How to choose the BEST secondary school for your child

“Every school, a good school.”

Personally, I think a more apt slogan should be “Every school is unique.”

It is precisely because children are unique, with different aptitudes, learning styles and interests that we need different schools to suit them.

Every child is different and I’m glad we don’t have a system where they stay in the same school right through to 16 because the learning differences are already quite stark at 12 or 13 and most schools don’t have the resources to cater to this full range of abilities.

My 5 older children went to 4 different secondary schools collectively and their experiences have been quite different.

Basically, different schools have different values, different CCAs, slightly different modes of learning, different niche programmes, different options for streaming (very important) and different opportunities for overseas trips. Read more in 6 tips to choose a secondary school.

Besides these differences, there are other factors to consider in choosing a suitable school for your child.

Big fish in a small pond?

Amongst my 6 children, one is academically inclined and her intelligence suits our education system. Whether she sits in a class of 40 or in a lecture theatre of 200, she has no problems grasping concepts quickly. It doesn’t matter which teacher she gets as she is able to read between the lines and figure things out on her own even if she gets an inexperienced teacher for a particular subject. If she doesn’t understand what her teacher has just taught, she will approach a classmate whom she can relate better to or she reads up on the notes.

For kids who score well academically, your consideration would be whether to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. By being a big fish in a small pond, the opportunities would be more as there are fewer of the same calibre fighting for the leadership positions and various openings and you are more likely to be able to build a good portfolio.

If you choose an elite school, being in an environment with peers of a similar high ability, there is a rich platform for discussion and healthy competition. Although I have heard from counsellors that the stress levels have become quite unhealthy, with rising depression, anxiety and even suicide cases.

Parents have to be ever vigilant during this period of time from secondary school to JC where our teenagers are facing a lot of pressure.

Another aspect of choosing an elite school is whether a child can fit in socially. A friend was sharing how her 2 boys had very different experiences going to an elite school. One settled in very well, but the other had certain issues which cropped up. Her son said that group meetings were held at Starbucks or at cafes which went over his weekly budget. Some kids may feel inferior that their family is “not wealthy enough” for them to blend in or afford the expensive CCAs or overseas experiences.

Experiential Learner

I have another child who learns experientially. She is a bright child but doesn’t like rote learning. Pages of black and white notes bore her and she has to touch things to discover it for herself. She has a quick mind and asks never-ending questions as that is how she gets to the bottom of things.

She went to a “mid-range” secondary school and that suited her really well. Her teachers explained that because the students find it hard to learn the traditional way of listening to a teacher lecture at the front, they have come up with more creative approaches to present lessons. There was even a teacher who was so understanding and open that she encouraged them to make up songs about her chemistry concepts and to sing them in class.

Her school was big on students’ welfare and every week, the teachers would take a walk with their students one by one, and they could chat about any topic under the sun. The teenage years are tumultuous to say the least, and a supportive adult with a listening ear serves as an anchor for some of these kids who are struggling with life, family issues or school pressures.

Neighbourhood schools have their plus points

I have another child who is not academically inclined, but has great artistic talent. She struggles with school work and finds it hard to understand concepts and only certain teachers are able to break down and explain things in such a way that she is able to grasp. The slower pace in her secondary school is helpful, and I notice that her teachers are extremely caring and concerned about her grades.

After spending 3 years in a neighbourhood school, I have found 4 advantages: 

1. With the proximity, she can wake up at 6.40am as compared to her siblings who had to wake up an hour earlier. It gets harder and harder for teens to go to bed early and the extra hour really helps! She’s also the only one lucky enough to have daddy sending her to school everyday as her school is close by.

2. It has been an eye-opener as she is exposed to friends from different backgrounds and family circumstances and she has become a more appreciative and considerate child. I’ve shared her experiences in My teen in a neighbourhood school.

3. At the end of Sec 2, she was amongst the top in her level and that meant that all the different subject combinations were open to her. In contrast, #1 who was at the bottom of a higher COP school was caught in a situation at Sec 2 streaming where she was unable to get the combination for subjects she was strong in, which affected her O level grades.

4. Teachers take it on themselves to teach well because they are aware that not all students are able to afford tuition.

Do some research about the schools around your neighbourhood before making your selection. Some schools have exciting niche programmes such as aerospace, robotics or social entrepreneurship. I asked my teacher friends for their input, spoke to neighbours and attended Open Houses before making a decision together with my child.

One BIG CHANGE that is happening from 2020 is SUBJECT BASED BANDING (SBB).

This is GREAT NEWS for children like my son. Some kids have very narrowly defined strengths, which isn’t a bad thing at all, and they shouldn’t be penalised in those subjects they can excel at. In fact, it is easier to plan a pathway for him, than another child with average grades but no clear indication of strengths and interests.

His strengths have been clear from the time he was in preschool. A creative child with interesting ideas, his teachers used to marvel at how his creations were always symmetrical in shape and colour and he had the most complex and unique designs amongst his peers.

If our education system was radically changed to one of innovation and invention with a more hands on mode of learning, this child would shine!

After a year in secondary school, his favourite subject is Design & Technology, Art and Science. He has this to say about Literature: “Strange how it is English, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me.” He isn’t excited about Geography nor History, and Chinese is still a perennial struggle.


What SBB aims to do is to RECOGNISE their STRENGTHS in INDIVIDUAL SUBJECTS and to GIVE them A SECOND CHANCE.

Subject based banding (SBB) was first introduced in 12 secondary schools in 2014, but only limited to English, Mother Tongue, Math and Science. If a child was in Normal (academic) but is strong in say Mother Tongue or Math, they can take those subjects together with their peers in the Express stream.

Next year, in 2020, FULL SBB will be piloted in 28 secondary schools, and in 2022, it will be implemented in all schools. If your child is streamed into Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical), he might want to select one of these 28 schools as he would have a chance to take subjects at the Express level, not only for the 4 core subjects, but humanities as well, if he has the ability.

These are the 28 secondary schools piloting full SBB from 2020:

1. Ang Mo Kio
2. Assumption English
3. Bedok Green
4. Bowen
5. Clementi Town
6. Deyi
7. Edgefield
8. Evergreen
9. Gan Eng Seng
10. Greendale
11. Jurong
12. Jurong West
13. Mayflower
14. Montfort
15. Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School
16. Pei Hwa
17. Ping Yi
18. Queenstown
19. Riverside
20. St. Andrew’s
21. St. Anthony’s Canossian 
22. St. Patrick’s
23. Swiss Cottage
24. Temasek
25. West Spring
26. Whitley
27. Yuying
28. Zhenghua


I am really heartened to see that schools have taken it upon themselves to innovate and create an appropriate environment to cater to the students that they receive.

With the different perspectives that I have shared, don’t be afraid to ask questions when you visit the Open House so that you can get a better overall picture of the school.

All the best in your hunt for the most suitable school for your child!



PSLE results: Good or bad, what do you say?
6 tips to choose a secondary school that is right for your child
My teen in a neighbourhood school
PSC Scholarship? Wow
What the PSLE is really about

About MummyWee

Michelle is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in their 4Qs to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

School Stories:

10 tips to manage Sibling Rivalry

Does this seem to be a daily struggle in your household? It sure was in ours! The kids would squabble over toys, who has more of this or that (not fair!), who sat here first (this spot was mine!) and other seemingly ridiculous issues, both big and small.

If you are at your wits ends, try these 10 pointers and see if it helps. We made so many mistakes in parenting them, but have learnt and gotten better over the years. And despite having some nasty fights when they were younger, my kids have grown to love and care for one another.

1. Expect and Accept

There was an article by a psychologist which changed my perspective. He gave 6 reasons “Why siblings squabble all the time.” The first reason:

Because they can.

We think our children should naturally get along beautifully.

I used to get annoyed when they started quarrelling, and sometimes I would yell at them in anger. Again! Why can’t you all just get along?

Children are not born having the skills to resolve conflict and the family is where they learn how to get along with others peacefully.

After I realised that, I stopped fuming and got to work helping them learn the skills to get along. This would also help them deal with friends and with their future spouses or flatmates.

2. Make it a Family goal

This is a great place to start.

If you haven’t already done it, sit your children down when everyone is in a happy mood (definitely not when they are in the midst of a quarrel) and make your expectations explicit, explain why it is important for them to have a good relationship and give them examples of what it looks like. Decide as a family on something fun to do on the weekend if they have tried hard to get along during the week.

3. Don’t be the referee

When a quarrel erupts, we typically jump in with What happened? Who started it? The stories from both sides will come fast and furious and sometimes it’s hard to know who to believe.

If you take sides, there will be a child who ends up thinking you are not being fair. This fair/not fair business is something we need to be mindful of. Some adults continue to harbour unhappiness at their parents for favouring another sibling (despite it being true or not).

An older sibling might use language to make it sound like he is not the one at fault, while the younger one may use tears and play victim. Either way, by going in to be the referee, you may end up siding with the wrong party and someone (usually the older sibling) may feel wronged and resentful (and may lash out at the younger one when parents are not around).

Instead, tell them that you expect them to settle it themselves. They are to stay in a designated room together (without toys) and are free to come out after they have worked it out.

4. Use “I feel” not “you did this”

Teach them positive communication skills, using “I feel” sentences instead of “You did this or you were mean”. This enables their sibling to understand how that made them feel which they may not be aware of.

Eg. “I felt embarrassed when you called me a loser in front of my friends” instead of “He was such a horrible, mean brother for calling me names.”

5. Sharing is caring

Allow them lots of opportunities to share. My dad, the doting grandpa used to buy them 5 of each toy because he couldn’t bear to hear them quarrel. I explained to him that they had to learn to share. Even though they were 2 years apart, they would pass down their toys to the next sibling and were used to receiving hand-me-downs. In fact, the younger girls looked forward to having the “cool” clothes from their older sister and sharing became a normal part of life.

6. Welcoming a new baby

Start by acknowledging their emotions, that it is tough that mummy has to give her attention to someone else. Shift the focus from why is the baby getting all the attention to wow, you are such a caring brother/sister and instead of feeding the jealousy, help them be aware of all the “big things” they can do with mummy and daddy that baby can’t, such as playing on the swing, cycling or going out for ice cream.

My kids were allowed to help with baby chores such as holding the milk bottle for the baby, changing the diapers and their favourite was to be given the great responsibility in carrying the baby.

7. One-on-one time

Make an effort to spend 1-on-1 time with each child. They need your attention, and are fighting to get it. When you allocate a specific time which they can look forward to, it helps to give them a sense of security.

It doesn’t have to be a huge effort. We used to take walks to the nearest petrol station and would get an ice cream and walk back. Depending on how many kids you have and their ages, you could allocate 1 day per week for each child. The important thing is to stick to your promise to keep this time special just for that child.

This is easier said than done, and I have learnt not be too quick to promise so much if I know that my schedule at work may be unpredictable. It is better to promise something small which you can commit to 100% than to promise them too much and they end up getting disappointed and lose their trust in your word.

During the 1-on-1 time, don’t focus on homework or grades. Talk about their interests, or each other’s day and let them know that they can open up to you if there is anything bugging them. What you don’t see doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Besides one-on-one time, have different permutations of family time. Dad and the kids, mum and the kids, dad with one kid while mum with the other. I noticed that some siblings are naturally closer to another, and when the group dynamics are mixed up, different bonds are given the space to form.

8. Don’t discourage them from being a “big brother” or “big sister”

So long as it is within safe limits, encourage them in their older sibling role and they will develop a sense of responsibility and joy from being of real help to their little brother or sister.

#5 wanted Kate to share in his great delight of riding the bicycle and begged me to allow him to “tompang” her. As he was steady on the bike, I allowed it. I supervised by walking next to them as they went round and round our garden. He was a proud big brother that day!

Find a comfortable balance between being over-protective and ensuring the safety of the kids.

9. Find challenges to bond them

Our kids have too comfortable a life. It’s no wonder that they bicker a lot! My aunt used to tell me that even with 11 siblings in their family, they hardly fought because the older siblings were busy taking care of the younger ones and in their free time they made up their own games from pretty much nothing.

What I do is to set up bonding activities for them, like our Family OBS where I took the 6 of them by myself (without the hubs!) to experience climbing real cliffs. They learnt to rely on each other and everyone had to pitch in.

10. Take sibling concerns seriously

Sometimes the younger child may be tormented regularly by an older sibling and tries to speak up but if the parent doesn’t seem to be listening or thinks it’s a minor issue, the child will stop trying to tell you. Some siblings bully each other quite badly when parents are not around.

Don’t let things escalate. If physical acts like hitting, scratching, spitting or throwing objects at one another are not stopped quickly, it will get worse. Make it known that such is not acceptable in your household, and punishments have to be meted out.

Sibling rivalry may be the one thing that is driving you almost insane right now, but hang in there, take a deep breath, know that you can turn this around and never for once feel guilty. We all make mistakes. We all started at a place where we didn’t know better.

Take it one step at a time, and celebrate small wins. You can do it!

Learn from the million mistakes we made along our parenting journey so you don’t make the same!


About MummyWee

Michelle is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in their 4Qs to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

Who is behind MOE?

Every time I give a talk on education and what it takes for children to be successful in this new era, parents will raise the issue of our stressful education system.

It seems to be an “us” against “the MOE” divide, and it’s easy to put the blame on this faceless system called THE MOE.

I go on to ask parents…

Do you think there are these people going to work every morning, sitting behind their desks thinking, hmm, what new policies should we come up with to make the lives of parents and kids miserable?

It never fails to break the ice and they laugh at this rather absurd imagery.

Those were my sentiments too, a long time ago.

My eldest is already 21 and back then, I was afraid that our education system had not evolved with the times. I wondered if what was being taught in school would be able to prepare them adequately for their future when they left school approximately 15 years later.

Then we experienced the PSLE, and I thought… something is very wrong.

I wrote in to The Straits Times Forum page about why I had no choice but to give my daughter tuition for all subjects at her P6 year because she had failed everything.

This was published in 2010.

Why parents are forced to spend on tuition

My three older children are in Primary 6, Primary 4 and Primary 2 in a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school. Having put them in such a well sought-after school, I thought they would be in good hands.

All three of them were getting average grades. However, to my utter shock and dismay, my eldest came home with red marks in all her subjects for her Primary 5 year-end exams, and she was the last in class. Her concerned form teacher called me to find out what happened. She told me that my daughter was attentive in class and was, in fact, chosen as the role model student for that year.

After speaking to me, the teacher was surprised that she had no tuition and that I did not coach her myself. She was even more surprised that I had not bought any 10-year series or guidebooks for her. (As she was my eldest, I didn’t know that just sending her to school and buying all the requisite textbooks were not enough to get by). I, in turn, asked her what was happening. She was the one teaching my daughter 3 out of the 4 subjects in school, so I should be querying her about her poor grades, not the other way around! She then explained to me that due to time constraints, teachers could only cover the basics, so the child needed to do a lot more extra work at home or to get tuition.

That seems to be the reality, as I have found out from parents of children in other schools as well. She was put into a different class in her P6 year. Subsequently, I enrolled her for tuition for all four subjects and for her mid-year exam, she achieved the first position in her class. In the end, thanks to tuition, she managed to get 4As for her PSLE. (I shudder to think what her grades would be like if I had not sent her for tuition in her P6 year). I can now understand why the majority of parents are willing to spend so much money on tuition. The system is just not delivering.

The sad truth is that parents are focusing all their energies on academic achievement, thereby neglecting more important matters like character building and family bonding, which are so crucial in today’s fast-paced and changing world. It may be a good idea to set up a forum with parents, students, teachers, tutors and the Ministry of Education to analyse the situation. Singapore has a world-class education system. Perhaps, that is in part due to a world-class tuition system.

This was the situation we found ourselves in 10 years ago when my first child sat for her PSLE.

Yes, I was THAT naive.

I was barely surviving having to deal with 5 little kids & had no time to go around kay-pohing or comparing what’s going on with other children.

We saw neighbours’ kids diligently going for tuition on weekends but assumed it was them being too kiasu. My kids were averaging above 75 for their exams and I didn’t see a need to panic. I kept the faith that their teachers would be able to teach them well enough.

Until the shock at the end of P5. (Years later, I heard that some schools deliberately set very tough P5 exam papers to “scare” the students.)

Oh, I’d better clarify that it was my husband’s very dedicated cousin who tutored #1 in Math, Science and Chinese and she helped her pull up her failing grades to straight As (if not I’ll be inundated with emails asking me which tuition centre was that!).

I started investigating, speaking to every parent I came across and it seemed like the system (aka MOE) was the problem. Of course, now I know better and understand why the PSLE papers have risen to such a high standard. It’s a vicious cycle and parents have a big part in it.

I’ve been on a mission to piece the puzzle together and hopefully be able to do something about it. I must have spoken to hundreds of teachers, parents, students, researchers and a handful of principals in a bid to get a clear picture. Complaining, blaming or thinking that I have no choice is futile. I’d rather find a solution or at least know that I have done my part, no matter how small.

What I didn’t expect was the magnitude of the problem and the deep-seated mindsets of parents. 5 of my children have completed their PSLE and it is only now in Kate’s time that the speed of change is picking up.

I managed to speak with Mr Heng Swee Keat before he relinquished his post as Education Minister about sentiments on the ground and I was extremely surprised that he did get someone to follow up. I was sad to see him move on as his tenure signaled the start towards a more balanced education with the emphasis on maximising the potential of every child.

In 2013, I was humbled to be invited to MOE HQ for a dialogue session chaired by Ms Sim Ann, then Minister of State for Ministry of Education and Ministry of Communications and Information.

Since then, I have met with several key personnel from the Communications and Engagement group and I can assure you, there are REAL PEOPLE behind MOE.

It was through these sessions that I started to understand the bigger picture and what a mammoth task it is to steer this gigantic ship in a new direction.

One of the earliest lunches I was invited to was with Diana Ser, hosted by Ms Genevieve Chye, ex-principal of Montfort Junior School, currently Divisional Director of Engagement and Research Division.

What struck me was that they were not there to interrogate us nor to get us to propagate anything (I accepted the invite without thinking too much like “why would someone from MOE be asking me for lunch?!”) She was sincere in having a chat with us to find out our concerns and to hear our personal stories about our kids’ educational journey.

They shared with us links to the MOE microsites about the changes. It is important for parents to get access to accurate information instead of fueling unwarranted concerns with hearsay.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ms Tan Wai Lan, ex-principal of St Nicholas Girls’ school. I was struck by how approachable she was. Over lunch, she even shared an anecdote that when she was first appointed, one of the things she had to learn was to hug the girls! She is currently Coordinating Divisional Director of Communications and Engagement group.

Despite holding such high posts, they are willing to hear from ordinary parents. Last year, I was trying to navigate the options for university courses for my daughter and when I met her at a parent engagement session, she was kind enough to share her wisdom and advice as she has 3 daughters who are slightly older than mine.

The gentleman on the right is Saravenan Tanapal, Director of Engagement branch and he has been a familiar face through the years of dialogue sessions. He has twin boys who are currently in primary school.

Besides these small group “no holds barred” chats, their team has also been organising larger seminars to engage parents and ignite ground-up initiatives.

I can assure you, they are not cooking up anything sinister behind their walls to spring onto parents. At every encounter, I have found them to be transparent and forthcoming with answers to our questions.

It was indeed a treat when we were invited to tea with ex-Education Minister Ng Chee Meng. We had an animated conversation over bingsu and toast, with Tjin Lee (Life Beyond Grades), Jane Ng (Straits Times) and June Yong (Channel News Asia).

My concern then was whether with a change in Minister, would it derail plans? I remember one teacher who has taught for 30 years lamenting, “Every time a new minister takes over the education portfolio, it’s back to the drawing board.”

Ms Genevieve Chye reassured us that they would continue with the blueprint and go in-depth with execution.

We had a fruitful discussion and I love Minister’s style. He went straight to the point and encouraged us to voice our concerns which we did!

He walked us through the issues from a macro point of view and I came to understand that it was a lot about trying to strike a balance.

Take for example the bugbear of Mother Tongue exams which I raised. The majority of children come from English-speaking families and it is unfair to expect them to score well, given the limited number of hours to learn chinese in school. As such, chinese tuition has become an expected household expenditure, not to mention the disdain of most of our children in learning this “very difficult” language.

Mr Ng gave us numbers: around 70% of children come from English-speaking backgrounds. However, MOE’s worry is that once Chinese is removed as a compulsory subject, the standard will slide. We concurred that it was important that our children had a good grasp of the language, but wished there were ways to make the learning more fun and the reliance on tuition less.

These open discussions helped us see things not just from our own point of view but to understand the bigger picture as well as the constraints. I began to appreciate the bits and pieces in the cogwheel and how everything had an impact on another and it wasn’t just a simple matter of abolishing something.

After Education Minister Ong Ye Kung took over the full portfolio, a session was organised by Life Beyond Grades, with Steven Chia (Talking Point) as host. It was a very respectful dialogue session, and Minister was all ears as the vocal crowd was forthcoming with their concerns and opinions.

It is not easy to please parents as there will always be differing camps no matter what policies are being rolled out. And sometimes, unhappiness about the system could be a case of “broken telephone” via our children and by the time it reaches parents’ ears, everything gets lumped together and it’s the MOE’s fault!

Early this year, I had the privilege to meet Ms Liew Wei Li, Deputy Director-General of Education (Schools) and Director of Schools, with fellow mums Esther Foong and Elizabeth Wu. Ms Liew is the ex-principal of Xinmin Secondary and mother of 2 children.

While I am excited about the move from a results-focused, product-centric model to a more holistic, process-based model, I was curious about implementation. There would have to be re-training and shifting of mindsets across the board. I hear from teachers at my children’s PTM that some teachers themselves are resisting the changes, (change is hard, isn’t it!), directives are not clear, while some feel they are inadequately trained to guide and assess in this more broad-based manner.

Ms Liew explained that with a teaching force of more than 30,000 educators, it would take time to move the whole system to align with the new direction.

All this is to be expected and parents need to be patient as we are moving from our cushy old ways of traditional education to something more dynamic and relevant.

Let’s not contribute to rumours going around, but equip ourselves with accurate information. And if you have valuable feedback and legitimate concerns, I am certain they are more than willing to hear from you.

Most recently, we were invited to lunch hosted by Ms Melissa Khoo, Deputy Secretary (Policy wing). She herself has a child in primary school. Joining us this round was Sher-Li Torrey (Mums@Work). I look forward to these sessions as I hear from different sides on the ground; parents, teachers, counsellors, employers and it is a great platform to clarify our doubts and queries.

Almost everyone I’ve met from the MOE are parents themselves, with children currently in our education system. 

WHY WOULDN’T they be invested?

We need everyone to be on the SAME PAGE.

While the Education Minister rotates, there is a whole team working tirelessly behind the scenes.

To each and everyone of them, I wish to say…

Thank you for pushing on despite the negative comments and never-ending complaints from parents, the courage to implement change, even the unpopular ones for the long term benefit of our children, and for making the effort to keep the conversation going with all stakeholders.

I have waited almost 2 decades to see change and am delighted that the tide is starting to turn. We cannot rely on our old model of education while the world transforms around us.

The truth is, we can’t afford to do nothing about it.

The stress levels of our children are getting unhealthy and by doing nothing, we are shortchanging our children as a generation.

Our ship has been sailing strong in the high seas to bring us to where we are today. A world-class education system.

But now the horizon has shifted and the seas are choppy with change. MOE has cast its sights on a new horizon, fully aware that the definition of success and education has been redefined.

I was on the “us” side of the fence once upon a time. But now I realise THERE ARE NO SIDES. We are in this big ship together.

Let us forge ahead with one mind to craft a more meaningful and applicable education for our children and grandchildren.

Education is a key cornerstone of Singapore’s future.

Let them get on with it, and I’m sure an occasional word of encouragement would be nice, wouldn’t it?

About MummyWee

Michelle is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in their 4Qs to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 – Tuition – First line of attack?
#14 – Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 – First day mix up!
#16 – The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 – No more T-score. Now what?
#18 – Tackling the new school year
#19 – She did it, without tuition.
#20 – So who’s smarter?
#21 – Why I do not coach my kids anymore.

Kate turns 7 – A DIY party

After 20 years, I’m so done with big exhausting parties. I’ve decided to cut myself some slack and do simple, meaningful parties which takes half the effort, but double the fun!

Now that she’s in P1, it’s time for Kate to start learning to plan her own party, with guidance.

First rule: She’s allowed to invite a maximum of 7 friends as she turns 7 this year. But I advised her to be mindful of the dynamics of the group because we don’t want anyone to feel excluded.

She decided to invite 5 of her best friends from school.

I asked what she had in mind and she came up with this:

1. Meeting
2. Lunch
3. Movie
4. Cut cake
5. Giving out of goodie bags
6. Farewell

Meeting?? haha wow, so democratic. She said they can discuss as a group what they would like to do.

I told her we need to add in some games and activities. I suggested clay or playdoh, which is my go-to activity for entertaining kids. Something which kids love but hardly get a chance to play with. I was half expecting Kate to say, “Huh? So childish!” but luckily she was fine with it.

The trick is in presenting it attractively to the children. (The wooden boards were from spotlight and trays from Diaso).

Playdoh is not just for little ones as it develops creativity, fine motor skills (our kids have lost dexterity in their fingers with too much gadget use), and it is a wonderful thing to be able to make something from nothing!

We had extra playdoh at work as we made them for our Children’s day gifts, so that saved me the trouble of mixing up a new batch. Just nice!

I was further affirmed after attending a talk by Esther Wojcicki, who raised 3 successful daughters, one of whom is Susan, CEO of Youtube and she stressed that the biggest 21st century skill to nurture in our kids is CREATIVITY. Yes, right through secondary school.

I upped the appeal by offering simple things like coloured crystals I had on hand for them to blink up their creations if they wished.

Kate went one step further and added on a couple of rules!

“Each person can choose 1 colour. If you need other colours, you can ask your friends nicely.”

Kate’s jewel box

It was heartwarming to watch how they were so polite and generous with one another and I was really happy to get to know the kids whom she spends her time with at school.

I prepared empty containers for them to take their creations home. One adorable friend made a “sweet shop” and said it was a gift for the birthday girl.

This kept them occupied for almost an hour. I loved how engrossed they were because I wasn’t sure how they would take to it. Some kids who are exposed to too much screen time can’t come up with any ideas and may say things like “so boring”. In fact, they are the ones who need more guidance to rekindle their creativity.

After a sit-down activity, it was time for them to get physical. What better way than to take out this ultra-unique, hand-painted Snoopy themed twister mat which Kate’s older sister upcycled.

This game never fails to elicit roars of laughter, and it is not always the strongest or most flexible one who emerges as champion but often the most resilient!

The kids were going “woah” and “so cool” and I hope this sparked in them ideas that art can be done on different mediums, besides drawing or colouring on a piece of paper.

They noticed that it was an old bedsheet and the recycle message sunk in. Haha, they might go home a look around for items to re-purpose.

Time for lunch!

When we were discussing lunch, Kate said, “Can we have my favourite tomato and spring onion quesadillas?”

Great suggestion. Only problem, I was quite certain not all of her friends would like that combination.

I set up a DIY station and the kids had fun choosing their own fillings.

Kate guided her friends along:

Step 1: Fold wrap in half
Step 2: Put filing only on one side
Step 3: Top it with cheese

What she forgot to mention was that it had to go into the oven and before we knew it, one child took a bite of it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Don’t forget to give them full instructions if you are planning to do this!

I love hosting drop-off parties because not only is it really fun to be with the kids, but I don’t have to plan another menu for the adults and I can be fully present for the kids.

After lunch… it was movie time! The only thing Kate requested for was to have a movie screening and she asked her sister for permission to watch it in her room. We did the cake-cutting before starting the movie so that the kids were ready to leave when any of their parents came to pick them up.

I set up a snack station in case anyone was hungry before lunch or if they were peckish after the movie. The most popular were the tortilla chips, seaweed and sugary gem biscuits!

I allocated a pocket of free time to see what they would come up with and someone suggested a drawing competition. I loved how they naturally transferred their school rules here and one was the “discipline monitor” who issued warnings when the noise level got too loud. We had a whole half hour of silence as the kids concentrated hard on their drawings.

They ended the party with ring popsicles made with orange juice & everyone left happy!

Really, a perfect party indeed. Loads of fun, stress-free, and the most wonderful, well-behaved bunch of children!

Kate received a shiny unicorn lockable diary and immediately wrote in it that night. She reported to her “dear diary” that it was the best birthday party she’s ever had!

I really enjoyed myself too! Hosting the party and getting to know the kids.

Happy Birthday my dear Kate! Keep your childlike faith, surround yourself with genuine friends and know that we love you just the way you are!

About MummyWee

Michelle is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in their 4Qs to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

Kate turns 1 – A lucky 6th child
Kate turns 2 – A kampung affair
Kate turns 3 – A blessed child
Kate turns 4 – Family and close friends
Kate turns 5 – All that glitters is not gold

How I scaled down their parties from $1000 affairs to $100

What the PSLE is REALLY about

It’s the aftermath of the PSLE season, and once again, amidst the relief, rejoicing, tears and disappointments, the tough Math paper is in the spotlight.

Reminds me of similar scenes over the past decade, where we were in the thick of things with 5 kids having gone through their PSLE.

Their classmates cried and complained about how it is so unfair, how their teachers or tutors did not teach them well enough. My kids, on the other hand, were unfazed. Not because they nailed it, but because they expected that in an exam paper. Questions they could do, and questions they couldn’t. Nothing unusual, nothing to cry about.

When results were released, it was all much ado about nothing as the T score was based on a bell curve. In fact, the tough papers favoured those at the top end. During the years where the papers were not that extreme, the next band of kids were also able to score well, and the differentiation becomes blunted.

However, what has changed over the past decade is not so much the fluctuations in the difficulty of the PSLE papers but how the actual questions easily surfaced on the internet and how the response of parents is amplified via social media.

It is not necessarily a bad thing, because this does help to open up dialogue; parents and experts can weigh in on the issues, which helps everyone to ponder and make sense of where we are, especially at this juncture of our education system where things can no longer remain status quo.

I can definitely see why some parents are upset at the unreasonably tough few questions.

Parents and children have invested a huge amount of time, effort and money to ace the exams and they expect to be duly rewarded.

One of my kids went to a top primary school. She was baffled how a friend consistently scored 100/100 for Math even right up till the prelims and assumed he was extremely smart. When they finally asked him, he replied, “I have Math tuition twice a week and my mum makes me do 5 hours of Math every single day. I’ve seen all the questions.”

Jaw drop.

I MADE my kids go to the playground every single day. Yes, even during their P6 year.

It wasn’t just him. There was a whole bunch of kids trailing close, scoring 90+ for Math at the P6 level.

It’s a chicken and egg situation.

Certainly, the standard of the PSLE wasn’t so tough in our time. Many of us adults aren’t able to solve today’s PSLE questions. What happened between then and now?

Tuition happened.

Today’s PSLE is essentially testing 2 things:

1. The child’s academic ability

2. The family’s resources and priorities

Parents who have spent exorbitant amounts such as paying $200 an hour for premium tutors are up in arms with the twist in the exam papers.

Because when the goal post shifts, you cry foul. Understandably.

But the BIGGER question is…

Is it STILL, in 2019, the right thing to have only a singular focus, which is to direct all our energies and resources into pushing our children towards getting perfect scores by rote learning and repetition?

Or do we need to rethink the purpose of education in today’s climate?

IT IS TIME that the GOAL POST HAS TO SHIFT.

I suppose MOE is trying to throw these highly tutored kids off a little, in an attempt to suss out kids who have flexibility of mind vis a vis a robot like regurgitation of concepts without the ability to apply to new situations.

MOE is taking baby steps towards gearing our curriculum and testing methods to be more aligned with what is needed in the 21st century, including skills like problem solving, creativity, adaptability and resilience.

But many parents are confounded, “Why set such killer exam papers to begin with? It is demoralising to our children. Shouldn’t we be testing what they have been taught?”

Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation where the PSLE were to test what they have been taught and there are no unexpected tough questions. If every student emerges with As, we wouldn’t be able to get a clear indication of the strength of each child.

But why is there a need to distinguish one child from another?

Truth is, we need to sort them to provide for them better.

The reality is this. If you take a snapshot of any primary school in Singapore on the day the PSLE results are released, it could have kids ranging anywhere from 150 to 280. Yes, even the top schools. That is a huge range, and on a practical level, a school wouldn’t have the bandwidth to cater adequately to every student.

We need to roughly sort each cohort of approximately 40,000 students without stigmatising them with labels. And allow fluidity in the system for a child to level up if he decides to put in the effort, to accommodate late bloomers and level the playing field.


We have a world-class education system, and the goal post has been stuck in a spot that has served us well until now.

We need to recognise that it will be a grave disservice to our children if we keep resisting change and refuse to shift the goal post simply because that was the only way we knew how to play the game.

THE GAME IS CHANGING, like it or not.

As we celebrate our bicentennial year, it is an apt reminder that while we have achieved so much, we cannot afford to take all that for granted and to stagnate. We need to step up to prepare our children for their future.

The world is changing rapidly around us. We do not have the luxury to rest on our past successes. We have come so far as a country because of the foresight and resilience of our founding fathers and a shared vision of a better future.

We are at the top of our game internationally, but our success didn’t happen overnight. Similarly, if we do not adapt to change, the slide will happen too quickly and we wouldn’t know what had hit us.

My 2 older girls are already in university. I have waited with bated breath (until my face turned blue) to witness the change in our education system to one that is more relevant and applicable as the global landscape continues to evolve at breakneck speed.

It has taken MOE almost a decade with behind the scenes work to get to the beginning of real change which we are starting to see.

Honestly, I am very excited to be a part of this new phase of education reforms (ok, more like gradual steps) and walk with Kate on her journey.

I can feel the tide shifting. A few years ago, when parents find out about my “tuition as the last resort” stand, they pat me on the back and say, “Wow, I wish I could be courageous like you and give them a carefree childhood but it’s quite impossible.”

Today, more parents are telling me that they believe in equipping their children with the right skills and the right attitude, and tuition can come much later.

The comical refrain I hear at my talks is, “If other parents are not going to give their kids tuition, I won’t either!” And everyone laughs.

We need to take a step back and look at the big picture.

Are we preparing our children only for the PSLE or for life?

In real life, you can prepare all you want for a pitch. But at the crucial presentation, you may be thrown a curveball. How do you handle it?

Panic? Focus on how unfair it is? Complain?

Or are you able to stay calm, keep trying and not give up?

As parents, we have a lot of control in how we are shaping our children’s outlook on life.

We can guide our children to reflect that if they have prepared well, have done the exam to the best of their ability, then both parent and child should be satisfied.

I know I’ll be overjoyed if every single one of my kids can do that for every single exam or task they attempt! Such a great attitude.

And whatever the results or failings, learn from it and move on.

We cannot afford to be myopic because by the time it is stark in our faces, the landscape would have shifted so radically that we are lagging behind on the world stage.

We have come so far. We have a good work ethic, rigour and discipline.

Where our children fall short at are skills like analytical thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, adaptability, communication, having the confidence to pitch their ideas, having initiative, an innovative and entrepreneur spirit, being able to learn independently, yet able to collaborate and work as a team and lead others.

I am glad MOE is casting its sights firmly on the horizon, and slowly but surely moving their ginormous ship in that direction.


It’s time for principals, teachers, parents and students to be aligned. We are all sailing that same ship.

The PSLE should be a check-point, to roughly allocate our children to the right secondary schools which suit their learning aptitude and interests.

In our zeal to push our children ahead of the game, have we unwittingly magnified and distorted the meaning and impact of the PSLE into something so unnecessarily frightening for our children?

It has turned into a monster of a high stakes exam. Let’s slay this monster, together.

The chill parents can’t do it alone. Neither can MOE (they say it’s one step forward, two steps back. No prizes for guessing who is pushing back!) Seriously, everyone needs to come on board.

If we don’t let up, something will. And woe to us if it’s the mental health of our children. At a national level, the anxiety, depression and suicide rates are something that should be a concern of every stakeholder involved.

Are we raising a strawberry generation or do we want to raise a generation of resilient children who are able to define and chart their own successes?

Let us not miss the forest for the trees.


About MummyWee

Michelle is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in their 4Qs to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

PSLE results: Good or bad, what do you say?
Why we went on holiday just before the PSLE
Why a co-ed school was the wrong choice for my son

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 – Tuition – First line of attack?
#14 – Why do exams have to be so stressful?
#15 – First day mix up!
#16 – The day I forgot to pick my son from school
#17 – No more T-score. Now what?
#18 – Tackling the new school year
#19 – She did it, without tuition.
#20 – So who’s smarter?
#21 – Why I do not coach my kids anymore.

To all teachers out there, YOU ARE AMAZING

Every year, my kids plan and make their own teachers’ day gifts. I was delighted to see that despite it being her first teachers day in a big school, Kate had already prepared her own handmade cards and simple gifts and they were all packed and ready to go. She only needed help to write out the greetings for her chinese teacher in chinese characters.

The teens made super yummy chocolate cookies and brownies for their teachers, but what really took me by surprise was how one of them spoke about her teachers.

“I’m going to give to Ms xxx, Mrs xxx, etc…

As for Mr xx, we don’t really like him. He scolds us a lot, can’t teach well and we don’t understand his explanations.”

I was expecting her not to pack any for him.

“But… I know he has good intentions, so I’m also going to make him some.”

WOW.

Teenagers (and sometimes even us adults) tend to think about how WE have been treated and we react and respond the same way.

To be able to look beyond that, to see the INTENTION of another person and be grateful, that takes maturity and wisdom.

I am so proud of how this child has blossomed in her character.

Now that I am running my own enrichment centre and have gone through thick and thin with my teachers, words cannot describe how appreciative I am for all the teachers out there who are giving so much of themselves day in and day out, to guide, nurture and inspire a whole generation of children.

Being a teacher entails more than just a straightforward task of teaching. It’s not the abcs that children are lacking in. Teachers today have to teach children how to respect others, how to cooperate and work together amicably, how to persevere and not give up when things don’t go their way, how to manage their emotions and even basic manners.

Many a times, parents are asking teachers to step in when they find it hard to understand or get through to their own children (I’ve been there). And we are not talking about 12 year old teens, but children as young as 5 or 6.

It is extremely tough to raise children in this day and age, and teachers are a crucial pillar of the village.

A mum shared with us how she has new-found respect for teachers after sitting in for a period in her P1 child’s class.

She was sitting at the back of the class and a student came up to her to strike a conversation with this new ‘auntie’. She asked the child to go back to her seat and pay attention to the teacher in front. In the span of 30 minutes, she witnessed how children were either chatting with their friends, looking out the window or distracted and in their own world, digging through their school bag or fiddling with stationery on the table.

It is not an easy task for a teacher to command the attention of all the students and to get them to focus on the topic at hand, as well as dealing with all the other issues that crop up with managing a class. Imagine doing that for 10 periods in a day, week after week, month after month. And we are not even talking about the extra responsibilities outside of class and liaison with parents.

When I attended my son’s PTM last week, his teachers and I were discussing how 1 very naughty student was affecting many of the students in class. At the end of the meeting, they lamented that they are really worn out from the year, not only with teaching, but having to deal with disciplinary issues.

Teaching is indeed a calling. To soldier on and give of your best for the good of those entrusted to your care. For the little ones, to do what is right even though there is no one watching and the children are too young to relate what happens in the classroom. For the older students, to never give up on them even though they have a bad attitude and may have given up on themselves. To keep on doing your best for the child even though at times the parents may be giving you a hard time.

The influence of a teacher has the potential to reach far and wide, and to impact a child for life. When I see how my teachers light up when parents tell them how much their child has changed, how motivated and self-intiated they have become, it is clear that this simply is the reward that drives them.

For all the dedicated teachers our children have the privilege to encounter, Happy Teacher’s Day! Please know that many of us appreciate all that you do!

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~


BenQ Eye Care Monitor GW2480T – A Review

As an occupational therapist, I used to go out to offices to help adults readjust their workspaces, desktop monitor heights and problem solve their ergonomics concerns.

These days, children are not spared and are facing screens for stretches of time. They are using educational apps, playing games or watching Youtube on Ipads or laptops.

Even though she has just entered primary 1 this year, Kate already has online homework on her SLS portal. Besides the homework, which is not much, I like the additional Chinese resources where she can play character recognition games and have the stories read to her.

She uses the Ipad to do her work or borrows one of her sister’s laptops, depending on who is at home. However, the problem with using Ipads or laptops is that because of the small screen size, the viewing distance is too short and is one of the causes of short-sightedness. Also with an Ipad, she tends to lounge on the sofa in an array of not so ideal postures. I have heard of 5-year olds needing chiropractic help because they spend hours hunched over the Ipad!

BenQ, the world’s first brand of eye-care monitors, has launched their new Eye Care Monitor GW2480T specifically for students.

A new monitor!

Here are 5 reasons to invest in the NEW BenQ Eye Care Monitor – GW2480T: 

1. PROPER ERGONOMIC POSTURE

With a 24-inch monitor, your child is able to sit at the proper distance. The recommended viewing distance between the eyes and monitor is 60-70cm. This monitor can be adjusted for height, tilt, pivot and swivel which allows it to grow with your child as well as being suitable for other members of the family.

BenQ Eye Care Monitor GW2480T

2. BRIGHTNESS INTELLIGENCE TECHNOLOGY

Most people overlook the brightness of their screens and don’t usually adjust the display brightness according to the ambient light every day. This may result in eye fatigue, vision problems and headaches. With the Brightness Intelligence Technology, it provides more comfort for the eyes, which is important as both children and adults are spending more hours looking at screens.

BenQ’s unique technology automatically adjusts the monitor’s brightness according to the ambient light. This is also good for me as I work on my powerpoint presentations in the bedroom at night.

3. LOW BLUE LIGHT TECHNOLOGY

We know that blue light emitted from digital devices affects our sleep cycle as they lower the production of melatonin. This monitor filters out blue light which helps the kids with the quality of sleep when they finally turn off the computer and go to bed. Beneficial for #2 as she studies into the wee hours of the night and has to wake up early for classes the next day.

4. FLICKER-FREE TECHNOLOGY

Laptop screens can result in eye fatigue because of the flickering screen which causes excessive blinking and frequent rubbing of the eyes. This monitor makes viewing more comfortable.

This is especially helpful for my 2 girls as one spends a lot of time designing logos and brochures for her marketing assignments and one does a lot of eye-straining photoshop edits for her work!

5. WIDE VIEWING ANGLE

With a wide viewing angle, parents can sit with their child to guide them with their work comfortably. I’ve been needing to do that with Kate for some of her Chinese homework!

As parents, with this monitor, we can be reassured that our children’s physical aspects like posture and eye health are not compromised while they are spending time on the computer.

How to connect:

The GW2480 can be used with laptops or Ipads. It has 3 connection ports, including HDMI, DisplayPort, and D-sub. For our Ipads and the newer models of laptops, all we had to do was attach it to an adaptor and it instantly syncs onto the monitor.

BenQ Eye-Care Monitors are certified by TUV Rheinland, a global leader in technical and safety certification, for Flicker-Free and Low Blue Light performance that truly benefits human vision.

BenQ Eye Care Monitor GW2480T retails at S$269. Currently they are running a National Day Promotion with 7% off (no GST) until 31 August 2019.

For more information about GW2480T, click here.

For other GW Series Eye Care Monitor, click here.

BenQ Website

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

“I wish you were never born!”

I came back from work and found Kate in tears. After a big cuddle and sitting with her, I asked her what was wrong.

She had an argument with her brother and he had said to her, “I wish you were never born!”

“Mummy, does everyone in the family dislike me?”

That really took me by surprise. Such a sad thing to hear, but it was an eye-opener into a child’s world.

That Kate, who is loved and doted on by so many, can feel this way.

I went through our family members one by one.

Do you think Mummy loves you?

“Yes.”

Why do you think so?

“Because you always tell me and you do many things for me.”

Do you think Daddy loves you?

“Yes! He takes me swimming and goes on the slide with me and he makes us yummy BBQ on the weekends.”

We went through the rest of her siblings and I was surprised how she thinks that one of her sisters did not love her!

“Jie jie scolds me all the time and does not spend time having fun with me.”

That really got me thinking, because it pretty much summed up my first 10 years with the kids! Yikes.

I tried to get Kate to understand why her older sister always corrects her, but she still did not feel that her sister loved her.

We talked about her brother who said those hurtful words to her and I pointed out the times when he cared for her. I tried to get her to see it from his point of view, that he must be feeling neglected as well. He was the youngest for 6 years before she came along, and now she is the one getting all the attention and love from everyone.

I had a lot to reflect upon over the weekend.

As parents, we assume that our children know that we love them. We also hope that we have brought the siblings up to love one another. But it may not necessarily be so. And behind the hurtful words could be a cry for help.

I remember vividly a conversation with one of my daughter’s classmate. Before her O levels, she said to me, “Auntie, I don’t think my mum loves me. When I go home with a good grade, she is very happy. When I get a bad grade, she scolds me and is in a bad mood the whole week. What am I to her?”

What made me sad upon this reflection is that despite us knowing that we should be giving our children unconditional love, do our children feel our unconditional love?

When we get angry at them for their misbehaviour, yell at them or cane them, they must surely be thinking that we don’t love them at those times. My poor older kids went through so much of that from the hubs and I.

With Kate, we have learnt to control our extreme outbursts and we don’t yell or spank her. I make it a point to tell her even during those moments when I am scolding her, that no matter what, I still love her, every single day, every single moment.

It also hit me again, that despite our older children (upper primary or secondary) looking like they don’t need us or rather spend time in their rooms, they do need to be shown just as much love, but in different ways. It is tough trying to find time to see to the needs of so many kids. And as they go through the different phases from being a child to a tween, from a tween to a teenager, what worked before may not anymore.

The more I parent, the more aware I get, the more I feel I fall short of being a good parent.

The only thing that keeps me hopeful is that we have parented them to be resilient and despite all the mistakes and terrible parenting they have faced from us in the early years when we didn’t know better, somehow they have turned out not too badly.

I’m also glad that I’ve come so far in my own parenting journey that instead of marching over to my son to give him a good talking to for speaking to his little sister that way, I am able to work through with them calmly to unpack the intentions and emotions behind their outbursts.

And that’s something to rejoice about! One day at a time, one step at a time, and we will get there ๐Ÿ™‚

Other lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

Lesson #15: What are we worth, mums?
Lesson #16: What do you do when you get sick of parenting?
Lesson #17: The tragedy of our society


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~