(7) Child’s Personality and Capabilities: Average or Branded School? [With Examples] [ How to Select an Appropriate Secondary School]

(7) Child’s Personality and Capabilities: Average or Branded School? [With Examples] [ How to Select an Appropriate Secondary School]

IMG_0472This is the seventh post of the series “How to Select an Appropriate Secondary School”

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The biggest headache that most parents face is if the choice of secondary school will meet our child’s needs. A quick check on the net will surface websites that advise students to look at the the child’s interests, strengths and personalities.

However, after years of observation – I realise a child’s academic performance plays the one of the biggest influencing factor in a child’s success in Secondary School.

Students who believe they are in control of their academic grades will fare better in schools.

Thus in this article, I will be looking at three main things: motivation, self-confidence and strengthssimply because there is never a child who wants to go to school to fail.  

I will be disregarding the child’s interest (this topic was covered here) and other possible influencing social factors (here and here).

RELATED: Science Shows the Best Way to Communicate with a Teenager (aged 12-19) who is not Listening to You

Now, I will be looking at a few scenarios using 2 students with different results: One child does very well for PSLE and another who just barely made it.

Please note that this is just a rough guide and may not necessarily be the truth for your child.

One thing to note is I believe very strongly in Study Skills – Which utilises the different learning styles for learning where students obtain optimal learning for minimum effort.

The reason for this is because scientifically, the knowledge to utilise many different learning styles in study skills are the main differences between weak and strong learners.

This concept has been proven several times. Yet, schools do not devote time to teach these skills in schools as it take up too much time and branded companies are charging at least 4K and above to learn them.

Now let’s look at what happens when a child enters a branded school when he/she barely makes it:1

Never forget that there will also be intense competition in a school, especially branded ones.

Furthermore, when one is not equipped with appropriate study skills, they may have a lot of trouble understanding and absorbing material before the teachers move to the next topic.

However, things might be different if one is equipped with them:


What about if my child does very well? What happens if he/she is smart from the start? If your child is given extra work and subjects as compared to the Primary school, are they able to cope with it to meet your expectations you have already implanted in them?

Remember, no child wants to make their parents unhappy by failing on purpose unless….

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However, if your child is able to manage his/her time very well with many study skills under their belt, it is very likely your child may be able to thrive very well:

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What happens if you chooses to send your child an average school? Are you making a big mistake?

Well, it depends on your child’s aptitude. Even in a neighbourhood school, there is competition and at the end of the year, the teachers may or may not remind them they will be competing with a few thousand students who will be graduating around the same as them.

If your child struggles to understand material, they may still feel overwhelmed even though the pressure is lower:

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If your child is taught a few study skills beyond what they usually use, they may actually be able to advance beyond the pack.

Otherwise, it’s up to the perseverance and full emotional support of home and/or teachers to ensure that they will be willing to spend much effort to study:

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If you have other views, please feel free to share them with me.

Bullying in Singapore: The Statistics [2.1]

Bullying in Singapore: The Statistics [2.1]

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In 2006, a research was conducted by Harvest Centre for Research , Training and Development and Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth. More than 4000 students aged 7 to 16 were interviewed via online and pen and paper. To ensure that the surveys conducted were fair, they included students from all four areas of Singapore as well as student care centres.

The online version was PRAQ (Peer Relations Assessment Form). It was a short questionnaire which could be completed in less than 20 minutes and it focused on the following:

  • the nature and extent to which bullying occurred in a school
  • how children have reacted to bullying at school
  • consequences of victims’ feelings of safety, attendance and well-being
  • informing others and outcomes
  • students’ perceptions of teachers’ concern about bullying at school

As all questionnaires were anonymous, the children were very honest in answering their questions.

The physical version was DINO-Map. It consisted a single A4-sized worksheet with pictures and only a few words on it. It was specifically designed with the self-esteem and feelings of target/victim in mind. The first page was for children to identify the types of bullying behaviour that occurred while the second page was a map to indicate where the bullying took place.

The results were stunning indeed. Although this study took place in 2006 and cyberbullying was not widespread as now, it gave extremely valuable insights on the reasons why our bullied children felt and not speaking up. For the next few posts, we will be looking at the results of the surveys.

  1. Where has bullying happened
  2. The types of bullying reported
  3. How victims or bystanders feel about bullying
  4. Whether they skipped school because of bullying
  5. Who the victims tell about their bullying encounter
  6. Whether things generally improved about reporting
  7. What victims think of teachers’ interest in solving their problems


Source: Breaking the Silence – Bullying in Singapore / Edited by Esther Ng and Ken Rigby



(6) Current Students: The Brief Window of Observation to Your Child’s Future [How to Select an Appropriate Secondary School]

(6) Current Students: The Brief Window of Observation to Your Child’s Future [How to Select an Appropriate Secondary School]

This the sixth post of the series “How to Select an Appropriate Secondary School”

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When you take a short walk under void decks or common public areas such as libraries and shopping malls, you will notice secondary school students hanging out in those areas. This is actually the best time to observe these students – though it may fall under generalisation for some.

Clues for Inferences

Time to time now, you may come across few articles that seems to showcase students under the void decks being rowdy and such. This is actually a good gauge: the more often you spy students appearing under several void decks huddling in rowdy groups, the likelier it speaks about the disciplinary issues of a school.

This is especially true if you notice small groups at various areas under void decks as it usually means the students are trying to stay out as long as possible before returning home. Interestingly, this may give another clue on the type of communication being passed down to parents. Many students tend to use ‘extra supplementary lessons’ or ‘CCAs’ as a form of excuse to stay out later than they should.


RELATED: (4) Discipline – Not Every Child can Take Tough Love

Disciplinary Committee

Usually, the Disciplinary Committee will be in charge of ensuring the students in the school are not to create a public nuisance of themselves. If the committee is often on the prowl under void decks etc, it signifies that there may be many disciplinary issues in that school. If most disciplinary issues are not handled appropriately, this will have a ripple effect on the rest of the students and they may follow suit as they realise there are ‘loopholes‘ in the system. This is where boundaries will be pushed and water tested.

‘But My Child used to be a Good Kid…’

When parents come to me saying this, it usually signifies that the child has already been sliding downwards. Many parents tend to think that students who are outwardly defiant or challenging are ones to look out for. This is not true. Our students come in all sorts: the quiet ones, the unmotivated ones, the addicted to computer games ones, the slacker ones… all sorts… they don’t act out. Social media such as ‘snapchat’ and ‘instagram’ accounts are connecting them to people in school and outside of school.

Lastly, there will be a number of classes in a particular stream. These classes will adopt different personalities as well. For example, if there are 5 classes in an Express stream of the school; the first class may have a different outlook from the fifth one. Their motivation and discipline will also vary greatly. This happens even in good schools. All in all, it can be a little challenging to ensure your child remains a sweet one until 4/5 years are up.


RELATED: (5) Culture – The Biggest Intangible Impact

What helps? 

A good way to find out more is to talk to students who are currently attending that particular school. It can be your neighbour or relative. Ask them about the students and the general behaviour of the student population. Observe how the students speak and treat each other. If you are close to the student, find out how is the culture in that school and what are the current social media trends that are taking the school by storm.

Remember to always be there for your child using non-judgemental behaviour. You will want to create a safe haven where your child finds it comfortable to share with your their thoughts and ideas instead of shirking away from you.

Overview of Bullying in Singapore: We know it Exists [1/6]

Overview of Bullying in Singapore: We know it Exists [1/6]

This is the first post of the series. 

The recent cases of bullying at Shuqun Secondary School and death of of a Spectra Secondary female student due to possible bullying sparked a huge furore and widespread concern among the local parents. What was interesting for the first case was that there were the victim apparently knew martial arts but chose not to retaliate. Rather, he was painted as someone of mental strength as he ‘chose to suffer’ rather than to return blows to hurt the boy. The second interesting tidbit was that the adjunct teacher was actually present all along … so why did he let the bullying take place?

There are many factors that take place here but it is difficult to explore all in one post.

Thus, this is a series of posts on the perception of bullying in Singapore. 

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Bullying is one of the hardest things children have to go through. It seems to take place everywhere… from preschools to universities and even at work.  I’m sure that you may know someone, or even yourself, to be a victim of bullying. When I was teaching, I encountered several cases of bullying reported by both students as well as teachers. In the past, bullying was confined to the physical environments such as schools. Now, with the explosion of social media, cyberbullying has become extremely rampant among the students and adults.

When I spoke to the victims involved, I realised that there are generally 3 categories they would fall in. They would be:

(a) believing that bullying is a norm

(b) learning to cope or live it as they happen to be ‘sway’ (unlucky)

(c) feeling tormented by it

When bullying occurs, there are usually bystanders involved. What is interesting is that teachers are usually oblivious to most of the bullying in schools – sometimes by choice (but more on this on a later post).

Types of Bullying

What are the types of bullying that take place in primary and secondary schools? The bullying tactics would be:

  • made fun of, insulted or be called names
  • rumours spread about them
  • threatened with harm
  • pushed, shoved, trupped, slapped or spit on
  • forced to do things they do not want
  • excluded from activities on purpose
  • had their property destroyed or stolen on purpose
  • cyberbullying

Why do Schools not Notice the Bullying? 

There are many reasons why bullying occur and sometimes they just slip past teachers. Here are some case studies:

Student A was always deemed as the troublemaker in Secondary 1. He tried to get attention by doing strange things or even not handing up homework. Needless to say, he incurred the ire of both his form teacher as well as students. The teacher started picking on him for small matters as he was irritated by Student A and the male students in class began to follow. Unsure of what to do, Student A continued his tirades and only smiled in response.  By Secondary 2, Student A decided to clean up his act but the form teacher and classmates did not let up. However, as the year went by, the jeering became too loud and it was only then he seek help from the new co-Form Teacher assigned to his class. Only when the new teachers spoke to the class and they admitted he had improved that they let him off. 

Student B had always seen herself as the “big sister” of the school as it was amusing and to protect herself. She would cut queues of younger students or make them buy things for her. She claimed that she was not a bully as she had never believed in harming people physically. She believed that differences among her friends and those outside her clique should be settled via ‘slaps’ or ‘catfights’. While teachers were aware she could be a handful, she made sure never to let the teachers find out of what she had done. 

Student C was a very pretty but quiet girl. When she unwittingly attracted the attention of a boy which an extremely popular girl had her eye on, the latter made sure to spread rumours, excluded her from activities and called her mean names. What was worse was that  they were from the same class. When Student C told her parents, she was told to ignore it. However, as time went by, Student C started skipping classes so as not to face them. Somehow, Student C never thought of looking for a teacher. Her friends did not suggest it even though they were aware of her problems. 

Student D had many issues at home. Angered and overwhelmed, he changed for the worse when he was in Secondary 2. For some reason, he felt the thrill of hitting students. He hung out with another student and they hid in the dark corners to pounce on unsuspecting students to punch them squarely on the jaws to show a strength of might. It was not until the victim’s parents saw the bruises that the school was notified. 

These cases are very common. In fact, it can be found across the globe. In the next post, we take a look at the statistics of victims of bullying in Singapore.



(5) Culture: The Biggest Intangible Impact [How to Select an Appropriate Secondary School]

(5) Culture: The Biggest Intangible Impact [How to Select an Appropriate Secondary School]

This is the fifth post in the series “How to Select an Appropriate Secondary School”.

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What is Culture? 

Culture refers to the the general atmosphere of the school among students and teachers. This is highly dependent on the the principal’s style of management and their beliefs in handling the situation. You can tell a lot of how principals run the school based on how students and especially teachers act in front of visitors. It can range from a culture of fear to one of a family warmth.

Types of Culture

I am listing some experiences I came across when visiting certain schools. Notice that I put a “?” beside the sub-headings as I am not entirely sure of their nature.


I remembering visiting a school for the first time for a particular event. After I registered my presence, The first thing I noticed were the stoic faces in the office. Everyone seemed to be very busy. The staff members and teachers wore lanyards with their MOE cards within. I enquired for the directions for the venue but the receptionist was not particularly helpful. Answering in short sentences, she made it clear she was not answering more than necessary. When I bumped into a teacher later on and made the same enquiries, his face was full of fear and his reply somehow struck me deeply, “I don’t know, I don’t know. You have to ask someone else.”  The second teacher I enquired with waved me in off the same manner. Somehow I managed to find my way to the venue but I was really puzzled by their responses.


It was a Friday when I visited this particular school and I must admit, I was blown away by its spirit and culture. Various CCAs had commenced their activities and I could sense their independence of the students and unity spirit all around. What blown me away was the sense of leadership displayed by the students as they conducted games and activities within their CCAs. For example, I watched intently as a group of Secondary 2 students communicated instructions effectively  to the Secondary 1 students. With such flair and poise, I had mistaken them for a group of Express students and was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were from the N(A) and N(T) batch. As I walked along the aisle, I noticed many other CCA groups being managed by the students with aplomb. It was truly fascinating indeed.

Another school I visited had a vision their N(T) students were truly stars and it actually amazed me that the N(T) students were the ones who helped out during the school events. It was clear that the program was a success as I observed the teachers of that particular school shared their practices with strong enthusiasm. The students present were also ever-ready to provide assistance to both teachers and visitors.

How Can One Observe the Culture? 

One way is to observe how teachers communicate with one another. If there are often smiles between various teachers (not just 1 or 2), it is likely that the culture is one of a family. Students are likely to treat their teachers with respect and smiles. If you observe that the teachers often have stoic faces and students present are often from the Express stream, it is very likely that the better levels tend to receive more attention than the weaker ones. In short, watch how teachers treat each other as well as the students. That should likely give a general impression.