Posts Tagged “parent volunteer”

i think we’ve established just how stressful registering a child for primary one is. well, for the majority of first-time parents anyway. to everyone who survived this year’s registration process, congratulations!

so, i finally got around to asking my mum how it was during her time when she had to register us for primary school. as it turned out, there *was* a priority and balloting system back then too. and here i was, thinking i was from a dinosaur era where such things didn’t exist, where it was all a simple process of enrolling within a certain distance from where you lived.

mum was teaching at an all-boys’ school when my brother turned primary one, and teachers had priority to register their children in the school where they taught. she transferred to another school nearby soon after, so when it was my turn to register for primary one, i had sibling priority for the all-girls’ school next door, which was affiliated to the all-boys’ one… so yeah, that’s the story. no regrets – loved the school, the teachers, the yellow pinafore, heck even the brown bloomers we had for P.E… (nostalgia is a funny thing, heh.)

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(hmm actually, come to think of it, i don’t know why she didn’t just enrol me at the all-girls’ school where she was teaching then, that would’ve saved me SO much time/effort/headache now, seeing how (a) that school has since turned co-ed, (b) shifted to tampines from its original ceylon rd location, and (c) is highly-sought after by parents in this vicinity… ah well, i guess it wasn’t meant to be…)

she also mentioned briefly about the ‘graduate mother scheme’, where priority was given then to children whose mothers were degree holders. thankfully, this was abolished soon after it was implemented, because frankly, i found it a little appalling. i mean, seriously, first you get all mothers to stop at two kids, and when the higher-educated mothers were having fewer babies than lower-educated ones, you worry about the ‘lopsided procreation pattern’. then you use paper qualification as a measure of ‘intelligence genes’, and entice them to beget ‘intelligent’ citizens by giving them first choice of primary schools? maaan, that just reeks of…. well, you know, the ‘E’ word. (the opposite effect imagined in mike judge’s ‘Idiocracy’ – see movie intro.)

in any case, many non-graduate mothers did eventually churn out graduate children after all, so.. phooey.

aaanyway, back to the present time, where the primary school registration system continues to boggle the minds of many. i’d mentioned about doing parent volunteering in the hopes of stepping around the dreaded phase 2C, where it’s a free-for-all and luck plays a big part, like striking 4D or toto. i was having none of that, no siree bob.

and, i am ashamed to admit this.. we ended up each doing PV in two different schools. “WHAT in kiasu gods’ name?! are you MAD? that’s a total of 80 hours of your life!” yes, we’d narrowed down to two choices and we couldn’t decide, so we strategised – in a ‘let’s poke around both and see what each one offers’ kinda way. it was like dating two prospective partners at the same time, or an episode of “The Bachelor” without the rose-giving ceremony…

so within the year, i’d gone on learning journeys to various places (i think i learned more than i ever did during my accumulated years of excursions), did some library inventory (so thaaaat’s what school kids are reading these days, i discovered), talked to teachers, parents, students… while the husband did traffic duties, some e-learning session, talked to teachers, parents, students (and apparently, even canteen aunties)… we observed the culture, the environment, the programmes… and only on the last few days before the anticipated phase 2B did we eventually decide, after a lot of consideration.

one of the factors for choosing school Y over X was the overwhelming registration in the earlier phases for the latter school. it was obvious from the numbers that a balloting would have to take place, and that involved a risk since we live outside the 1-2km proximity. school X has a long history, and with many of its alumni from our generation having children of the same age seeking tradition, many slots were understandably filled up in the earlier phases.

i also presented our dilemma to a number of people whose opinions i value, and they were surprisingly unanimous in their advice. even aniq himself voiced his preference. and since school Y had the foresight to take in a comparatively smaller number of parent volunteers, our slots were confirmed, which meant no stressful balloting.

so there, voila – our firstborn officially has a place in primary school. we did what we could to secure a place for him, and … i hope it’s the right place for him to bloom. (or i’ll freakin’ stuff him in my old brown P.E. bloomers.)

and that ends our ‘exciting’ kancheong-first-time-parent milestone of registering a child for primary one. phew.

(now starting to think about our second round of decision-making, a few years down the road. do i want to see auni in a yellow pinafore being all demure like this? HELL YEAH I WOULD. i’ve always wanted to pass down this yellow-pinafored ‘tradition’ if i ever had a daughter. but hey, there’s still time to make me change my mind… :p)

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(oh my goodness, almost 30 years later and i still have the same haircut?! LOL.)

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it never occured to us when we got married and bought a house and had babies, that at some point in time, they would soon reach the ripe schooling age of seven and there would be the issue of registering them in a primary school.

we kinda overlooked that part, really. back then, we only had the short-term view of ensuring that our location of residence would be in close proximity to my parents, for many reasons (other than the $40k grant) – the convenience of checking in on each other, the supply of home-cooked food, the default caregiver to our kids… in short, we chose our mainly solely for the family support factor.

only in later years did we realise, there were in fact many parents who chose/moved/rented houses for the sole purpose of being in close proximity to good, reputable schools, thereby increasing their chances of placing their young child/ren in them. it was a radical jolt to my system, this piece of info. i mean, we seriously never thought about it. “like, really? people would go to such lengths?” well that just goes to show how, err, ill-prepared we were with the realities of being parents of school-going children in singapore.

so then i heard about this whole fantastical system called the Primary One Registration that had these things called phases, and it was again, another rude shock to my oyster shell. “what? there are priorities given to register kids in school OTHER than proximity?!” my mom never told me thaaaaat. (ok maybe she did but i wasn’t listening, and besides, times have changed since she retired… i think.)

all the horror stories began to fill my ears, of parents who lived across the road from a particular school but did not succeed in obtaining a place for their kid, of parents who performed volunteer work religiously yet did not get through the balloting, of HOW HARD it is to get into that particular school because it’s so reputable, neighbourhood status notwithstanding, that it’s oversubscribed every year.

i’m sure there are just as many, if not more, parents who don’t think much of primary schools, and are just boggled over the fuss in the first place. “it’s just PRIMARY school, many kids come out of normal, nondescript ones doing well too, big deal.” they’re right, of course. i admire that kind of brave confidence, actually – that their kids CAN do well no matter where they go to, that it’s only in secondary school where they’ll ‘bloom’.

my parents, for some reason, had sent me to a particular girls’ school in the east, which was, in that era, a somewhat popular one. i remember going to school together with her on the bus and watching her by the school gate as she leaves – that particular image of her still stirs in me that same sad feeling to this very day. (separation anxiety, you may call it.) and if anything, that’s testament to how powerful your emotions and experiences are in the primary years, that it stays with you throughout your life. and i guess that’s the point i’m making; i had such deep, long-lasting impressions in my formative years in primary school – of friends and teachers, and importantly, of learning (i had such excellent language teachers, and i have them to thank for planting the seed that eventually became my strength) – that those six years were the most memorable ones for me. they weren’t all necessarily good ones, but i think, important ones. (though, ironically, the one thing i still can’t fully master, despite ten freaking years in a girls’ school, is dealing with the dynamics in a group of girls, ha haha. ahem.)

in any case, i wouldn’t be able to put aniq in a girls’ school, so the parents-as-alumni priority phase is out.

i looked around and realised, while there were a few neighbourhood schools that weren’t too bad, on account of the accolades they proudly blaze on banners outside their school gates, i sorta wish for my kid to go to nicer-sounding ones, with established history and long track record, and i don’t know, knowing actual people who came out of there and had promising/successful paths, you know? i guess all that sounds superficial and unreliable as basis for my choice, because i’ve NO idea what would work for my kid, whether he’ll thrive or survive regardless of the environment, what kind of teachers he’ll get, what kind of friends he’ll be surrounded with. then of course, there’s still the matter of convenience and proximity and sheer logistics… (by now, you’d have me for the typical overthinking, worrywart of a first-time parent, and you’d be right – bah!)

for all the uncertainties, i figure, the least i could do is try to get him into a school which he could one day thank me for, one that will hopefully leave a positive influence on him, and who knows, i could create a legacy for him, some day make it easier for him when the time comes to register for his kids when they reach the ripe schooling age of seven. (forward thinking, you know.)

and because i need some sense of being in control, i chose to do the beaten path of parent volunteering, a concept i never imagined i’d embrace (just like exercising – 2010 seems to be a year of new discoveries, it would seem).

we were duly warned that there were no guarantees despite clocking in that 40 hours of PV (or more, as some have done). i’m not even sure if it’s worth doing it, really. it’s not say, the top school (if anything, i’m easily intimidated by competition), it’s not affiliated to any secondary schools, and it’s technically a neighbourhood school which is out of our 2km range… but i have my reasons for choosing it.

i’m going in with no high hopes, in case this is all a futile exercise. heck, i don’t even know if i’ll be able to complete the 40 hours! i’ll just take it as… experience? experiment? yeah, just go with it.

anyway, clocked in my first four hours at their annual funfair on friday. that’s me, in a badge that says ‘parent volunteer’, sweating under a hot tent, touting and doling out food which the other parents contributed. the REAL, hardcore parent volunteers, the NON-40-hour ones, mothers AND fathers who’ve been at this for years! omg i’ve never known such a thing as their enthusiasm and devotion to a parent volunteering network, i’m a little.. overwhelmed. :D

so, dear aniq, this better be worth my 40 hours….

pv@magicland

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