Making the move to secondary school

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The PSLE results were released last Thursday, and while it’s true that aggregate scores and cut-off points do count, we aren’t here to talk about that. For a detailed description of the Secondary One Posting Exercise, head here. Your child learns a lot more than just academics at secondary school – it’s when she takes her first fledging steps towards being an adult, and you want to choose a school that is best able to help her succeed.

Finding the right fit
“We have to broaden our perception of what makes a school a good school. Every child is different, and ultimately the school has to be a right fit for your child to be a good school for him or her,” agrees Michelle Wee, mother of six children between the ages of three and 17.

Michelle, who blogs about her experiences at, is a fount of wisdom. Her two older children ended up going to different secondary schools, and the experience has totally changed her mindset. “With the two of them in different schools, I can honestly say that Number 2’s school which has a lower cut-off point is in no way a ‘lousier’ school than Number 1’s school, and I have no qualms sending the other kids there in future,” she says. “I have totally changed my perception of what makes a good school and I notice some differences which I have never considered before.”

According to Michelle, school values can really make or break a school. “The principal of Number 2’s school is very down to earth and the values that the school upholds run through all their programmes. The teachers seem to really care for the students and there’s an atmosphere of joy in the school,” she adds.

Other factors worth considering include the frequency and nature of assessments, extra opportunities on offer (such as camps or overseas trips) as well as what CCAs are offered (and what the school excels at).

Don’t forget to consider the more pedestrian issues as well – the day-to-day logistics of choosing a school that’s far away from home can really have an impact. Don’t just think about the actual distance, but also factor in things such as having to change buses or MRT lines.

Minnows vs heavyweight schools
One key factor, according to Asian Parent, is the big-fish-little-pond effect. Studies have shown that it is actually better to be “a big fish in a little pond (gifted student in regular reference group) than to be a small fish in a big pond (gifted student in gifted reference group)”.  While it might be counterintuitive, it might actually be better for your child’s self-confidence (and eventual academic performance) to attend a less academically rigorous secondary school.

But above all, what really matters is what is most important to your child. After all, she will be the one attending school and coping with its challenges every single day. Secondary school is one of the first steps towards adulthood for your child – perhaps it’s time to let her take the lead.

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