) and dig out any hidden fees above and beyond what is published.

Some schools provide a list of their approved transporters. Also, since we work, I would make it a point to check what happens after school hours - whether there are still teachers around, in case the van doesn't show up or I arrive late to pick him up.

Last but not least, public phones are a thing of the yesteryears. I remember once in primary school, during an exam I asked for a toilet break, but instead I called my Mum using the school's public phone and asked her for help with a question I really couldn't solve. *giggles* Anyway, some private schools allow the use of mobile (not smart) phones, provided that they are kept in the locker during school hours. You know, just in case of after school emergencies.

Well that's the end of my checklist. As mentioned, if you have anymore to add, do share. Hopefully, in the next six months Aiden improves his Malay tremendously so that he can enter public schools confidently. Upon which, all of the above won't matter anymore. Until then, school hunting - that's where I'll be!!


  1. Salam Lizzie,

    Don't worry about the sauh and peria in Malay as kids like Aiden pick up very fast from suku kata lessons. My little one went from zero to almost hero in ejaan, it is English spelling that we have to be concerned with lately.

    Happy school hunting, I wrote a piece or two last year, will dig up the link for you once I can - hope this helps.

    1. Hello! Sorry my words above may have misled you (I've edited them btw). I am not too worried about his ejaan. I am more worried about his vocab. My fear is that he will look at the anchor and think 'anchor' instead of 'sauh'. What 6 year old knows that an anchor is called a sauh? Huhu... maybe I am worrying too much. But on english spelling, I agree. Some funny phonics are quite mind boggling even for me.

      Yeah, I read about your school hunting experience a while back. I actually used those as a guide for my school hunting too. Hehehe! So thanks a lot! ;)


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