In 2013, the principal from Jurong West Secondary School asked a daring question during a discussion at an education forum on the topic of making every school a good one.
“How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their home? (Only) until they actually do so are parents going to buy (it),” she was quoted as saying in The Straits Times. Her question went viral on social media and she was even hailed a ‘hero’.
Since that incident, there has been a divide between IP schools and non-IP schools where IP schools are considered ‘Elitist’. Many parents wonder why they should send their child to an IP school. If every school is a good school and the teachers in non-IP schools are just as qualified, is it really worth the hassle of going through the Direct School Admissions (DSA) process and spending huge amount of money on tuition lessons to ensure a high T-score in the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE)?
Here are 5 reasons why you should consider sending your child to an IP school.
Low Student-Teacher Ratio in the classroom
IP schools have an average of 25 students per class. Why are small classes important? Small classes ensure that your child will not be lost in the crowd or fall through the crack. Non-IP schools have an average of 40 students per class. No matter how committed a teacher is to her students, the heavier workload will make it difficult for her to reach out to students who need more help. The students in IP schools come from the top 10% of the cohort each year and the learning structure in these schools is self-directed learning. This means that should a student have any difficulty, the form teacher will have time to help the student in need.
Using Temasek Junior College as an example, the school practices the following to ensure that their students will succeed in their programme:
“TJC prides itself for a warm environment and a caring culture. In Year 3, we dedicate 2 form teachers to each class of a small class size of not more than 25 students to engage them at a more in depth and personal level to better understand their development needs. Our student welfare team consisting of full time counsellors and a strong team of teacher counsellors work together closely to ensure that students are provided with effective support to handle the rigour and demand of the programme.
RELATED: Is DSA right for my Child?
Professional Development for Teachers
NIE has been doing a good job training and preparing teachers. The problem is teachers in non-IP schools do not have a choice as to which schools they are placed. The stress level of these teachers are high and the high turnover rate reflects that too. Many teachers become disillusioned after a while and some good teachers leave for the private sector to set up tuition centres or provide tuition services. IP schools on the other hand are allowed to recruit their own teachers. As such you can find highly qualified teachers from Singapore and other foreign countries teaching at these schools. Teachers are hired based on qualification, experience, competence and passion for the subjects they will teach. Some of these schools also provide and encourage professional development through foreign universities for their teachers as with the case of Hwa Chong Institution. HCI runs a Graduate School of Education for their teachers offering Masters of Education and Doctorates of Education in collaboration with The University of Western Australia. (http://www.hci.edu.sg/about/careers/3)
Although the Singapore Government spends a lot of money on education by upgrading all the schools, the money allocated to each school is not always the same amount. No one can deny that IP schools have the best facilities. The money to build these facilities do not come just from the government but also from donations. Their libraries house the widest range of books and research materials that rival any public libraries. They use the latest technologies in the classroom to enhance learning. They have first class sporting facilities with some of the best coaches to manage the sporting programmes. CCA is also a major part of IP schools and they offer the widest array of activities for the students to participate in. Raffles Institution, for example, boasts the following facilities:
“At Raffles Institution, our students are provided with state-of-the-art facilities – both for academic and non-academic pursuits. Our facilities include:
- 6 Lecture Theatres (LTs)
- Computer laboratory with 40 workstations
- Fully-equipped gymnasium
- 2 Libraries with over 105000 items
- Media Studio
- Olympic-sized swimming pool
- Performing Arts Centre
- Running track with field
- Students’ Lounge
- Wireless campus
A Holistic Education
Not having to take the O’levels frees students from mugging for a national exam thus having more time to learn life skills. This can take the form of elective studies such as philosophy, psychology, social etiquette, public speaking, leadership, character development, problem solving just to name a few. More time can also be spent on participating in competitions from sports to academic. Students are also given opportunities to plan events for schools and their communities which teaches them responsibility and empathy. I am sure non-IP schools do offer some of these as well, unfortunately a lot more time is spent preparing for O’levels so the experience is not as extensive.
Entry to Top JC followed by a place in University
Being in an IP school means that your place in a top JC is more or less guaranteed. Although there have been cases of students who did not succeed in an IP programme, the numbers are relatively small. 95% of students from top JCs receive a place in a local or foreign university. Many receive scholarships to study in Ivy-league universities overseas. Some students from RJC and HCI were given a place in these universities even before they received their A’level results. This is because IP school diplomas are highly recognised by universities locally and overseas.
Beyond the 5 reasons I have shared with you, there are more I have not mentioned. For me personally, a holistic education that does not follow the standard Singapore education system allows our children to compete better in a competitive society like Singapore.
Having said that, one should still choose the school that best fits the learning ability of one’s child thereby ensuring a successful outcome in the future.