SINGAPORE - The move to give children attending Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens priority admission to co-located primary schools may well offer them a headstart in the academic rat race.
The change, announced on Monday (Nov 27), involves 12 kindergartens in a pilot scheme next year. MOE kindergarten children applying for admission to the respective primary school will be eligible under Phase 2A2 of the Primary 1 registration exercise, giving them a slight edge over those whose parents have volunteered in the schools, have links to churches or clans, or who are active community leaders.
Observers told The Straits Times that remaining in a familiar environment will make the transition to Primary 1 less rough for these children, allowing them to get down to the learning earlier.
Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said: "As they are familiar with the learning environment, less adjustment efforts are needed for them to transit to Primary 1."
Sengkang Green Primary principal Daphne Yeoh said some parents in the kindergarten on its premises had been asking for "direct admission" to the school.
Besides being familiar with the shared facilities, children from the kindergartens relate to the primary school pupils through joint mother-tongue storytelling and craft sessions.
"The MOE kindergarten kids and teachers also sit in on the Primary 1 classes to experience what it's like... Our primary school teachers also understand what the younger kids are learning so when they come to Primary 1, it's a seamless transition," said Mrs Yeoh.
For parent Tricica Oh, who has two daughters, it also means she has less to worry about. The 39-year-old, whose elder daughter Cassidy is starting Primary 1 at Northoaks Primary next year, said children who attend MOE kindergartens would have been prepared for primary school, having visited common school areas like the canteen.
Some MOE kindergartens also organise one-day immersion programmes for their graduating K2 pupils, including attaching them to primary school classes.
Ms Oh, an executive assistant, said: "I think there is a definite advantage for when these kids move up to the primary school, especially for the first few months."
Cassidy, six, has attended the MOE kindergarten co-located with Northoaks Primary for the past two years. Her sister, Lesley, four, will start K1 at the same kindergarten next year.
"She knows the school better than I do," Ms Oh added. "It helps that there are some familiar faces around. The kindergarten does a lot of tie-ups with the primary school, so the kids already know some of the teachers and principal by face. The principal actually recognises most of the children too. It is not so scary for a seven-year-old who is moving on to a new environment."
With the close partnership with their co-located kindergartens, primary schools would be more in tune with the needs of those children who move on to Primary 1.
Teacher Premlatha Selvaraj, 36, said information on the children's progress can be shared with the Primary 1 teachers taking them, so that the young ones will get the necessary support when they enter primary school. Her two children, Shivanesh, six, and Nivashini, five, attend the MOE kindergarten at Springdale Primary.
Beyond the transition, MOE kindergarten children may also get an advantage over their peers in their studies, thanks to professional exchanges between educators from the kindergartens and their respective primary schools on the curriculum and teaching methods.
National University of Singapore economics lecturer Kelvin Seah said the close partnership could mean greater continuity in the curriculum offered to the children.
And such opportunities for teachers to work together may increase, say school leaders.
Mr Kelvin Ho, vice-principal of Springdale Primary, which has an MOE kindergarten, said: "In a way, we are experts in our own areas. It would be helpful if the teachers of both sides can have an understanding of what happens when children transit to the next level. Then, they can help the pupils to be prepared for primary school."