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Re-examine Singapore Primary School hours

The article was originally published on "Lianhe zaobao" on August 10th, 2023, as shown below. Thanks to ChatGPT for helping to translate from Chinese into English, and below is the translated version.

In Singapore, primary schools typically dismiss around 1:30 PM, and students usually return home around 2:00 PM. This leaves them with approximately 7 hours until their bedtime at around 9:00 PM. Faced with the extended time after school, families with school-age children need to consider arranging supervision for their kids. There are several common approaches: parents might give up full-time jobs to spend half the day caring for their children; grandparents might assist; families might employ domestic helpers; or children might be placed in childcare centers.

Although it seems many methods, none of them are truly ideal. Beginning from primary three, students can participate in co-curricular activities (CCAs) within the school, usually held once or twice a week. Apart from these activities, parents need to independently manage their children's time during most afternoons, which can be a challenging task.

Some parents arrange extracurricular activities and tutoring to make the most of their children's free time. However, this requires a solid financial foundation, as some families spend around $1000 or even more per month on these activities. On top of that, there's effort and money in transportation, often managed by mothers, grandparents, or domestic helpers. As a result, the task of raising children becomes quite demanding.

Singapore places a strong emphasis on tutoring. This trend can be attributed to subjective factors such as parents' 'kiasu-ism.' Additionally, there is an objective reason: children do indeed have a substantial amount of free time after school, which needs to be managed to prevent excessive indulgence in activities like electronic gaming.

Wealthier families have the option to choose top-tier tutoring centers and exclusive interest-based activities. Middle-income families can opt for affordable neighborhood tutoring centers and more widely accessible activities. However, families without the means to afford such additional expenses find it increasingly challenging to provide these opportunities, further exacerbating educational disparities.

The thriving tutoring industry worsens educational inequality and could potentially have negative implications for students' self-directed learning abilities, creativity, and imagination. The industry is challenging to regulate, the quality of tutors varies, and parents might unknowingly focus excessively on utilitarian goals.

Singapore provides convenient and high-quality conditions in areas such as healthcare, food, housing, and transportation. While citizens manage well in these aspects, parents, regardless of income or social status, commonly feel anxious about their children's education. This is a part of the overall systemic issue.

Raising children as future citizens should be a shared responsibility among families, schools, and society. However, in Singapore, this responsibility seems excessively concentrated on parents, resulting in significant sacrifices. This includes high tutoring costs, sacrificing careers to be with children, and the draining of parents' energy by their children's demands. Overall, the efficiency of child development is low, and the social costs are high.

To improve this situation, one possible solution is to consider postponing the dismissal time for primary school students. In other countries, primary school students might not be dismissed until 4 or 5 PM, which would reduce the responsibilities shouldered by parents, such as ensuring children's safety, academic progress, and emotional needs.

A primary school teacher typically handles a class of 30 to 40 students, benefiting from efficient collective education and lower social costs. In contrast, at home, when mothers or grandparents provide one-on-one instruction, the effectiveness of learning often falls short of what schools can offer. Sacrificing a parent's job opportunity for after-school-care increases social costs further. Additionally, children's development in areas like sports and social skills highlights the superiority of collective education over home based care. based care.

Previously, the two-shift system required the morning classes to conclude early. With single-shift primary schools now the norm, there's room for optimization in school schedules. Presently, primary school students attend school from 7:30 AM to 1:30 PM, totaling around 5 hours. One potential adjustment involves shifting the start time to 8:30 AM and concluding at 4:30 PM, providing a total of 8 hours.

This revised schedule could include 4 hours of academic study, 1.5 hours for lunch and breaks, and 2.5 hours for "Quality Education" activities. To accommodate parents with early work hours, the government could offer supervision services from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM. It's important to note that these services would require additional personnel and should not increase the workload of teachers and school administrators, who are already heavily loaded.

I propose that school activities can be split into two parts, managed by two different government departments: the Ministry of Education for academics and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) for quality education and recreational activities. Throughout the school day, the mornings could be devoted to academic subjects, while afternoons would center around quality education and leisure pursuits.

Primary school teachers would primarily be responsible for teaching academic subjects, including designing lesson plans, preparing materials, conducting classes, evaluating progress, and offering guidance. By minimizing administrative tasks, their workload and hours could be reduced.

Afternoon quality education could encompass sports, arts, music, life skills, social activities etc. Quality education seeks to nurture students into well-rounded individuals..

By separating academic and quality education activities, students would be under the care of different sets of teachers and departments. This approach balances responsibilities and offers additional benefits. Quality education teachers would not be aware of students' academic performances, allowing students to shine in areas where they might not excel academically.

This approach differs significantly from the existing Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) system in primary schools. Instead of confining students to a single CCA for three years, quality education promotes diverse learning experiences within a collaborative environment. For example, the entire class could participate in soccer for one term and chess for the next, fostering adaptability, social skills, and cooperation.

Playtime is also an integral part of quality education. Mornings are dedicated to rigorous academic pursuits, striving for high standards and academic rigor. Afternoons are set aside for joyful recreational activities, fostering a playful and confident atmosphere on campus. This approach would enable children to develop various skills such as sports, arts, singing, hygiene, pure handwork, and teamwork, fostering self-confidence and a sense of gratitude.

Such an arrangement leverages the strengths of collective education, reduces the social costs of parenting, enhances educational efficiency, and allows both parents to join the work force. Primary school students would benefit from a safe and resource-rich environment, including libraries, labs, and sports facilities. School settings are superior to after-school-stay-at-home and tutoring centers. They are easier to supervise, have economies of scale, and are managed by professional teachers with teaching experience and expertise, ensuring a comprehensive and systematic education. This arrangement could to some extent curb the growth of the tutoring industry and mitigate further educational inequalities.

These are some of my suggestions. If primary education can be optimized to relieve parents' responsibilities and stress, enabling them to focus on accompanying their children's growth and enjoying the journey, some parents might be more inclined to consider having more children. (The End)

The author welcomes anyone to reach out for a friendly discussion on education or property. Her contact information is as follows:
Mobile: (+65) 96796417
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The orginal Chinese article can be found at
推迟小学放学时间 优化素质教育

Article on combining Boy school and Girl school


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