The adventures of the school hunter

**disclaimer, yet again** This post potentially would dwindle into a rant and a typical Singaporean complaint. So if you don’t like that, please close the browser now. Thank you.

Yep, I know. Shouldn’t this issue be resolved? But by sheer bad luck, we are now on waiting list at J Montessori cos someone took that last place. And now I’m back to square one although we are clearer about the kind of school we want.

This whole school hunting process got me really thinking. And if you still reading, let me share with you my experience.

We started off looking for a school with childcare (cc) services. Little did we know that they are everywhere. Wanted to go for that because we were not ready to get a maid. So, I started my email enquiries to quite a few.

Then, after speaking to lil girl’s grandparents and her PD, we decided that maybe we should opt for half-day school or 3-hour playgroup instead. Simply because we want to minimize her exposure to the bugs. So, we got a maid to help us to cope.

We started our visits, not many, just 4 that’s within our budget of not more than $800. And here’s my observation from the visits to 4 very different schools.

1. SL: a typical locate-in-a-private- estate CC centre. Very experienced teachers but probably tired too. strong curriculum, I must say. However, hb and I feel that the kids look rather unhappy. Somehow, we feel that this is not the kinda school for lil girl.

2. LV: very nice environment. Fun curriculum. Doesn’t feel like a CC centre. But the feel I get is there are many enrichment programs that need to be paid for. For things like music and movement, I don’t mind paying but for stuffs like hanyu pinyin, I don’t see why the teachers can’t teach.

3. GUG: after attending their weekday classes, my thoughts of them changed a lot. In fact, I’m putting lil girl in their playgroup while waiting for a place at JM. Main issue is, it’s only 3 times a week and it’s expensive. No subsidy and we cannot use baby bonus. Also, I’m not too sure about it’s nursery and kindergarden program. The teachers teaching the older kids seem a bit dull.

4. JM: our top choice. Simply because after going through GUG and JG with lil girl, we are convinced that she is a Montessori kid, or rather, she needs a Montessori type of environment. She’s someone who has no order and no sense of boundary. And montessori is exactly about that. Problem is, it has no place for lil girl and the school is using the excuse that she is not 2.5 YO to make us wait and continue with the nite program. To make it more unpleasant for us (this is where the typical complaining Singaporean is coming in), they are pushing us to their CC at CBP. And it cost a freaking $891 per month after subsidy for a half-day programme.

This brings me to my 2 biggest grievances in this whole school hunting experience. First, I need $$$. Now, if I can afford the almost $2k fees at EH, you’d think I’ll be writing all these down? Obviously not, cos I would be sitting pretty in the name of elitism. So, I decide to be realistic, I did not bother to visit them nor put lil girl on the waiting list because we will end up liking the school and hating ourselves for not being up there.

So, we hunted for schools that meet our budget. And my 2nd grievance is dismay after dismay, I must say.

1. Very few schools have 3-hour programme. They don’t even call themselves schools. They pride themselves as CC centers. And because of their CC services, they charge higher. Money aside, I do not want to send my girls there because many of them include bath time, lunch, diaper changing in the half day programme. I have a maid, their popo and myself to take care of them, why should I let my girls bath with the whole world and also with boys?

2. Why is pre-school education not subsidized? I have 2 kids. And if JM has places for us, it means $700 a kid per month for us. Baby bonus can be used but I calculated, it’s not enough to sustain till k2.

3. The $150 and $300 subsidy for CC is not enough. In fact they are peanuts! I have heard from friends that schools are increasing fees yearly but not the subsidies.

4. To be fair, it’s not easy to get good teachers given the job nature and the meagre pay. Therefore, schools have to charge high fees. So, shouldn’t looking into helping schools be done?

5. Well, no offense cos I have friends who send their kids to the brand name schools. I think subsidies should not be given to schools that charges too high. If the parents chose the schools, it probably means that they can do without that few hundred bucks. Give that money to other schools so that they can employ better teachers without increasing fees.

6. Does it mean that because we can’t afford the fees that elite schools charges, our kids are doomed to be heart-landers with no chance to be an elite?

I think I’m going a little too far in this. Thinking too much. But I find it really scary that I can draw such conclusions from just pre-school hunting. It boils down to wanting the best for my girls with the limited resources we have. To be really honest, I’m sounding a little more pathetic than I should. Seriously, I think if I’d told someone that I want to send the girls to EH or CT, he would surely help but I guess it’s all about pride and the angst after this whole school hunting crap.

Suddenly the idea of home-schooling comes to me. But the sketchiness of what the kids must know before p1 is irritating and not forgetting, the need to socialize.

PCF probably, but the queue is crazy and is it the best for my girl who seems to have a little problem conforming to social norms.

Maybe the mummy shouldn’t have quit her job hahha… But then that would not give me that time to spend with the girls like what I’m doing now.

Well well, hopefully, not many have read this far. I guess the school hunting continues or maybe, JM will suddenly tell me that they have place for lil girl…sigh

Hmm in the first place, why must we send kids to school so early??? Sigh… Blame the bigger picture.


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