While it’s only natural that parents want the best for their kids, one look at exhausted Singaporean kids wearing bottle-thick glasses, trudging home from late night tuition sessions, their smartphones their only refuge, and you wonder whether the nation’s kiasu parents really have their offspring’s best interests at heart—or are just caught up in a game of monkey-see, monkey-do in which the other participants are their fellow parents.
Despite shockingly high rates of tuition enrolment, 7 out of 10 parents don’t even know if tuition is helping their children and haven’t seen any appreciable improvement in their grades. If tuition isn’t going to help your child succeed in life, then what is? Here are four things parents can do instead to help their kids grow into successful, well-rounded, well-adjusted adults.
Encourage them to read
I was once engaged to tutor a 13-year-old Singaporean child whose English was so poor, and whose motivation to improve was so low, that it was obvious that unless she started learning to love reading, she was going to have difficulty passing her O-level English and humanities subjects. No amount of English tuition could help a child who refused to read outside of class.
Unfortunately, when kids don’t have the time and space to read recreationally, they miss out on the myriad benefits a love for reading gives one. Other than better language skills and more finely-developed empathy, there is overwhelming evidence to show that reading also helps to improve math ability, which should provide extra incentive to parents who hope to push their children into the pure science stream.
Help them cultivate social skills
While Singaporean employees aren’t lacking in paper qualifications, there have been numerous complaints from employers that they lack social skills. For instance, experts in the hospitality sector have complained that Singapore workers, while well-trained, are unable to empathise and understand people from other cultures, which is crucial in that industry. Singaporean employees have also gained a reputation for being poor communicators and lacking in confidence.
While it may be tempting to blame the education system for stifling critical thinking skills, parents have a part to play, too. If they over-schedule their kids’ lives, keeping them in tuition sessions and extracurricular classes till late at night every day, it is obvious that there will be no room to behave spontaneously and develop a well-rounded personality—being able to think on one’s feet is, after all, an act of spontaneity and cannot be planned for.
Arranging play dates for kids at an early age, letting them spend time with other children and allowing them to pursue their interests in sport, hobbies and the arts will teach them how to interact with people—and by people, we don’t mean tuition teachers. In fact, play is crucial to developing self confidence and a sense of self, and has been shown to boost grades later on in life.
While Asian parents have long loved to enrol their children in piano and violin lessons, it turns out all those deafening sessions may not have been in vain. There is a well-established link between music lessons and better grades, as well as a higher IQ.
While children should certainly be encouraged to develop their musical skills, parents should be careful not to go overboard. Focusing too much on taking music exams can tip some children over the edge, making them more stressed out and causing them to hate their instruments of choice.
Traditionally, many music students in Singapore start out on the piano, but parents who balk at the cost of the instrument can rest assured that their kids can benefit from any kind of music instruction. A guitar can be an inexpensive starter instrument. Elsewhere on MoneySmart, we’ve covered ways to lower the cost of music lessons for your child.
Help them develop their interests
While Singapore churns out perfectly serviceable workers, enthusiasm at work is sorely lacking. Young Singaporeans have been lambasted for not pursuing excellence in their jobs, but who can blame them? Having spent years in an unforgiving, cut-throat education system and then finally emerging only to face the pressure of trying to snag the highest paying job they’re qualified for, it’s unsurprising that so many young workers drag their feet to work.
The Singapore workforce is one of the world’s least engaged, and if parents aren’t content to have their children grow up to be just another cog in the wheel, they would do well to encourage them to find out what they’re interested in and good at. That means resisting the temptation to shove down their throats the need to earn tons of money.
Of course, you can’t just enrol your kid for a bunch of coding lessons and hope that they’ll emerge ten years later as a young Zuckerberg. Helping kids discover their interests requires parents to give them some amount of space to explore different activities, the attention to realise when their child is drawn to something and the support to help them continue pursuing it. Unfortunately, nobody ever discovered their passions in a tuition class.
Have you done any of the above for your kids? Tell us in the comments!