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3 Essential Skills Singaporean Parents Should Help Their Kids Attain Instead of Signing Them Up for More Tuition and Enrichment Classes

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Joanne Poh

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Every kiasu parent wants their kid to be a cut above the rest. That’s why we’ve got parents who pay through their nose to send their children for sailing lessons, horse riding training and latin dancing classes on top of their GEP preparation lessons and of course tuition in every subject.

But then you realise that there’s a significant number of Singaporean kids who lack basic skills like swimming and cycling, who have never read a book for leisure and who have zero social skills.

Instead of spending their money to send their kids to fancy extra curricular activities they themselves couldn’t afford when they were young, Singaporean parents might want to consider instilling in their offspring the following skills, none of which cost much money to acquire.

 

Swimming

Every now and then, you read a tragic news report declaring that some poor child has drowned in their condo’s swimming pool.

Sure, people are quick to point fingers at the fact that parents outsource childcare to maids who then fail to keep a close eye on the kids as they run around the condo’s common area. But the more pressing question is why more and more children are involved in submersion accidents, which can cause permanent brain damage even if they’re not fatal.

It is clear that many parents aren’t teaching their kids to swim until they are in primary school, and there are some people who make it to adulthood without knowing how to swim, or with only a cursory knowledge of how to dog paddle.

Kids can learn to swim even before kindergarten, but even if parents do not start teaching their kids swimming skills that early, it’s a good idea to enrol them in a swim school when they hit kindergarten age.

Given the fact that condos are equipped with swimming pools, where most drowning accidents occur, the chances of a drowning accident is always present. You may not live in a condo yourself, but your relatives or friends might.

Instead of sending your kid for baby genius classes, which I’m quite sure will not turn an otherwise average kid into a genius, sign him up for something useful for a change—a swimming course that could save his life.

 

Cycling

The Singapore government might claim they’re trying to turn Singapore into a cycling city, but most kiasu parents secretly hope their kids will be rich enough to cruise around in cars and won’t be relying on bicycles when they come of age.

In a recent Sunday Times poll, less than a quarter of the young Singaporeans surveyed knew how to cycle. This is a figure that seems farcical and I really hope it’s not true.

Whether or not those are bogus survey results, it’s disturbing that there are apparently significant numbers of Singaporeans who make it to adulthood without knowing how to cycle. Are Singaporean parents really sending their kids for golf lessons yet not teaching them to cycle?

Even if you’re sure your kid is going to be driving a Ferrari when he grows up, cycling is a life skill that can be taught in a matter of days. And no, if you yourself can cycle you do not need to hire an expensive coach to teach your child.

 

Reading

Despite the fact that Singaporeans claim to be one of the most highly educated populations in the world, at times it seems like we’re becoming a more close-minded, intolerant society. The fact that most Singaporeans do not read for pleasure and have a functional but otherwise sub-par grasp of the languages they speak could be one explanation for this phenomenon. We’re not really able to grasp the nuances behind things or read between the lines.

A 2016 survey by the NAC found that less than half of Singaporeans read at least one literary book per year… probably because people prefer motivational or self-help books they think will turn their lives around. The most common excuses provided were a lack of time and a lack of interest.

But take one look at a day in the life of the typical Singaporean kid and it’s easy enough to see why. Kids spend all their time in tuition and don’t have any leisure time at all, so they never really learn to enjoy reading. To them, the only things worth reading are textbooks.

Given all the advantages of reading avidly, including stronger linguistic skills and greater empathy, Singaporean parents might want to consider giving their children the time to explore the world of fairytales rather than textbooks.

However, before parents sign their kids up for “reading enrichment” classes, they should realise that a genuine enthusiasm for reading cannot be bought. This is not something you can force on your kid, or pay someone to teach him.

You can only lead by example, surround them with books to explore and then give them the time to figure out what they like to read. The fact that you can’t just pay someone to make your kid fall in love with reading is going to be the biggest barrier to the typical Singaporean family.

What skills do you think are essential for Singaporean kids to pick up? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.