New guide helps parents balance emotional and academic success

For example, students at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Primary) taking part in physical activities and sports during recess.
For example, students at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Primary) taking part in physical activities and sports during recess.PHOTO: ST FILE

It is most encouraging that a new National Institute of Education (NIE) guide for teachers and parents on children transitioning to Primary 1 advocates a greater focus on emotional development with less emphasis on worksheets (Children need more support to transition to P1: Researchers, Feb 7).

The changes suggested by the new NIE guide are the first step in resolving the conflict between raising well-rounded children and academically successful children.

It should come as no surprise that a local survey found Singaporean parents are concerned about their children's emotional development.

In theory, many know that inculcating confidence and positive feelings about learning in children is more important than worksheets and exam drills.

In practice, however, our ultra-competitive school environment makes parents worry about their children being trained to take tests or risk being left behind when they enter Primary 1.

These two goals - of supporting an emotionally well-balanced child as well as a test-and school-ready child - are not always aligned.

Hence, the guide is handy as it will slow the creep of worksheets and spelling tests to ever-younger age groups in service of "school readiness".

However, a true reorientation of priorities will come only if the entire education system - and not just in the transitional pre-school to Primary 1 years - takes on the same holistic approach.

Chin Hui Wen (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'New guide helps parents balance emotional and academic success'. Print Edition | Subscribe