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Rip them off!

Chinese is priceless

When I first enquired at the school, I was told that there were 2 Chinese teachers — the Malaysian teacher taught PG and N1; the teacher from China taught N2, K1 and K2.

She went through N1 with the Malaysian teacher.

When she reached N2, I received a letter from the school: Would I like to sign my child up for specialized Chinese lessons with the teacher from China? That would be an additional cost of $100 per year for textbooks & materials. If I did not sign her up, her Chinese lessons would be limited to sessions with the Malaysian teacher.

So it turned out, the teacher from China taught N2, K1 and K2 only if and only when their mothers paid extra money.

Why was this not told to me right at the beginning? Why omit? Why mislead?

[I withdrew her in the middle of N2, but I’ve heard that the school pulls a similar stunt when the children reach K2. At the beginning of the children’s final year in the school, a letter is sent out to the parents of children who are still not in the full-day programme. The letter notifies the parents that it is now compulsory for their children to be in the full-day programme in order to learn more Chinese. By then, it is too abrupt and too disruptive for the parents to go about looking for new schools and then transferring their children over. Especially when it’s for merely about another 10 months. So instead, they obediently sign their children up for the full-day programme and dutifully pay up the difference.]

A fun childhood is priceless

As a child-care centre, the school operated throughout the year as it was supposed to under MCYS regulations. However, during MOE-prescribed term holidays (which don’t apply to child-care centres by the way), the school neither conducted regular lessons nor carried out revision.

Instead, it pushed its “holiday camps” — a misnomer because the children didn’t camp over in school. A gamut of art, craft and Christmas activities were packaged together and marketed to parents as “art camp,” “scrapbooking camp,” “Christmas camp,” etc. The camps, which usually spanned a week, took place during regular school hours, in replacement of regular lessons. They cost anything from $60 to more than $200 on top of regular school fees. So that’s regular school fees for no lessons PLUS additional camp fees.

Of course, there was always the option to sit out these pseudo holiday camps. And that was exactly what happened when you did not pay up — your child would be made to sit aside and watch her friends have fun.

Example 1: Ice-cream making demonstration

One of the mothers did not pay up.

The kid watched the rest of her friends eat ice-cream.

The kid asked for ice-cream.

The teacher told her: Your mummy did not pay money.

The kid watched the teachers and principal eat ice-cream.

When they were stuffed full, they stacked up the leftover tubs of ice-cream and staggered to the fridge.

Better to hoard ice-cream than to let a little kid have it.

After all, her mummy did not pay up.

Example 2: Scrapbooking “holiday camp”

A lot of mothers did not hand over their money. Because this was freaking expensive.

Their kids were rounded up and isolated in a classroom.

One of them asked in bewilderment: We never do anything wrong. Why are you punishing us?

One of them sobbed in anger: I don’t want to go to that classroom! They could not remove him from the banister to which he was clinging on like his life depended on it. So they left him there till he gave up and surrendered himself.

Example 3: Singapore River Cruise cum National Day Celebration

I refused to pay for the Singapore River Cruise (I’ll tell you why later).

A week went by. It was the day of the National Day celebration in school. We turned up in school in school uniform — what else do you turn up in school in? — only to find the teachers changing the rest of the children who had gone on the Singapore River Cruise into red Singapore t-shirts. There wasn’t one for my child because I hadn’t paid for the Singapore River Cruise.

Why wasn’t I told that the Singapore River Cruise came with a t-shirt that would be worn for the school’s National Day celebration?

Why couldn’t they have offered to sell me the t-shirt separately?

Why wasn’t I informed that all the children would be wearing a red t-shirt so that I could have at least also put my child in a red t-shirt, any red t-shirt?

Immediately upon entering the school, my child turned to me and exclaimed: I am not wearing a red t-shirt!

Then, she reassured herself: It’s ok, it’s ok. I have a Singapore flag tattoo. It’s ok. I’m special. I’m special, right? It’s ok.

She stuck out like a sore thumb.

School’s money-making modus operandi: Break the spirits of the children, defeat the mothers. Intimidation is totally what early childhood education is about.

Childhood memories are priceless

Cost of annual concert:
2008 ≈ $250
2009 ≈ $350
2010 ≈ $450

Seriously, if I had wanted to visit a swanky yatch club, I would have. What’s up with holding a preschool concert at ONE°15 Marina Club???

School’s money-making modus operandi was once again the rule of thumb here.

If you didn’t sign up and pay up, your child would sit aside and watch her friends prance and dance every single day for 2 whole months straight, no lessons.

So, even if you refused to fork out extra money for the concert, you ended up paying regular school fees just for your child to be miserable in school.

There was really only 1 choice — suck it up, sign up and pay up.

(Which we did, in 2009. We were lucky enough not to be there yet in 2008 and we realized that we did have another choice in 2010. We got out of the money-sucker disguised as a preschool. We should not be the ones sucking it up.)

You know what else is priceless? Bullshit.

Bullshit 1

Excursion: $30-$45 per child, $30-$45 per adult

BUT if you were buddy buddy with the principal, she would either give you a discount on your child’s fees or waive it altogether. And you would get to go along for free!

Bullshit 2

Concert: $250-$450

BUT if you were buddy buddy with the principal, she would charge you less than half the price!

Bullshit 3

1 day of ad hoc full-day programme: $30

BUT if you were buddy buddy with the principal, she would take care of your child for the whole day as and when you want, free!

Bullshit 4

Monthly school fees: $800 for half-day programme, $1000 for full-day programme

BUT if you were buddy buddy with the principal, she would give you a discount of a couple of hundred dollars per month!

So the rest of the parents who were NOT buddy buddy with the principal were supposed to subsidize those who were? I paid money so that somebody else could pay less? (And that was why I refused to pay my child to go on the Singapore River Cruise excursion, or any excursions for that matter. Because I would have been paying for my child PLUS the principal’s buddies to go for free.)

BULLSHIT. BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT!!!

Read also:
Wrong School
It’s alright to leave the gates unlocked. Even if you’re next to the main road.
Who cares?
It’s up to the teachers’ sole discretion
What Montessori? What Chinese? What childcare?
Sleep is for babies, hygiene is for the weak

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Sleep is for babies

The school did not encourage the children to take an afternoon nap. In fact, it seemed keen to do away with the afternoon nap altogether.

N2, K1 and K2 Chinese classes and enrichment classes were scheduled right after the children’s lunch and shower. By the time they were done with these additional classes, it was typically about 3pm — way too late for an afternoon nap. So they were fed a snack and ushered outdoor to play instead, before being stuffed into the school bus and sent home at about 4.30pm.

The first Tuesday she had to go without her afternoon nap, she returned home in tears. Every subsequent Tuesday, she asked to drop her enrichment class. It seemed almost incredulous that Chinese speech & drama was her favourite class the year before in N1. Then, she was not forced to sacrifice her nap.

Hygiene is for the weak

When we first enrolled in N1, the school did not conduct any health checks at all. No temperature-taking, no checking of mouth for ulcers, no checking of hands and feet for rashes. Na-da. Nothing.

It was only during the H1N1 scare that the teachers finally started taking the children’s temperatures in the morning.

But the way these temperature checks were carried out — they were a sham. Harsh, but there really is no other nicer way of putting it.

The children were assigned individual ear caps marked with their names. After their temperatures were taken, their ear caps were stacked into mini towers. Then they were chucked higgedly-piggedly into a small plastic storage box, to be reused the next day.

The procedure (or rather, the lack of procedure) left me wondering:

1. What was the point of assigning the children individual ear caps if they were all going to get into contact with everybody else’s ear caps?

2. Didn’t sticking a germy ear cap into the children’s ears increase the chances of them falling sick?

I couldn’t decide whether I actually preferred it when the school did NOT conduct temperature checks.

Read also:
Wrong School
It’s alright to leave the gates unlocked. Even if you’re next to the main road.
Who cares?
It’s up to the teachers’ sole discretion
What Montessori? What Chinese? What childcare?
Rip them off!

Read Full Post »

What Montessori?

The school purports to provide a Montessori education.

By the time she left the school in the middle of N2, she had only mastered the spindle exercise. She had yet to be introduced to the large movable alphabet.

This means, at the age of 4, she had only been taught to count from 0-9. 2 letter words, 3 letter words, sight words — they all remained a mystery to her.

What Chinese?

Chinese was usually taught for 20-30 minutes, never for more than 45 minutes and sometimes not at all even.

The Chinese teacher was the default stand-in teacher. She took the place of any teacher who was absent — for the entire day. Obviously, she didn’t and couldn’t conduct her own Chinese classes under those circumstances.

For Chinese New Year, she returned to China for 2 whole months. There was no substitute teacher.

During MOE’s prescribed school holidays for kindergartens, Chinese was not taught at all. But the school is NOT a kindergarten; it is a childcare centre.

What childcare?

Childcare centres come under the jurisdiction of MCYS (not MOE, surprise surprise).

According to MCYS regulations:

1. Childcare centres should be open throughout the year except for Sundays and gazetted public holidays. Centres can observe half-days on the eves of Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year. In addition, centres are allowed to close for an additional 5.5 days per year.

2. Childcare centres provide full-day and half-day care programmes.

We paid for her to be in a childcare centre that is supposed to operate throughout the year — but Chinese lessons were not conducted during MOE’s school holidays. Why, as a MCYS-regulated childcare centre, does the Chinese curriculum run according to MOE’s school holidays?

We paid for her to be in the full-day programme — but the school’s curriculum ended between 1pm to 1.30pm, followed by a shower, a nap, a snack and outdoor play. Whatever happened to the other half of the curriculum in the full-day programme?

Read also:
Wrong School
It’s alright to leave the gates unlocked. Even if you’re next to the main road.
Who cares?
It’s up to the teachers’ sole discretion
Sleep is for babies, hygiene is for the weak
Rip them off!

Read Full Post »

To feed your child junk food

Recite this, and you get a gummy.
Answer this, and you get a chocolate.
Keep quiet, and you get potato chips.

To call your child names

Teacher S tells her to go to the classroom upstairs to fetch her work. She totters up. Teacher E sees her and asks, “Why are you here?” Before she can say anything, Teacher E decides, “KAYPOH LAH YOU. Go downstairs.” She totters down.

To encourage your child to jeer at other children

Teacher K got all of them, on the count of three, to shout, “BOOOOOOOOOO!” at the boy who misbehaved.

To introduce your child to sex & alcohol

Teacher A teaches them to sing Cassie’s Nobody But You and Kesha’s Tick Tock:

I’m talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk
Boys tryin’ to touch my junk, junk
Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk

And don’t forget smoking, guns plus blowing somebody else’s brains out

At the annual concert, her principal and teachers put up a skit. One of her teachers mimes smoking, holds her fingers out as a gun and pulls the trigger. The other teacher collapses on the ground, dies.

HUH???

Read also:
Wrong School
It’s alright to leave the gates unlocked. Even if you’re next to the main road.
Who cares?
What Montessori? What Chinese? What childcare?
Sleep is for babies, hygiene is for the weak
Rip them off!

Read Full Post »

Who cares?

Because dengue fever’s a whole lot of fun
aka
Because 3-year-olds are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, that’s why I send her to childcare

The school had an outdoor playground infested with mosquitoes.

I found that out during the 1st week when she returned with 6 big bites.

I asked about mosquitoes control. Her teacher claimed they have professionals coming in to fumigate the grounds once a month, any more often would be unhealthy for the children.

I understood the school’s concerns. I started sticking anti-mosquito patches on her. 1 didn’t work, so I stuck 2. 2 didn’t work, so I stuck 3. When 3 didn’t work, I sprayed anti-mosquito repellent all over her before sending her to school.

I stuffed the bottle of anti-mosquito repellent inside her bag and asked her teacher to re-apply it on her before letting her out to the playground. Her teacher gave me her word.

She continued coming home with more mosquito bites. I showed her teacher the bites and reminded her about the bottle of anti-mosquito repellent.

She turned to the 3-year-old standing by my side and reproached, “I thought I told you to tell the other teachers to spray for you everyday before going to the playground?” And the 3-year-old whom I had entrusted to her teacher apologized, “I tell Teacher A or Teacher E everyday. But I forgot yesterday. Sorry, Teacher N. Sorry, Mummy.”

I was flabbergasted.


At one point, she had 11 of these. She couldn’t stand still because they itched, she couldn’t sit because they swelled at her joints, she couldn’t sleep because they hurt. I had to lance them with sterilized needles.


Because it’s normal to hobble
aka
Because the natural assumption of early childhood educators is that all children are naughty

Then there was the splinter incident.

She refused to go for art. She told the teachers her foot hurt. She hobbled around for the rest of the day. Nobody gave her a second glance, nobody checked her.

Within minutes of picking her up, I found a splinter lodged deep inside her big toe. Only then did her teacher come over to show some concern.

I brought her home and plucked out the splinter myself.


Because they should finish their vegetables
&
Because frankly, who cares?

And then there was the vegetarian phase.

For months, she stopped eating meat during lunch in school.

The teachers never once brought it to my attention.

I only found out after I told her off for being picky with her food during dinner at home. She retorted that her teachers allowed her to do as she pleased.

She also got away with not washing her hands after going to the toilet. Her hair was never tied up despite hanging past her shoulders. She had even been left to roam the playground for more than an hour — without supervision.

Unbelievable.

Read also:
Wrong School
It’s alright to leave the gates unlocked. Even if you’re next to the main road.
It’s up to the teachers’ sole discretion
What Montessori? What Chinese? What childcare?
Sleep is for babies, hygiene is for the weak
Rip them off!

Read Full Post »

The school had 2 gates: 1 tall main gate that stands as barrier between the school and 4 very busy lanes of traffic, plus 1 small short gate that separates the inner compound of the school from the driveway that leads to the main gate and out to the roads. In addition, there were 3 doors that open from various classrooms.

The main gate was often unlocked. The small gate was almost never locked. None of the children had any problem unlocking the 3 doors.

I spoke to her teacher who was also the school supervisor (a position similar to the vice-principal) — once during the 1st week, once more during the 1st month, and one too many times over the next 15 months.

She shifted the blame to the parents and helpers who left the gates unlocked.

She explained that the small gate had an inbuilt safety mechanism. It is heavy cast iron intentionally designed to rest all its weight on 1 side. Thus, it is imperative that the gate is lifted slightly — and this can only be achieved by the strength of an adult — so as to align it before it becomes possible to lock or unlock.

I pointed out that it is precisely because the gate is so bothersome to lock up, that’s why many of the parents and helpers give up. Its supposed “safety mechanism” was self-defeating, and worse still, dangerous.

I suggested alternative locks and gates which I had observed at other schools.

She promised to convey my concern to the principal.

By the time we left the school more than a year later, I had yet to hear from the principal regarding the issue. Nothing had changed.

Read also:
Wrong School
Who cares?
It’s up to the teachers’ sole discretion
What Montessori? What Chinese? What childcare?
Sleep is for babies, hygiene is for the weak
Rip them off!

Read Full Post »

Wrong School

The school I invested so much effort in and spent so much time finding turned out to be wrong right from the start.

All the hints that it was an unsuitable school surfaced on the 1st day, during the 1st week, throughout the 1st month.

We tried to be positive. But the issues of concern only became more and more real, more and more pressing.

We hung on for 1 year and 3 months before withdrawing and transferring her to another school. It’s been over half a year since. She is happy, I am happy, we are happy.

But for all the angst Care-A-Lot (more like Can’t-Care-Less) caused us, it surely deserves a series of blog posts of its own. So here goes. These were what bugged us:

It’s alright to leave the gates unlocked. Even if you’re next to the main road.
Who cares?
It’s up to the teachers’ sole discretion
What Montessori? What Chinese? What childcare?
Sleep is for babies, hygiene is for the weak
Rip them off!

Read Full Post »

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