The following are some of the factors (not in order of importance) you may want to consider in wisely selecting a secondary school:
(1) Location / Distance of school from home: Secondary school students have a lot of work to do (academic and CCA), so please factor this in and not just think of how prestigious the school is. When I studied in RI from 1985 to 1988, I was staying at Chai Chee Road, and had to travel about 1hr 15 mins to Grange Rd almost every day. RJC was then, at Mt Sinai Rd, even further and the travelling time became 1.5 hrs. Thus I was sleepy most of the time and did badly in school tests and I did well only at the major national exams as we were allowed home study time. Today, we are staying at Bukit Batok and my daughter’s school is just a 5 min drive away, and she’s doing very well in school.
(2) Type of school (Integrated Programme; O-Level, IB etc): I had posted another article on the pros and cons of going to a school where students skip the O-level exams. This is something you have to consider carefully – the significance of not having an O-Level certificate. Remember that not all IP school students make it to Year 6, and of those who do, some are ill-prepared to take a high-stakes national exam and end up with poor A-Level grades. I’ve also posted another article on IB vs A-Levels.
(3) CCA available: I know of a student who goes to a particular school because that school provides Lion Dance as a CCA. Not all schools provide Rugby, Soccer or Fencing etc. So if your child has a strong interest in a particular CCA, it is important that you check out whether that CCA is available in the desired school.
(4) Subject Combination for O-levels: Some schools do not provide Economics and some schools don’t even have Tamil Language. In some schools, it is compulsory for all its Sec 3 students to take up A. Math and Chemistry. And some schools do not provide O-Level Literature or Art. And how many triple pure science classes does the school normally provide?
(5) Niche area: Some schools are better equipped for Sports, some for Science and others for the Arts.
(6) Co-Ed or Single-Gender: It is still a debate whether single-gender schools are better for teenagers than dual-gender ones. Some prefer daughters to be in an all-girls school. Bear in mind that all JCs and polytechnics are dual-gender institutions.
(7) The Principal: Sad to say, some school principals don’t know how to motivate their staff or their students. Some care about their overall school results more than the willingness of their individual students to explore and learn. But principals come and go, and the school culture may change when there is a change of headmaster.
(8) Affiliation: You may want to choose a secondary school that is affiliated to a junior college.
(9) School Culture: Some schools have a very pressurizing and competitive environment, and these schools are not necessarily the top ten schools. I think the environment in schools which are TRYING to create an image of being a top school is more pressurizing than that in a really top-performing school. Thus you might find that the exam papers in some top schools are actually easier than those found in less prestigious schools.
(10) It’s Cut-off PSLE Aggregate: This number will give you an estimate of your chances of entering a particular school. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to be the amongst the last few to obtain a place in a certain school, even if it is a prestigious school. Would you rather be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond? Some parents say that being in a top school would motivate their child, but they forget that being in such a school can also destroy their child’s confidence in his or her abilities (this actually originally happened to some of my tutees from hci, nygs, crescent, nan hua, rvhs and njc).
(11) It’s Median PSLE Aggregate: Parents often forget to look at this one. If your child’s PSLE score is such that he or she is in the bottom half of the school’s cohort, chances are, he or she will not be in the top classes and will not get the full support or resources from the school. Some schools even assign their best teachers to the top classes only, and the lower-end classes may often get relief teachers.
Anyway, I wish all post-PSLE students and their parents all the best in their choosing of secondary schools. Please bear in mind that your performance at the PSLE is a poor predictor of your performance in secondary school, because the assessment style and aims have changed.
Lastly, is every secondary school a good secondary school? You decide. : )
I was a secondary school teacher for 3 years before becoming a tutor in 2004. I also taught in a private school and in an international school. I’ve taught Math, Science, Physics and Chemistry to all kinds of students from Pri to JC and from all streams: Express, NA, NT, IP and IB. From my students and their parents I’ve learnt a lot about the various schools in Singapore, their problems, their strengths and so on. I also come from a family of teachers, and many of my friends are also teachers, HODs, VPs and Ps. I tutor my own children and they all have become proficient in Math and the Sciences. My youngest daughter just got her PSLE (2016) results and this will be the 3rd time I’m going through this school selection process. If you have any questions regarding schools, education or about tuition, feel free to contact me at 97860411. I will help answer your questions as best as I can. All the best!
By EX-MOE TEACHERS & EXPERIENCED TUTORS
@ BLK 644, BUKIT BATOK CENTRAL, #01-68. S(650644).
CALL 65694897 OR SMS 98530744 OR 97860411.