Friday, February 25, 2011

Let's try Mummy's Supplementary

Recently, there was some debate in the local media as to whether schools are being too kiasu in introducing supplementary classes from as early as p3. To me, this is one of those issues that will never find consensus. It irks me sometimes to hear people (usually non-parents) make dumb comments like, "Parents are impossible to please lah. Have also complain, don't have also complain." Well, duh, it's never the same set of parents!

I feel the parents who want the supplementary classes treat these the same way they treat tuition (which I wrote about here) - it's a crutch, since everyone else is doing it, their kids better do it too otherwise they'll lose out. Others just consider it free tuition, the more the merrier.

Andre's school implemented compulsory supplementary classes twice a week for p5 kids this year. Previously they only had supplementary classes for the top few classes and remedial classes for the bottom few but parents in the middle classes started complaining so they decided to institute a blanket rule for all.

Andre's schedule is already pretty packed, what with badminton training, piano lessons and Chinese and English tuition. So you can imagine I didn't welcome the news that he would have to attend supplementary classes.

Don't be mistaken, I'm not against supplementary classes per se, I'm just against herd mentality supplementary classes. Remedial classes work because they take place in small groups and target specific kids with specific weaknesses. The problem with most school supplementary classes is that they're really just extended curriculum sessions for the teacher to finish what she couldn't cover in class or do corrections, etc. Sometimes, teachers just dole out extra worksheets and then provide the answer key for kids to mark the work themselves.

I can't really blame the teachers, they have enough on their plates. Supplementary classes mean extra time and extra work for them. For the kids however, this is hardly productive. After 6 hours at school and a short lunch break, they have to sit down for another two hours of drills. I'm pretty sure very little real learning actually takes place. Worse still, by the time they reach home, they're mentally exhausted which means it's a challenge just to get them to finish homework, let alone do extra revision.

So after some heavy pondering, I wrote to his English and math teacher asking if Andre could be excused from the two supplementary classes. My rationale to them was that his two hours would be better spent with me doing one-on-one revision with him (which I would have to give up if he went for supplementary due to the sheer lack of time).

I was hopeful but not entirely optimistic the teachers would acquiesce since the classes were supposed to be compulsory. To my delight and surprise, both teachers agreed to my proposal. They were very understanding and said they would hand him any additional materials that were being done during supplementary classes. (Have I mentioned that I love this school?) I suppose one can construe that they're passing the buck to the parent but I appreciate that they're flexible enough to bend the rules when it makes sense. Not every teacher will do that.

I didn't ask for Andre to be let off Chinese supplementary class because that's one subject I can't help him with, and since the science class is held immediately before the Chinese one, it made sense logistically to let him attend that as well.

So now the onus is on me and I'll admit I'm a little nervous. It takes a great deal of gumption to believe that you can coach your child better than the school can and I'm not that brash to not have my moments of doubt. The CA1 is next week and I guess that's the acid test.

Meanwhile, even though Andre has to stay home and be drilled (and yelled at) by me as the price for missing his supplementary classes, he seems to be relishing it. A classmate asked him indignantly, "How come you don't have to go for supplementary?"

Andre replied with a broad smile, "I live a good life."


institutionslegetøj said...

Supplementary classes means extra burden and extra work for the kids...

Anonymous said...

My sons' school treat P5 supplementary classes as extended school hours, so they will continue con't to teach and do worksheets and even dish out more homework to the poor kids during those classes. So, I don't think they can 'live a good life' when their time comes.


monlim said...

It's just extra work all round - for kids, for teachers, for mummies... groan.

Anonymous said...

I did the same when my kid was in P5. Took him out from all supps, even Chinese. I think that's the right move especially when I am at home to help him. In the end, he actually did better than many of his classmates who attended the supps. I truly feel a one-to-one lesson is more effective. With the extra time, I even signed him up for tennis class in the afternoon. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica

I chanced upon your blog and I must say I enjoy reading it. I agree with your thinking, views and identify with your experiences. My child's in P3 - no supplementary classes yet. No other enrichment classes too, other than Chinese and piano. I coach him too on my own (and yes, yell at him too, countless times, and feeling terribly guilty thereafter.) I also have my moments of self-doubt, especially after hearing that his classmates attend top notched enrichment centres and having private tuition. Well, so far, he's doing well, and I hope I can keep this up!!!


monlim said...

EGC: It's always nice to hear that there are other parents like me out there - vacillating between bochap and kancheong. I like to think that our kids get a more well-rounded childhood than those with the kiasu parents :P

Thanks for reading!

The Beauties In Our Lives said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this post of yours...for me, I too am a pendulum, swinging between kancheong and bochap. Would like a more carefree education (and childhood) for my girls, but I agree with EGC that sometimes it is the other kiasu parents that stress me out with their kiasu tuitions and make me doubt myself! But yes, I had been teaching my P3 girl by myself, and I work full time - so I am feeling the strain. That said, I agree that children would rather prefer parents teaching them than boring old supp classes!

monlim said...

TBIOL: Wow, juggling between a full-time job and teaching kids is no mean feat. Kudos to you for not succumbing to the kiasu syndrome of all-around tuition classes!

Anonymous said...

Sad thing is I want to opt out supplementary lessons for my kids, but VP requires child psychologist's letter to certify that he can't take lessons for more than 5 hours.
It is quite silly when the symptoms are displayed before the teachers, and the teachers are complaining that he is disruptive in the supplemetary lessons. Isn't this ironical ?
I heard that child psychologist does not charge cheap.
But attendance for lessons is compulsory.
If I have no solution to this, I might as well pack my bags and leave this country.
My folks kids are doing well, without the kind of pressure the kids are getting from the school.
My nephews are taking medicine and law without having to struggle here and they have a normal childhood. The educational system is more holistic there.
BTW, can anybody recommend a psychologist to write a letter that my kid cannot focus well after 5 and a half hours of lessons per day and he has to go for 4 subjects supplementary lessons, that is 4 times a week ? A psychologist deems too professional, he wants my kid to go through a battery of test and it will cost me $1,500. It hurts my pocket as with that money I can pay for a year of Chines language tuition. ... help !

monlim said...

Anon: I think it's silly to insist on a psych letter just to take your child out of supp lessons. If you want to ask for recommendations, perhaps you would like to post your request on the FB page instead top right hand corner button) as this is an old post and I don't think pple would see your comment.

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