Children pick up grown-up skills in school

More primary schools adding courses on life skills to regular curriculum

Primary 3 pupils from Chongfu School learning about teamwork through a game facilitated by an external trainer at Labrador Park last year.
Primary 3 pupils from Chongfu School learning about teamwork through a game facilitated by an external trainer at Labrador Park last year. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHONGFU SCHOOL

Learning table manners, taking personality tests and coming up with business plans - these are what many children are doing in primary schools these days.

Primary 4 pupil Tan Mei Yi from Greenridge Primary learnt goal-setting through a mega snakes-and-ladders board game, where she and her friends raced to reach the end after doing tasks.

Bukit Panjang Primary 4 pupil Chan Wan Keng picked up tips on motivation and leadership while balancing ice cream sticks on a tennis ball. "I learnt to be mindful of the strengths and weaknesses of others, and cooperate with my team members," she said.

More schools are offering enrichment activities, either on their own or through vendors, that teach children life skills usually associated with adult life, from entrepreneurship to public speaking and leadership.

At least three major enrichment organisations and one leadership group offering such programmes told The Straits Times they have seen more interest from primary schools in recent years.

Ms Ng Hau Yee, executive director of Junior Achievement Singapore, conducts workshops on business skills and financial literacy. Giving an example, she said:

"To set up an ice cream shop, we get them to do 'market surveys' to find out what flavours their friends like. Or we help them to calculate how much they would charge customers for a car wash and how much they would earn," she added.

The centre started here with 60 primary school pupils in 2008 and by 2012, it had coached some 10,000 pupils.

Mr Elmer Lau, training director of Acorn Training Consultancy, which runs leadership and communication programmes, said it worked with 14 primary schools in 2005. This grew by three times to 45 schools last year.

Mr J.D. Lee, head of the Youth Division at Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Group, said over 110,000 pupils from 55 primary schools joined its programmes in areas like motivation and leadership over the last decade.

The number of primary schools involved has grown by about 5 per cent a year for the last five years, he said.

Halogen Foundation, which specialises in youth leadership, worked with its first primary school in 2005. Last year, it worked with 22 primary schools.

Some schools also offer enrichment activities linked to life skills.

For instance, Chongfu School in Yishun, which holds an annual camp filled with sports activities, will have a day camp this year for the lower primary pupils to learn skills like tying knots and basic dining etiquette.

Its principal, Madam Foo Mui Chuw, said: "We want children to be responsible individuals. These are things they can learn when they are young."

West Spring Primary in Bukit Panjang started offering in March weekly enrichment courses run by trainers on problem-solving, presentation skills using art, as well as calligraphy and wushu.

Its principal, Mrs Jacinta Lim, said these optional courses each have about 30 to 80 pupils.

She said: "We want to add value to whatever they learn in class. These skills will help students think better and prepare them for life's challenges."

An Education Ministry spokesman said schools conduct enrichment activities to broaden the curriculum according to students' different needs and interests.

As Halogen Foundation chief executive Sean Kong said: "It's good to start building the foundations from young. You are never too young to lead."

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