My wife told me it is more difficult to consistently be a top primary school then to be a top secondary school or Junior College. Her logic is simple. In primary school, you cannot control your intake. You just take in the students based on the criteria defined by MOE. But for secondary schools and junior college, you can define entry requirements based on PSLE results or ‘O’ Level results. You will never see a top school taking in a low aggregate student. Her logic follows, students that got good results are supposedly the better students so when they enter the top secondary or junior college, they already come in with a certain high standards in academic achievements. So for these students to continue to help the top schools maintain their good rankings should not be a big problem.
It sounds logical. So then, how do top primary schools consistently produce top students and maintain their high ranking? May be Mr Lee’s logic that good parents will produce good children has something to do with it? Mr Lee once encouraged graduate parents to give birth to more children. Most of the top primary school students are children of alumnus. Assuming these are the people that contributed to the good ranking of the school during their primary school times, then their children should also be as outstanding as them.
I see the reason for the success of the top ranking primary schools to be in their system of training the children. My children were lucky enough to get into Nanyang Primary School because their mother was an alumni. Before my daughter joined their Primary One, we were invited to their P1 orientation talks. In the talk, the principle shared their expectations of the students with the parents. The school also provided a lot of enrichment programmes that were compulsory but heavily sudsidised by the school. Parents will need to share a small amount of the course.
On the first three days of the start of Primary One, we were able to go into the school during their morning assemblies and then during their recess. The school was very strict in enforcing that parents do not disturb children during their curriculum time. And even for recess, parents can only observed from behind a yellow tape and not supposed to help the children in any way in the canteen. Such strict enforcements may seem too harsh for some parents but I understood it all formed part of the system of the school. Since the start of Primary One, the children already learnt that the school can tell your parents what to do. This is a very good message to the children, they must follow the school rules when they are in school and even their parents must follow the school rules.
When I was in school, I was surprised to see students bowing to teachers to greet them. I did not remember myself doing that back in my generation, this must be very old Chinese way of showing respect to elders. It is good to see some traditions being followed.
One of the enrichment programme the school offered was Chinese calligraphy. It is a good way to introduce the children to Chinese culture when they are young. The school displayed some of the calligraphy works done by the students and there are very impressive.
The school also emphasize the importance of bilingual. During assembly, the announcements would be made in a mix of English and Mandarin and the few events I had attended in the school had also been conducted using both English and Mandarin. The principal set the best example. Always, in her speeches, she would alternate between the two languages and she shown a very high competency in both languages.
I believed the discipline, the emphasis the school placed on bilingual teaching and the good qualities of the teachers all contributed to the school ability to continually remain as one of the top primary schools in Singapore.