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4 Tips for Choosing a Secondary School

It’s never easy for any kind of parents. Be it the hands-off type or the “kan cheong” type. Many see it as a determiner of the child’s future, which sort of explains the emphasis placed on the PSLE results. But no matter the results, now is the time to consider what school to choose. Many parents had sought my advice on this and these are the top 4 tips on how to choose a secondary school:

1. What is the level of competition you want your child to face?

To put your child into a good school means competition will be intense. Competition is healthy if everyone studies for the sake of learning, but it becomes stressful and undesirable if it’s all about being Number 1.

Regardless of whether we have faith in our children, we need to remind ourselves that the universal truth is that there is always only one who is Number 1. The rest of the thousands of students are not. To strive for excellence in comparison with others guarantees failure 99% of the time, adding on unnecessary pressure and developing the hatred for learning.

Of course, you wouldn’t know the culture of the school before you step into one. It’s the attitude and mindset before you enter that matters. If you and your child have chosen a school because it’s a good school where students with high aggregate enter, then you have inevitably stepped into the realm of unhealthy competition. Your child will already feel the “pressure” even before the first step into the school.

2. Choose a school that value-adds

We have to admit that not “All schools are good schools”, because different schools have different focus and direction and if they don’t align with the values we embrace, they cannot be ideal schools.

Therefore, choose a school that could value-add to your child’s current strength. Value-adding can come in different forms, like CCA, values, culture, subjects offered etc. Bear in mind that your child is still developing and growing, he/she needs all the opportunities to learn new things or to further a skill. For example, if your child is already playing violin, enrol him into a school that has an orchestra. If you want your child to become more immersed in the Chinese culture, send him to those with an emphasis in Chinese culture e.g. All Secondary 1 students in Chung Cheng Sec will undergo a tea chapter under the Appreciation of the Chinese Culture (ACC) education.

3. Choose a school that doesn’t require long hours of travelling

As a little red dot, how far can a school be right? But do consider the time taken to walk to the nearest bus-stop, waiting time of the bus, traffic jams, transfers required etc. A school that is 4km away that doesn’t have a direct route to your house can require more than 1hour of travelling time to and fro on a daily basis. This time could have been better used.

4. Don’t leave the choice entirely to your child

I’m not saying you shouldn’t consult them, rather, you should discuss with them and talk about it at length. It’s a great opportunity to teach your children how to decide on life events. Use decision-making tools like a matrix, pros and cons listing┬áto help him learn prioritization of different factors. This whole process can open up a whole horizon of analytical skills which he can use in any other situation that may pop up in future.


In a nutshell, discuss the school with your child based on point 2 and 3 above, don’t focus too much on the aggregate even if it is of utmost concern to you. When using the decision-making matrix, aggregate should only be discussed because it affects the chance of getting into that school, do not address it in the form of the O Level results he will get.

This is an important decision that the family has to make together, make sure it is properly analysed and discussed as a family. Ultimately, a family that works out an issue together bonds closer together, and that’s already a good start for better things to come.