5 things to do if your child is coming home from overseas

#1 is back home from the UK. Safe.

The figures of Covid-19 cases of returning Singaporeans, including overseas students are climbing as large numbers are returning home daily.

MOE and IHLs (Institutes of higher learning) made the decision to recall overseas students and for us parents, we are thankful that our government is doing all they can to bring them home quickly. The grandparents, grandaunts and elderly relatives are having sleepless nights worrying about them.

It seems like a wise decision to bring our families back as soon as possible because as the numbers escalate worldwide, the percentage of those exposed will keep multiplying.

Medical Clearance
In such an unprecedented, tumultuous time, while many things are beyond our control, we DO have a choice how we want to experience this chapter of our lives as history is being written.

Are we a people standing united? Gracious? Resilient? Or are we a complaining herd, only caring about our own needs and comfort?

We CAN make this BETTER for ourselves, our children, the people around us if we do these 5 things:

1. Be prepared for the unexpected

After stepping off the plane yesterday, all passengers on that SQ flight were subjected to a medical check. Besides having their temperature taken, they had to undergo a swab test where a long cotton bud looking stick was stuck up their nose to take a sample from their throat.

Yes, it was an uncomfortable procedure. But I’m relieved all passengers on her flight from London were tested for the virus.

With a full flight and only 1 doctor and an assisting nurse, it took almost 5 hours before she left the airport. The hubs was already at the airport waiting to pick her up, but she was the last in the queue as she was seated at the back of the plane.

There were adults complaining loudly at the inefficiency, of having to walk a long way to another medical station (perhaps the young people were venting via their phones) and I told #1 there was no point in getting frustrated but to make the most of the situation. She took out her laptop and worked on her assignments.

We can complain and get frustrated, or we can take it in our stride and deal with it in a calm and dignified manner.

Doctors, nurses and front line people have been working the hardest over the past months, and when directions come from the top, there will surely be logistics problems as systems are trying to cope with the fluidity of the changes.

Things are literally changing every moment as decisions have to be made as new information comes in.

Her friends who were not able to secure an SQ seat were put on a Swiss Air flight, and despite landing just hours after her, they did not get the swab test upon arrival.

We heard from students who had arrived today from London via SQ that the swab tests were not done on every single passenger, but on a random basis. 

Although the most prudent solution is to test EVERY SINGLE person returning from high risk countries, our resources are finite – test kits, labs, manpower, everything is stretched at the moment.

#1 was told that if she is tested positive, she will be called up within 4-6 hours.

It’s been more than 24 hours so no news is GREAT NEWS!!

Confined to her room

2. Better be safe than sorry

#1 is on Stay-Home Notice, which is one notch down from Quarantine order as she has not been in direct contact with a confirmed case. This means that she can’t leave the house for 14 days and should have limited contact with family members. However, with so many people in our household, and grandpa, we have decided to be extra cautious and to confine her in her own room which has an attached bathroom, even though her test result is negative.

We have heard that other students who were on SHN were moved to Quarantine status when a passenger on the same flight was tested positive.

Yes, it is more inconvenient for everyone, but in times like these, it is a small sacrifice to make and everyone has to step up to do their part to prevent community spread, which would be a devastating scenario with a spike in cases, inevitable deaths, streets emptying out, companies having to lay off employees and local businesses going bankrupt.

WE CANNOT LET OUR GUARD DOWN. If you are supposed to stay home, just stay home so that life can get on as normally as possible for the rest of the population.

Heathrow airport on 20 March

3. Now is the time to be SUPER KS

If there is one time our national DNA of being kiasu and kiasi should kick in, it is now. Knowing that young adults have a laissez-faire or bo chap attitude, I had to keep reminding #1 about personal hygiene.

I gave her 1 piece of advice.


Don’t touch anything you don’t need to, wash your hands constantly and before eating, tie up your hair so you don’t need to brush it off your face. Put extra pieces of kitchen towel in your pockets and use them for doorknobs of toilets and high touch surfaces.

Go to the airport extra early, about 1-2 hours before the usual 2 hour guideline as you have no idea what the queue would be like to check in. At this point in time, YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS YOUR FLIGHT.

#1 had an early morning flight and the airport was already crowded. It took her almost 2 hours to queue for check in, and it was time to walk straight through the packed airport to the departing gate.

4. Support your child and try to find the bright side

Kate was disappointed that she couldn’t go to the airport to pick her sister up as big jie jie had to sit in the back seat by herself.

She brightened up and said, “I’m going to make the best welcome home card I’ve ever made in my life!”

She wrote:

“I have been looking forward to see you! And now I can finally see you again! But the sad thing is, you will have to stay home for 14 days! But look at the bright side! You still will be home.”

It’s not easy for the students returning, as they have had their plans thwarted, dreams dashed, new friendships separated and opportunities vanished, all in an instant.

Provide a listening ear, be empathetic, give them leeway with things we parents may find hard to put up with, like their sleeping patterns, not packing up their luggage, having assignments due yet not getting on with it. They need some time to get over their jetlag, to adjust and process everything that has happened. Some of them are still feeling angry at their studies being cut short and having the “worse internships or exchange experience” they could have, as compared to their peers. Some are disappointed that this opportunity they have saved so long for, planned so thoroughly for has suddenly been taken away and their future plans look uncertain.

5. Monitor your child’s whereabouts

Our young adults have tasted full independence living abroad, and may not welcome their parents nosing around their lives. However, while the authorities are doing what they can by checking in on them via video call a few times a day, we should be vigilant as well. 

As parents, we need to do our part to ensure they do not leave the house, friends do not come over as no visitors are allowed, or worse, they should definitely not be out partying at night.

We are only as good as our weakest link.

Now is the time to be socially responsible. If everyone plays their part, we can get through this as best as possible.

Let’s stand united in solidarity, looking out for one another, being gracious and patient, lending a hand to those who are in need, showing kindness, uplifting one another. In past eras, during tough times, communities banded together.

What are we writing on the blank pages of our history books?

We can get through this. Together.

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.

Does your child need help with Handwriting?

Handwriting is a crucial skill that is often overlooked. We are seeing poor handwriting in quite a lot of children. It doesn’t mean they are lazy or cannot be bothered. Like any other skill, it can be taught.

Why is handwriting important?

  1. It makes their work legible for their teachers, parents and friends.
  2. Children with poor handwriting may avoid writing and this sets up a negative cycle, which hinders learning.
  3. Some kids are not using the right grip to hold the pencil properly, which results in muscle fatigue.
  4. Teachers say that neat handwriting is usually a good predictor of a diligent student and it has a positive impact on grades.
  5. Practicing handwriting activates the brain more than using the keyboard.
Kate’s work

Once they enter P1, they are expected to write neatly and legibly. They have penmanship booklets at P1, but usually the writing habits which have been formed in preschool are harder to change compared to starting them off well.

If they don’t have an adequate foundation with proper spacing, keeping the words on the line, consistent letter size, it gets harder when they have to write without lines, or do work for long periods of time. Kate tells me that they have a lot of group work in school, and some classmates with untidy handwriting will ask others to do the writing. This sets up a negative cycle and may affect their self-esteem.

What is contributing to their poor handwriting?

1. Handwriting is not given much attention in a lot of preschools today as there are other things competing for time. Many children do not use the correct strokes for the formation of letters. In the absence of instruction, they simply look at the letters and try to copy it by making up their own strokes. A small “a” may be a circle with a line connected to the side.

Letter formation

2. Weak fine motor and gross motor skills
Handwriting requires the use of both fine motor and gross motor skills. As children are spending less time in physical activities, as well as being put in restraining chairs and strollers at a younger age, their overall muscles have less opportunities to be developed. Playground time is great for strengthening these muscles, by climbing, swinging from bars, and pushing their friends on the swing.

3. Gadgets are more prevalent in their lives
Before gadgets, children spent time colouring, doodling or writing. Now, much of their free hours are spent swiping screens. Practice makes perfect, given the right instructions on forming their letters properly.

Among my kids, there are great differences in their handwriting. I was too busy focusing on survival that I completely overlooked their handwriting. I left it to their preschools to teach them how to read and write.

My son has very untidy handwriting, and I received a text from his teacher recently. She informed me that his handwriting is getting worse because now they are expected to write long essays in Sec 2. Sometimes, his scrawls are hard to decipher and she’s concerned about his exam papers.

I had a talk with him, and he said he will try his best. Handwriting is much easier to correct when they are younger as the wrong letter patterns may become a strongly ingrained motor habit.

In our education system, having fast and legible handwriting is crucial as many tests and exams are based on written work.

My daughter has tiny slanted handwriting which was not corrected, and it gets tedious to read when she produces pages and pages of an essay argument. Despite being a straight A student, she always fails written interview essays.

In JC, she sat for the admission test for Linguistics which is via a written assessment. She failed that, but subsequently, topped her class in GP and Literature and her teacher said that if she had known of her calibre back then, she would have admitted her.

Truth is, the first impressions of your written work counts. Examiners have to pore through hundreds of exam papers, and although the content may be good, they have to decipher what is written.

Handwriting is something we should not neglect in our children. Some kids tell us “I don’t like to write” or “I don’t want to write”. Many parents lament that their kids have messy handwriting, but don’t know where to get help. Our children should not have to feel bad about their handwriting. All they need is proper instruction and lots of practice.

Let your preschool child join us this March holidays for a 2-day Handwriting Camp at The Little Executive where our educators will guide them patiently to improve their handwriting skills, in a fun and enjoyable setting.

Here’s the link for more information and to sign up. Don’t worry parents, help is at hand ūüôā

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.

A SURPRISE note from my 7 year old

What a brilliant start to my day!

I woke up to find a note which Kate wrote at 6am before going up the school bus.

Dear Mum,

I know for at least 20 years you have been stressed.

But now that I’m alive, I’m here to help you.

So if you excuse me.

I have to leave.

Love Katie

WOW wow WOW.

So much in this tiny square of a message!

At the young age of 7, she has such great empathy. To be able to understand that it is tough to raise so many kids, and to want to do something about it to make things easier for me.

Well, I’m not sure how exactly she is planning to help, but that is besides the point.

Her willingness to want to help in whatever way she can, warms my heart.

Such brimming confidence, and feeling empowered that she CAN do something about it. You go girl!

Now that I’m alive, I’m here to help you.

That cracked me up.


This girl would certainly be living life with a purpose.

And she ended with 

So if you excuse me. I have to leave.

I was just imagining my tiny little girl, throwing her heavy backpack over her shoulders, boarding the bus with her mates, getting through her school day, and coming home to work on saving the day.

More than anything a mum could ask for.

I am indeed blessed.

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.

Paul Immigrations Reviews: Singapore PR Experts

There is no doubt that I am proud to be a Singaporean, and having lived abroad for several years, I have come to appreciate my home country even more. The Little Red Dot is a world-class city to work, live and play in, and becoming a Permanent Resident (PR) is a clear choice for those looking to make Singapore their long-term home. More importantly, most families I have spoken to say that the biggest push for them to come to Singapore is the assurance of a safe environment to raise their family in.

Kate went to an international preschool for a year as I wanted to expose her to the diversity of different cultures from a young age. She mixed with friends from more than 40 different nationalities and both the kids and parents tell me how much they love it here!
There are so many family-friendly options for entertainment, from beautiful parks and playgrounds to a myriad of exciting events and a wide variety of cuisines from unbelievably cheap prices at our hawker centres to top-notch celebrity chefs to keep the entire family happy (and well-fed). They are appreciative of how safe Singapore is to raise their young ones, as compared to many other parts of the world.

After living in Singapore for a while, they start to consider the option of applying to be PRs as there are many benefits:

  • hospital subsidies
  • higher chances to gain access into our well-sought after local schools
  • higher priority to borrow various loans such as housing loans
  • eligibility to buy second-hand units of government HDB flats
  • freedom to travel to most countries in the world without the need for a visa
  • eligibility to apply for full Singapore Citizenship, with which you enjoy the same rights as locally-born citizens
Unfortunately, the process is rather complicated and applying for your PR status involves completing and preparing various forms and documents to be submitted online to be approved by the ICA authorities.
To begin with, the e-Service can be difficult to navigate, especially as a first-time applicant unfamiliar with the process. You may miss out submitting documents vital to your application. Such a mistake can potentially be costly to your prospect of gaining approval.
The ICA receives thousands of applications per year and approves less than half of them. It can be difficult to make yourself stand out from everyone else trying to make Singapore their permanent home. Besides the time and effort spent crafting your application, there is also a S$100 non-refundable processing fee payable at the point of submission. Further fees are also required upon new applications.
It is indeed a tedious process with an ever-decreasing rate of success to gain the coveted Permanent Residency status in Singapore. The number of documents required and the explanatory notes to be sieved through can be daunting especially if English is not your first language, and you may be unsure if you even fulfill the criteria to be a PR.

Paul Immigrations Reviews: Your One-Stop Immigrations Consultancy Firm
Thankfully, there are consultants such as Paul Immigrations who you can turn to for professional advice.

Paul Immigrations
Paul Immigrations is a one-stop immigrations consultancy firm that guides you, step-by-step, through your entire PR application process. With a strong record of helping over 15000+ customers, the firm has comprehensive knowledge and expertise of the entire application process.
The team is on hand to address all your uncertainties and concerns, helping you to condolidate the necessary decuments and forms which improves your profile and chances of a successful application towards becoming a PR. They make what is a tedious and complicated process more straightforward and stress-free with these 6 steps:
STEP1 To start off the process, a consultant will help you to assess your chances of approval. As a foreigner, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency if you are a/an:

  • Spouse of a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident (PR)
  • Unmarried child aged below 21, either legally adopted by or born within the context of a legal marriage to¬†a Singapore PR or Citizen
  • Aged parent of a Singapore Citizen
  • Holder of an Employment Pass or S Pass
  • Student studying in Singapore
  • Foreign investor in Singapore
Your consultant will offer a meticulous eligibility assessment to ensure you meet the requirements meted out by the ICA. This is done via a telephone call.

STEP 2 If all sounds good, this will be followed by an in-person appointment. They are conveniently located at Suntec Tower 2. A sales representative will review your profile to assess the likelihood of your application to be approved. At this juncture, you can decide if you would like the team’s help to improve your chances of a successful application.
STEP 3 Thereafter, your consultant will guide you through the process of submitting your documents. This is the difficult part. The various types of documents that are required to be presented can make the whole process tiresome and frustrating, and just one mistake can invalidate your entire submission. The experienced team takes this off your hands and ensures you do not miss any important documents or other pertinent information.

STEP 4 A crucial aspect of their service is the actual completion of the PR application form. This is a long document that takes hours to fill. The team helps to ease this burden by completing the form based on the information extracted from your documents. Paperwork aside, it can be difficult to craft an application that stands out. The team works with you to draw out the best, garnered through years of expertise and insight into the stringent process. Furthermore, they make the effort to go the extra mile by including personalised cover letters that highlight your strengths to help you stand out in the best way, all written and prepared by their team of professional writers.

STEP 5  Finally, the application form and your documents are ready for submission. You may opt to submit them on your own remotely, with guidance over the phone, or choose to schedule an in-person appointment with them after ensuring that everything is done properly. The entire process takes about one to two months.
STEP 6 The waiting time for ICA to assess each PR application is about four to six months. Some submissions take even longer, depending on the strength and validity of the submitted documents. To expedite this, the team ensures you submit only the necessary documents. Depending on whether the application is approved or not, your consultant will guide you on the next best course of action to take.
All in all, they offer a comprehensive service to simplify the arduous process of attaining the coveted PR status in Singapore. The team undertakes the brunt of the work to ensure your stress-free experience in building the strongest possible case for approval. They provide expert advice for all your doubts and they go above and beyond to ensure you stand out from the rest of the candidates.

These testimonies attest to their professionalism and success rate:
“So glad that I finally got my approval in 5 months! Thanks to the consultant and team of Paul Immigrations, the troublesome applying process is so much less stressful for me! Kudos to the team!” – Yap Khai Wei, 32
“The consultants at Paul Immigrations were very patient. They provided detailed explanations to my queries too. I’m so happy to have them handle my submission & even more so now that it is approved!” – Priya Darshini, 27
“Booked a consultation with Paul Immigrations after knowing about them from a friend who engaged their professional service. The process was so much easier than trying to do it on my own!” – Sandra Liu Hua, 35
It can be nothing short of a challenge to start a new life in a new country. However, you need not do this alone. Enjoy an effortless experience with Paul Immigrations and tap on their expertise to increase your prospects of approval.
Take the first step by assessing your eligibility now!
Paul Immigrations
Suntec Tower Two
9 Temasek Boulevard#13-01/02/03
Singapore 038989
Tel: +65 62066390
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
www.mummyweeblog: A blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore

My best and worst Valentine’s presents

Surviving over 20 years of marriage is quite a feat, especially in this day and age.

We’ve definitely moved past the stage of wrecking our brains for that perfect gift and now it’s usually just a dinner date or a sort-of celebrated early meal for practicality, with the entire family.

We’ve been through so many ups and downs, and many years, when we were mired in difficulties and fighting for survival, this day passed just like any other ordinary day.

Somehow, we pulled through the worse, the poorer and the sickness and there were some lovely better, richer and healthy times we shared.

The best present from the hubs?

This wasn’t during Valentine’s but it was the sweetest gift ever.

About a decade ago, the hubs booked a trip to Milan and he thought why not visit Venice as well. I’ve been to Italy a couple of times and wasn’t particularly excited to go back to Milan and Venice. I was a huge Angelina Jolie fan then (no judgement please) and loved The tourist. I saw a confirmation slip on my table and couldn’t believe he had booked Hotel Danieli, the hotel where Angelina Jolie stayed in the show!

That was surely my highlight of the entire trip, not only walking the same carpets and stairs but discovering that the hotel was once home to a wealthy noble family. The 14th century palace has been beautifully preserved, and roaming around the halls, I could imagine the lavish parties and the little princesses running along the corridors. (one tiny disappointing reality was, that BOAT ENTRANCE in the movie was not real!)

The hubs is no Angelina Jolie fan, and he would much prefer a newer, modern hotel which would cost way less, so that was really sweet of him.

And the worst present? Or should I say, the present with the most mis-matched expectations?

This was many years back, long before we had apps on our phones. The hubs was all excited and he said, “Come! Come outside! See what present I got for you!”

Wah, from his earnestness, I thought it must be something really nice.

He led me to the car, opened the door and tada!

I was baffled. “Er, where’s the present?”

“There. The navigator! Isn’t it great?”

The navigator??! Why would I want the navigator for a present? I mean, c’mon! How could a GPS even count as a present!!

He saw my OH expression, and went on. “It’s not just any old GPS. It’s the authentic navigation system that I got fitted. You are always getting lost. Isn’t this most useful for you?

At that point in time, I wished he had spent his money on something else. Anything else. A good book would have been greatly appreciated.

Anyway, it was months later that it dawned on me that indeed, the GPS turned out to be indispensable and those frustrating days of going round and round in circles getting lost were over!

Beyond these thoughtful surprises, it is the everyday things he does that show his love for us.

Do I get annoyed at him?

Of course. And vice versa. But isn’t it better to focus on the good instead of the irks? Because what you focus on grows.

It is in the ordinary, the mundane, the struggles, the victories, that a contented life is built. The extras, the gifts, the vacations, they are but high bleeps in the big scheme of things. For me, it’s not the extraordinary that dazzle. But the everyday moments that matter.

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.

The Stuff I Don’t do

I am constantly asked, how do you find time to do so much for your kids? 

With 6 kids and a business to run, I have to consciously decide what to prioritise and where to focus my time and energy.

I used to try to accomplish too much and ended up running myself to the ground, always high strung and frustrated with everyone and myself.

Now, I aim to keep myself in a zen-like state, where the world can spin around me but I still hold firm and not get sucked into doing what everyone else is doing.

Honestly, I don’t do a whole lot!

I don’t drive them to school.

I don’t even wake up at 6am to wave them up the school bus. Kate comes to me every morning and gives me a goodbye kiss before leaving. Yup, she’s ready to be the mum around here!

I don’t help them with homework in the evenings.

I don’t nag them or test them their weekly spelling.

I don’t send them for tuition.

I don’t coach them for their exams. In fact, I don’t even know exactly when their exam dates are!

I don’t drive them around for enrichment classes. I find it incredibly stressful to be on the road, frantically watching the clock to get everyone on time for classes.

I don’t expect them to win medals or awards. Anything they come home with are always a big surprise and greeted with great claps on the backs and a celebration!

I don’t compare them with other children. Heck, I don’t even bother to know what other kids are up to in their spare time. I’m more interested in how others are bringing up their kids well, not what they are doing or achieving.

I don’t fret if there isn’t a proper dinner on the table some days. Porridge with ikan billis and spring onion makes a complete meal, no?

I don’t pretty up pictures for social media. Too time consuming. I know, my pictures are probably the worst out there!

I don’t worry very much.

I don’t feel guilty about being a lousy mum or not doing “enough” for them.

So, what DO I do?

I take time off to attend all their parent-teacher meetings, performances and important school events.

I guide them well, then expect them to be on top of things in school and to be completely in charge of school-related matters, including their weekly spelling and revision for exams.

I teach them to be independent from a young age.

I encourage them constantly. I am their biggest cheerleader.

I tell them they are good enough.

I guide them to find their strengths and interests.

I support their dreams and passions.

I open their eyes to what is possible.

I love them a whole lot. Unconditionally.

I let them take responsibility for a lot of things.

I allow them to make their own decisions.

I provide a listening ear.

I guide them from afar.

I close one eye when there is a need to.

I let them figure things out for themselves.

I let them fail.

I’m always ready with a hug, and never with an I-told-you-so response.

I don’t talk down to them. I talk with them.

I don’t do things for them. I do things with them.

I teach them to be grateful.

I believe in them.

So, if you are feeling guilty, don’t. We know that all mamas are trying their very best, and wouldn’t our families prefer to have us sane, happy and energized instead of being overworked, tired and snappy?


We are stars in our children’s eyes. Sometimes, all they want is to have us there, sitting beside them, listening to their stories of the day and feeling like they are the most important people in the world to us and we are not looking at our phones or rushing off to the next errand.

And that isn’t too hard to do, is it ūüôā

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.

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.


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

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.


About MummyWee

Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 7-turning-17 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and executive function, to survive today’s volatile world. She is also a parenting coach and has been featured on national TV, radio and print media.

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.