|Five-year-old Timothy Hui leaving Nanyang Kindergarten, where he attends lessons from 8-11.15am. His mother then drives him to St James’ Church Kindergarten, where his lessons begin at 11.30am. – Photos from The Straits Times
By JANE NG
At five years old, Timothy Hui has a school schedule that rivals that of his brother Isaiah in Primary One.
The Singapore boy attends Nanyang Kindergarten from 8-11.15am, and is then whisked off in his mother’s car to a second kindergarten.
Lessons at St James’ Church Kindergarten start at 11.30am, so he changes uniform during the 15-minute car ride. He has lunch when he gets to St James’, and attends lessons there until 2.30pm.
|(Top) Timothy changes into his St James’ uniform during the 15-minute car ride from Nanyang Kindergarten. (Below) And, Timothy in class at St James’. His mother is happy with St James’ methodology which uses project work, incorporating inquiry, teamwork and presentation skills, and encourages a child to speak his mind.
While there are no national figures on the number of children who go to two kindergartens, parents and principals of preschools interviewed say it is not unusual these days for tots like Timothy to attend two kindergartens a day.
Principals say parents are becoming more “kiasu,” a colloquialism for “afraid to lose out,” and want their children to be well-prepped for primary school.
Some parents say they do so because they want to expose their children to different programmes and keep them “meaningfully occupied.”
In Timothy’s case, his father Luke Hui, 40, a bank director, says a friend’s child has blossomed in St James’ so they decided to let Timothy, then four and already in Nanyang’s nursery class, try out the lessons there.
His mother, Zou Xiao Dong, 38, a housewife, says Timothy used to be prone to throwing tantrums, but he is now more bubbly and chatty, attributing the change to St James’ methodology. It uses project work, which incorporates inquiry, teamwork and presentation skills, and encourages a child to speak his mind.
She says she ensures he has enough rest by putting him to bed at 8.30pm, and that he has time to play after school and 30 minutes of homework.
Nanyang Kindergarten principal Magdalene Ang estimates that a third o f her 500 charges attend two preschools. These parents hope to have the best of both worlds for their children – Nanyang with its deep focus on Mandarin, and a separate English-based kindergarten.
Ang says it is a growing trend she does not encourage, because it could be stressful for the child, who has to deal with the homework and curriculum demands of two schools.
Having a young preschooler shuttle from school to school daily can be unsettling, says Barker Road Methodist Church Kindergarten principal Leong Sau Ling, whose centre used to have a “substantial number” of pupils who attended two kindergartens. Some would attend a Montessori preschool or Nanyang Kindergarten in the morning and then her school in the afternoon.
“They will have three hours of Montessori classes or three hours of Chinese classes at Nanyang, followed by our bilingual programme,” she says.
The school has revamped its programme to incorporate elements of the Montessori approach and Chinese enrichment programmes, and today she is aware of just one pupil in her current crop of 600 who attends two preschools.
Audrey Wong, a tuition teacher in her 30s, says her elder son Wynston attended two kindergartens for a spell last year, when he was four.
He attended the MRC Learning Centre in Downtown East in the morning, then took the school bus home for lunch at noon. After lunch and some TV or play time, he would attend the PCF Kindergarten in his block in Punggol for lessons from 2-5pm.
Says Wong: “He was very bored at home after school. I give tuition and have no time to look after him, so he would just play with the maid, so I decided to send him to a second school.”
She ended the arrangement this year after signing him up for enrichment lessons after school each day.
She says she would send her younger son, now nine months old, to two kindergartens as well. Wong is married to a manager in his 30s.
Dr Christina Lim-Ratnam, senior lecturer at the National Institute of Education, says: “Parents should ask themselves if it’s really for the child’s wellbeing. If parents reinforce the language at home, it’s not necessary to attend two kindergartens.”
Jacqueline Chung, principal of St James’ Church Kindergarten, says since most kindergartens have a structured environment, six hours of non-stop activities is a bit much for a young child because “children need down time.”
She has had parents ask her if their children can attend both sessions in her school, and she asks them: “Whatever for? They will be learning the same thing.”
Changi Bethany Kindergarten principal Deborah Pay, who previously had pupils in her school enrolled in two kindergartens, notes that such children tend to be less co-operative in class because of physical or mental exhaustion.
Parents who want to help their children develop can do so by simply spending time with them, advises Dr Lim-Ratnam. “Parents should love their children, not simply educate them,” she adds. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network