New school of thought afoot among Singapore parents

When former education minister Heng Swee Keat popularised the slogan "Every school, a good school" a few years ago, it was met with some disbelief.

But a nationwide survey conducted last year has found that most parents are satisfied with their children's primary schools.

The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) poll of 1,500 Singaporean and permanent resident parents showed that a majority of them felt that most primary schools here provide high-quality education.

The sample of parents had a proportionate number of children in all the 180 or so primary schools here.

And the concept of what makes a good school is more fine-grained than most would think.

Beyond high academic grades, most parents felt that a good school is one that can help students from all backgrounds and has teachers who care about their socio-emotional development.

Other criteria that they ranked highly included an emphasis on discipline, character and values.

Academic achievement remains important, and the pressure to do well still exists - as seen by the significant proportion of parents in the survey who said helping their child with examinations and homework is stressful.

But perhaps other things such as character-building, support for weaker students and the notion that every school might be a good school in its own way is slowly sinking in.

The Ministry of Education has, over the years, taken steps to make sure that every school is able to live up to that slogan, by encouraging schools to build up their own strengths and specialities.

The process of shuffling experienced principals across schools also allows them to share their best practices and decades of insights.

Against this backdrop, it is encouraging to see that most parents are accepting of different schools, whether they are deemed prestigious or not.

Amelia Teng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2017, with the headline 'New school of thought afoot'. Print Edition | Subscribe