No stress over choosing 'non-branded' school

Ms Sharon Lim with her husband Fred Then and their sons (clockwise from top) Christopher, 10; Ian, eight; and Ethan, six.
Ms Sharon Lim with her husband Fred Then and their sons (clockwise from top) Christopher, 10; Ian, eight; and Ethan, six.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Signing children up for primary school can be a nerve-racking time for many parents, but for Ms Sharon Lim, it was the opposite.

"We believe that learning should be for the sake of learning, and that can be done anywhere and anyhow," said the 43-year-old, who is an executive leadership coach in the banking industry.

She and her husband, who runs a consultancy business, sent their two sons to Opera Estate Primary School, just a 10-minute drive from their flat in Bedok.

"We weren't going for branded schools and we were very clear about that," said Ms Lim, whose sons Christopher and Ian are in Primary 5 and 3 respectively. Her third son, Ethan, six, will be joining his brothers in school next year.

"We looked at the schools in the east and the nearest 'branded' school was Red Swastika. But it focused a lot on Chinese culture, and we wanted a school that was more multicultural," she said.


We believe that learning should be for the sake of learning, and that can be done anywhere and anyhow.

MS SHARON LIM, 43, an executive leadership coach in the banking industry

"Going to St Stephen's was also a possibility, because my husband and I came from Catholic single- gender schools," she added.

"But we wanted our children to grow up in an environment that reflects society, which has both men and women."

Because the parents of her eldest son's good friends in kindergarten had decided on Opera Estate Primary, she decided to follow suit, so that he would have company.

"Opera Estate has a nice and warm vibe and it isn't too large," said Ms Lim. "We went by faith that it was good enough, and I'm happy with our choice, because the principal and teachers really care. They focus on not just the academics but also the child's well-being.

"We work closely with the teachers and they highlight things to us, such as when my son forgets to take along his homework," she added. "It's a joint ownership that I feel comfortable with."

Principal Dennis Yap of Opera Estate Primary said: "The most important thing we've done is to emphasise that every child is precious, and that affects how we relate to them.

"I try to learn the kids' names and greet them, and talk to parents outside the school." He added that teachers refrain from shouting at pupils and using accusatory words with parents about their children's behaviour.

"We see it as working with parents to help the child, not complaining about their child," he said. "We also don't over-teach, and make sure that children have enough rest."

Teachers are allowed to specialise in two subjects instead of three, and the school deploys more teachers to classes that need more help.

Mr Yap noted that these factors have boosted children's academic performance in recent years.

"Our role is to help every child reach his potential and move on to the next stage," he said.

Amelia Teng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2015, with the headline 'No stress over choosing 'non-branded' school'. Print Edition | Subscribe