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Volunteering at Northland Primary School

Singapore's educational system is modelled after the British one. Actually is modelled by  the British. So we have primary schools, secondary schools, college and universities (and a few other things). Schools compete with each other and put a huge effort in branding themselves (mostly with bright students and good Alumni connections). Back in Germany the Primary Schools don't do that and you simply go to the nearest one. So I felt a little helpless when we had to select one for Anthony and Ernest. They will go to Primary one in 2007, so selection had to be done now to be able to take the needed action.
We decided on the Northland Primary School. It has a decent reputation and is not too far away from where we stay. Admission to the school is regulated by a (at least for me) confusing set of rules about school distance, siblings in school, Alumni connection and parent contribution. Since we just live outside the 1km circle of practically sure admission we had to opt for scheme 2b. That means voluntary work of the parents. This doesn't guarantee admission, but increases the chances.
Until today all of the hours have been contributed by my wife. Today was my turn. The school was organizing a sports day with many station where the students had to exercise. My station was basketball. So 300 kids had 3 turns each to score. Balls were flying in all directions and I had fun doing 900 times catch the ball and throw it back. I definitely can skip my gym session tonight. There might be photos up on the parent volunteers website.

Posted by on 10 March 2006 | Comments (4) | categories: Singapore


  1. posted by Kapali on Friday 10 March 2006 AD:
    Sorry to hear that you need to do so much to get an admission for primary education in a developed country? Sounds really crazy/absurd to me.

    I wonder what the parents who can't really afford to do it in terms of time & resources end up doing.
  2. posted by Kapali on Saturday 11 March 2006 AD:
    Well, pardon my ignorance about it - I am not a parent and so didn't think about a lot of other aspects as well.

    We used to have a parent - teacher meeting in school days to just appraise the progress.

    From what I understand about the rules in singapore - Keeping it mandatory & forcing it upon everyone more as a catch for admission did sound to me as a bit unreasonable, thats all.
  3. posted by Stephan H. Wissel on Saturday 11 March 2006 AD:
    it actually is good fun, so besides the sour muscles today I enjoyed it a lot. Parent participation especially in Primary School is an important part of parenthood. Interacting with the school on a more regular basis than just on parents days will give one a better feel what is going on and gives the kids the feeling, that school is really important if their parents spend so much unpaid time in it.
    The standards are not very high. The mandatory time for qualifying in the scheme is 30 hours (one time) over the course of 6 month. All parents I spoke with far exceed this time, since they have fun. Alran, one of the helpers yesterday still joins the volunteer comunity despite the fact that all his kids have graduated at least 2 years ago.

    As a parent you should be able to free up 30 hours for your kid, that's all of the resources you need. That's 6 half days of leave (3 for each parent). No big deal. If everything else would be more important, wouldn't be that a rather sad statement for parents?
    Emoticon wink.gif stw
  4. posted by H.L. on Saturday 05 August 2006 AD:
    It's good to have such an idea, however, it was brought up to my attention that primary school with such many complicated rules and not knowing how to deliver it effectively in order to gain understanding from the public is just all unless. For instance, having security at the front gate is good protection to the children and showed how safety of their children was prioritised by the school. Nevertheless, how they've had come about delivering their services to the public has totally humiliated me as a helper wanted-to-be of service to the school, and all, juz because I'm a foreigner. Security officer ('Singh') could have rejected my entry to the school politely with an explaination of school's policy instead of asking "what is this Malaysian girl doing here?" and with a sorta debating like attitude to queries I had. And yes, I'm absolutely offended by what I've taken it as, discrimination. I'm not juz somebody who was up to somethin bad nor a rude undergraduate from Australia that wanted to help. So, what I'm left with by the school was yet another bad impression of "is this how nowadays schooling in Singapore is like?" or "maybe it's juz how it's supposed to work under singapore's system?" All I gotta say is, it was juz not a very friendly environment to be at.