That children as young as four are receiving tuition, with centers offering lessons in specialized after-school programs, should be a matter of concern even if some in society here continue to place a premium on academic achievement. Tuition is said to help children receive a level of attention that kindergartens are unable to offer. Some parents believe their children need tutoring to keep up with peers, while others are preparing them for primary school, particularly those which they believe offer a pathway to good PSLE grades, even though that educational rite of passage lies several years away. Such attitudes do not further the goal of child development.
Over-preparing children academically deprives them of precious cognitive time in which to pick up the social and emotional skills that will serve them over a lifetime in an age of rapid economic change. Children exhausted by tutoring may lose the ability to imagine and be as creative as they could be. By contrast, play socialises the young by giving them an opportunity to explore the environment around them and express themselves. Thus, parents should look at equipping their children with the basic skills of literacy and numeracy that they need to hold their own in primary school. Certainly, Singapore has rigorous academic standards, but they are designed to correspond to natural stages of a child’s development and not repress them. The educational authorities have outlined the fundamental requirements for academic readiness at the start of Primary 1. Indeed, going beyond those requirements might affect children’s curiosity, their interest in learning and their ability to focus and participate actively in class. Surely, that would be no way to prepare them for the challenges of a primary school education, to say nothing of secondary and tertiary levels thereafter. Parents must begin to learn this lesson early.