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Primary School (Primary 1 to 6)

Primary School is a critical period for most Singapore children. Prepare your child ahead so that they can thrive in school. Try making learning fun.

The future success of your children depends on 3 factors :

Genes or 'Tien' (What heaven has given)

Your child received his genes from his parents. He will be born with his set of skills, preferences and what I call raw IQ. This is the capacity that he is able to perform at. You and he can both work hard but his IQ will hover around his capability and ability. That is, most of us will never be Mozart, Einstein or Leonardo Da Vinci. But I always believe that we can make the best of what we have been given. If you have lemons, make lemonade! Remember that with an IQ higher than 130, how successful a person would be is more dependant on his EQ or emotional quotient.

Environment or 'Di' (What Earth has given)

By environment, I mean 'YOU'. We, as parents are the chief determinant of what your child will experience in his life. We can literally make his life paradise or hell. It is our responsibility to give them an environment that is conducive to learning and Character Building. This doesn't just involve us teaching, but also enabling your child to seek out information on his own. The world is an amazing place, so many things to read, see, watch, visit, feel and experience. If we teach our kids to grow upright like a strong tree, he won't get lost somewhere down the track. We have already filled the vessal that is our child with all the virtues, character and good habits. Hopefully, the bad stuff can't get in.

Attitude or 'Ren' (What Man can do)

Now it comes down to how hard working your child is and what kind of attitude he has towards life. This also encompasses EQ. Teach your child street smarts too, he will need it.

If all these 3 factors come together, Wow, what an amazing person we will have!

Looking for the top 1,000

OK here comes some information that may be a bit hard to swallow. The Singapore Government is always trying to find the top 1,000 kids in each cohort (or the top 2.5%). They will populate our scholars, civil servants, ministers/members of parliament and captains of industry. I am sure that is also the case in many other countries.

Society always falls in a bell curve. We have to strive to get our kids to the right of that curve, the top 2.5%. The whole Gifted programme in school is also part of that. We, as parents can do a heck of a good job with the right mindset.

Press on

Yes, there are some days when you are wondering if you had accidentally named your kid 'Hurry up!'. He is dragging his feet, whining, even crying. You can see it is going to escalate into a full blown temper tantrum. You can see the tidal wave of irritation and frustration rushing towards you like a Tsunami.

Press on, it will pass as it always does. Yelling once in a while might help you relieve your stress. I tell myself that my child's temperament was also created by me and so is my responsibility. Tough!

You must have read Amy Chua's controversial book 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother'. I actually found the book quite funny, it is obvious she was exaggerating. After all, I think I am already considered pretty over-the-top. But what is the nett result? Amy Chua's daughter is studying in Harvard University now. That's not bad at all.

Drive, Motivation and Competitiveness

In Singapore as in a few other Asian countries, the citizens are feeling the pressure from Mainland Chinese in our society. Their children are smart, driven, motivated and extremely competitive. Our local kids, on the other hand are a little on the lazy side, complacent and jaded, complaining if there is too much homework. (Try explaining that more homework is GOOD for you, to a child...)

What are you going to do about it? Are you going to rant and rave at the system, the government, the immigration policy? Have you asked yourself why these kids are performing so much better than the average local kid?

A friend in Hong Kong, working in a Swiss bank told me half of her colleagues were Mainland Chinese. They could speak Mandarin with a Beijing accent, English with a British or American accent, 2 or 3 other languages, play classical instruments like the piano and violin, plus 2 or 3 other classical Chinese instruments like the erhu or pipa. Furthermore, they could play Chess, WeiChi or Chinese Chess, Fence, or 1 or 2 other sports. They have also attended top notch or ivy league universities. I was horrified, how on earth did they find so much time to learn so many things as kids? How are my kids going to compare with that, how could they compete in the world arena?

You know what? That's what we are facing now and we have only one alternative. No, railing at foreigners in general is not going to cut it. Be Proactive and take positive action, we have to make sure our kids can measure up.

That's why we have to work hard for our kids and they have to put in their maximum effort. That is the competition we are up against, learn from them or we will be left behind. The race is over even before it began. It was over when our kids were still in school, because these dedicated Chinese have put in more effort than us.

Incidentally, if you are wondering how these Mainland Chinese do it? These kids study their school subjects and practise their core activities during the school term. During their term holidays, their parents cram their holidays with the other activities that they want their children to learn: chess, fencing, tennis, 3rd or 4th language, 3rd or 4th musical instrument, what have you.

Realize that 1 in 5 people on Earth are Chinese (and most probably from the mainland) and the China authority hasn't really opened the flood gates yet. I am a 4th generation Singaporean, but my ancestors came from Xiamen, Fujian Province in China. It has taken just 4 generations to make our kids 'soft' (I compare my kids to tofu). There is a belief that wealth never lasts more than 3 generations in Chinese families, why? Because we never teach our future generations what it takes to last out. But many rich people have shown, no matter how rich you think you are, it is possible to finish spending everything.

Now you know the task ahead. Embrace it & soldier on!

Recommended reading : Tribes - How Race, Religion and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy by Joel Kotkin. It is an amazing book explaining the material success of Jewish, Chinese, Anglo-Saxon or British, Indian and Japanese cultures.

Looking for helpful pointers on how to teach your child Math? Refer to Singapore Math.

Teach your children how to ask for help when they require it. This effective learning strategy can lead to higher feelings of competence.


There is always a Book Fair going on somewhere in Singapore. Get books at steep discounts and there are sometimes even activities available to entertain the kids at the big fairs.


Return from Primary School to Singapore Math

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Return from Primary School to Early Childhood

Return from Primary School to Persistence - The Daffodil Principle

Return from Primary School to What is Success?

Return from Primary School to Character Building

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