I remember my mother buying me a new pink school bag for Primary One, my grandparents teaching me how to order and pay for food during recess, and that sheer excitement of putting on a new uniform (a pinafore dress!), getting ready to start a new school year as a P1.
Entering Primary School is a big step for children and parents alike! Are our children equipped with the skills necessary to flourish and thrive in this exciting new journey? How can we best support our children in this critical transition of their lives?
The early years of a child are when critical foundations of social-emotional and cognitive learning are laid. Hence, in Singapore, most young children are enrolled in preschools from as early as 18 months old up to 6 years old. While generally overseen by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), Singapore preschools do not have a centralised curriculum. As such, children go through unique, and potentially uneven, learning experiences as a result of the array of curriculum approaches Singapore preschools present.
Thereafter, children get ready for an important jump into primary school, where they are expected to demonstrate a set of ‘readiness’ skills in their toolboxes.
School readiness skills do not merely refer to academic readiness such as a child being able to write his/her own name, count up to a certain number and recognise numbers, recognise the letters of the alphabet, and read some words, et cetera.
School readiness is a whole host of skills in development that measure a child’s preparedness to meet the demands of formal education.
General Readiness (Self-Care, Self-Regulation): Follow structured routines, maintain personal grooming and hygiene (e.g., toileting), independent work, sustained attention, rule compliance
General Knowledge and Cognition: planning and sequencing, exploration and discovery skills (e.g., inquiring and asking questions), problem-solving skills.
Physical and Motor Development: gross motor skills for outdoor play (e.g., strength, balance, and coordination – to jump, run, climb, skip), core muscles to sit upright in class for prolonged periods, fine motor skills for classroom activities (e.g., cutting, writing).
Social and Emotional Development: the ability to engage in reciprocal interactions with peers and teachers, work as a team, ability to recognize their emotional states, and regulate them.
Language Development: ability to comprehend and follow directions, ability to communicate their needs, wants, and thoughts.
Academic Readiness: writing own name, recognising numbers and counting meaningfully, letter recognition and letter sound awareness, able to read high-frequency words, able to copy from the board
Getting Ready for Primary School
Getting a child ready to enter Primary 1 is no easy feat. Parents and educators alike recognise the importance of preparing a child and equipping them with the necessary skillsets required to thrive and flourish in their new environment.
Presently, children identified as facing readiness-related issues are already provided with support through the Transition Support for Integration Programme (TRANSIT) that will eventually run in all primary schools by 2026. Through activities such as role-play, as well as through independent practice sessions and coaching by educators, the programme seeks to provide tailored learning and behavioural support for the transition into Primary School.
Ultimately, families are children’s first educators.
There are some things that parents can do to prepare their children for primary school as well as to support their transition into primary school!
Establish and implement a structured routine in the household
Engage in play that develops children’s imagination and creativity, as well as problem-solving skills
Encourage children to think about the world around them to develop their curiosity and inquisitiveness
Instill a sense of responsibility (e.g., taking charge of their own belongings, helping with chores at home)
Support adapting to new environment (e.g., going to school’s open house, showing pictures, talking through new timetables)
Build a new community by supporting children to form new friendships, and assure them that teachers are there to help whenever necessary
What if my child may not be ready for Primary School?
In certain circumstances, if there is really a strong reason to do so, deferment from primary school is an option parents could consider. Deferment gives extra time for a child to narrow the gap and catch up with his/her peers; to parents, deferment also provides the opportunity for intensive early intervention for a chance to be on an equal starting line with the cohort.
Shadow support services are another option for children who might require that additional push of learning and behavioural support in the school environment. Shadow support teachers are wonderful assets to children's learning experience in schools by facilitating engagement in lessons, mediating social interactions, managing emotional or behavioural regulation challenges, as well as providing additional academic support.
Going to primary school is a BIG thing for a young child! As a developmental therapist, I take great joy in seeing children learn, grow, and thrive in supportive environments that hold space and time for them to explore. Joy of learning and healthy social-emotional development are most valuable to a child and will create the best memories of school for them to look back on.
If you have any questions, or concerns about your child’s development, feel free to contact us at Shadow Advantage, it is our pleasure to support you and your child in this journey!