Thursday, June 7, 2018

Choosing the Right Schools For My Kids

The decision of sending my kids to which schools is not easy.

My kids, both Shern and Khye went to about 1/2 year of playschool before started Nursery. Then progressed to Kindy and Prep Class.
Vern is still in playschool now.

When it comes to formal education (Standard 1/Year 1) at 7yo, I had a difficult decision to make for both my kids.

As you know, Malaysian education does not have a good reputation. Previous Ministers have been treating our education as a political agenda. Our Science and Math subjects have been changing from BM to English and now back to BM. Syllabus and also language especially the Malay language has been forever changing.

Decision for Shern

During Shern's time I decided to send him to an International School, admittedly because he was clueless in Mandarin. No one in our family speaks Mandarin. Not us, not the grandparents.  It was our mistake for not starting him with Mandarin earlier on. And it also doesn't help that he is really weak in languages.

So when it came to enrolling him to Std 1, I didn't send him to a SJKC as initially planned because he could not understand a word in Mandarin. So he would have no idea what the teacher will be saying.
Some friends told me to just "dump" him in SJKC and he will somehow "learn to float/survive" there.
Yes, I agree he would but to me, this was not a good way to start his formal education.

And although I think Chinese/Mandarin is very important, it is not the most important subject of all. I would want my kids to learn how to converse in Mandarin and to read/write in Mandarin, and so I sent him for tuition classes.

Shern is still very bad in Mandarin (and obviously hates it), and I had been toying with the idea of increasing his Mandarin tuition classes. But now after much thinking, I decided that the Mandarin tuition he is having now is enough. I won't add to it.
Language may not be his thing. And I think it is no use trying to force it into him.

This doesn't mean that I don't think learning Mandarin is not important. It is just that I will let him learn it at his own pace, and to treat learning Mandarin as a lifelong, gradual process.

Now I hope to encourage him to learn and not "force" him to learn.
I hope that one day, Shern will be able to enjoy learning Mandarin.

Decision for Khye

And now comes Khye's time. He is 6yo now and doing Prep class in his Kindy. He will be entering formal education next year if I sign him in for SJKC.
Khye on the other hand has been attending Mandarin class since he was 4yo. He is quite good at it and enjoys going to class.

Now, the question is, should I send him to SJKC.
Khye is quite the studious kind who loves to study. However, feedback from teachers is that he loves asking questions in class and is very curious about everything and thus he always put up his hand to ask questions in class.
I see this as a good thing. Asking questions is good if the school environment/teacher encourages it.

Many parents feedback to me that in SJKC, asking too many questions is not encouraged. Reason being there will be 40+ students in the class and that the teacher won't have so much time to entertain this. And also if asking too many question, one would easily be the "target" of ridicule if your questions are silly, etc.
Of course this depends on schools/teachers, but largely this is the culture.

But then many parents and even relatives had asked me to try putting Khye into SJKC as he is the studious type and the teachers there would love him.
Seriously, I really did think about it as I would also love to push him further if he is capable of it.

But a few things in my mind are stopping me.
One, I do not want to kill his curiosity mind. I want him to be in an environment in which he can continue to ask lots of questions and to always have a curious mind.

Secondly, is that no one in my family can read in Mandarin. So this means that he will need to go to those After-School Care classes. And in those classes, you go there until 6pm. And from school to home, it will be a 12 hours day, even longer than a working person.
12 hours of non-stop academic input. It is tiring even for an adult, I think.

Many parents also told me that go for SJKC for primary, then only switch to International School for secondary. Then you get the best of both worlds.
But my husband said one thing that I agreed. He said we should focus more on their core years, when they are young.
If they are being "taught" not to question and not to speak their mind when they are in primary, this habit would form and they would stay with them even in secondary years.
This makes me look at the whole picture differently and I have to say I agree with him.
The formative and core years are really important.

Having said that, I would not say International Schools are better than National Schools.
Not all International Schools or National Schools are the same.
International Schools also have their own weaknesses. It depends on what is the priority in education for you and your child. You need to know what you are looking for.

There are no best schools.
You need to do the research and find one that fits your child. Every child is different.

I know that we are really blessed that we can afford (currently) to send our kids to International Schools if we choose to.
We may need to sacrifice some things, but then at least we can afford it.

We believe in equipping our kids with life skills. Social skills, probing and problem solving skills all are equally, if not more important than being just good at studying.
We hope our kids can grow up being more adaptable in real life.

Some parents  recently told me that with the New Malaysia now with the New Government, National schools will be better. Yes, I do agree and our new Education Minister looks promising.
But these kind of changes is not an immediate change. You cannot just change the whole school culture in a short period of time.
First you need to train the teachers and this also need a lot of Government budget. These changes takes years. It will be many years until the real change takes place.

I know many of you will disagree with me. It is ok.
As I said, this is just what I think and feel is best for my kids. And this does not mean is the best decision for your kids.

I think overall, I just feel that we should not be sucked into this crazy Rat Race world. We should not be losing ourselves just to chase what people expect us to live.
I always tell my kids this.

Be kind. Be nice. Try the best in whatever you do. And be happy.
These are what matter in life.

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