Raising a kid in Singapore is expensive, but Singaporeans make it even more expensive than it has to be with their mania for education.
A recent HSBC survey showed that Singaporeans spend twice the global average on children’s local education, at a whopping $96,195 a year. Considering the median yearly household income from work is only $106,152, that’s a lot.
Here are three ways parents can save money on their children’s education without ruining their future.
Be very selective when signing your kid up for private tuition
Yes, yes, we know every parent wants little Jayden / Cayden / Brayden to grow up to become a heart surgeon or investment banker. But spending more on tuition doesn’t mean he will do better at school.
A 2015 Straits Times poll found that, while 7 out of 10 parents send their kids for tuition, most do not even know if tuition is significantly improving their kids’ grades. That means parents are blindly forcing their kids to attend tuition in an elaborate game of money-see-monkey-do.
Anyone who’s worked with kids knows that they’re increasingly stressed out and sleep-deprived these days. Piling tuition on an already overloaded kid can cause his grades to get worse rather than better. Self-study and adequate rest is needed for learning.
What’s more, as anyone in the shadow education industry will tell you, there are many incompetent tutors—even those who have university degrees and are in professional jobs. More is absolutely not always better when it comes to tuition.
Hiring one good tutor (and you can only know whether a tutor is good after a few classes) in one subject your kid really needs help in is a lot better than hiring random tutors for every single subject.
Cover all bases when researching overseas education options
In the HSBC survey, almost half of the Singaporean parents who responded declared they would consider an overseas university education for their children, with Australia being the hot favourite.
These parents had better have deep pockets, as university fees in anglophone countries like Australia, the US and the UK are hideously high.
What many parents don’t realise till it’s too late is that there are other overseas education options that are a lot cheaper.
Taking advantage of free or almost-free university education in continental Europe often means learning a third language like French or German, which forward-thinking parents might be able to inspire their kids to do.
But even for those kids who are only capable of completing a degree in English, there are numerous English-taught postgrad courses in European countries with cheap or free university courses.
Those whose children are proficient in Chinese might also want to consider some of China’s better universities, where university fees are much lower than our local unis’ and living costs are obviously lower than our own.
For those who’ve studied Japanese as a third language, Japanese universities are also generally cheaper than those in Australia, the US and UK.
Prioritise adequate sleep and self-motivation
A grumpy, tired, unmotivated child is a lost cause as far as education is concerned. No matter how much tuition you throw at this child, he is not going to fulfil his potential.
Parents would do well to stop paying tons of money to force-feed their children with extra lessons, and instead concentrate on ensuring the child gets adequate sleep, has a decent amount of free time and is self-motivated. Even without tuition, a well-rested, well-balanced and self-motivated child will find ways to scale mountains.
For parents, that could mean enforcing bedtime at a decent hour and confiscating gadgets like smartphones and laptops a few hours before bedtime, as the light from these devices has been proven to keep people awake. The number of parents who schedule tuition sessions which end at 10pm when the child has to be up at 5am or 6am is also shocking.
Parents also need to try to cultivate self-motivation and a love for learning in their children at an early age, rather than always using carrot-and-stick methods to force their kids to perform at school.
For instance, weekly visits to the library and reading to your child at night can instill a love for reading, which will do more for their language and critical thinking skills than any amount of English tuition.
How can Singaporean parents save money while still giving their kids a head-start in life? Tell us in the comments!