Singapore Mum’s 2-year-old Was Held Back From Going Into N1 And Her Ordeal Is Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare

Deepshikha Punj
·7-min read

My husband and I moved to Singapore from South America in 2017, this month makes it exactly four years since we arrived. We got married in Singapore and our child was born here in 2018. It wasn’t easy being away from our family, but we managed to raise a happy, cheerful 2-year-old kid.

I used to work in the travel industry but decided to stop working once I got pregnant. My husband still works in the travel industry and is the sole provider for our home.

I made a friend while attending the prenatal class and since we had a lot of things in common about what type of education we wanted for our kids, we decided to start the school touring journey together.

We, along with our husbands, were a bit overwhelmed about it at first since everyone kept telling us we should start looking well in advance. Our priority was a “learn thru play” type of school, preferably with an outdoor area for fresh air and most importantly, caring teachers.

He is almost two and a half, but the incident took place when he was in Playgroup (PG) class.

We Were Told That Our Son Was ‘Not Ready’ To Be Promoted

Image for representational purposes only | Courtesy: iStock

By the time our searching journey ended, my husband and I had found what it seemed like the perfect school. A trusted friend had recommended this school to us and it was also close to our home. It seemed to have what we were searching for: “Learn thru play” outdoor area and caring teachers.

My son was about 2-year-old, at 22 months when he started school.

Everything started nice but things quickly changed. The classes started to get way bigger, from eight kids initially to about 20 kids per class. Teachers changed so many times, he had about 8 different teachers within a six-month period so my husband and I started wondering what was going on.

One of the teachers kept telling us that our son wouldn’t listen to her and that he was very active and would not stop running. We thought that was totally normal for a 2-year-old. He is a very active kid but that is to be expected from someone that age.

After a few months, we had a teacher-parent conference where both the teacher and the principal insisted that our son wasn’t ready to move to N1 and that he needed additional time in PG class to learn more about behaviour and rules.

We were a bit taken aback by this and when we shared it with our family, they also felt that the school was expecting too much from a 2-year-old.

“Every time he saw his friends going to another class, he would cry even more”

Image for representational purposes only | Courtesy: iStock

My husband and I decided to trust in the schools’ recommendation thinking they are professionals who would know better than us; we thought that would be the best for our son.

That’s when everything started to get worse. Our son started to become aware that he was being left behind when he saw all his friends moving to another class and so he started crying every day when we dropped him off at school. He also got new teachers, so he felt insecure. He cried every day for two months when being dropped off and every time he saw his friends going to another class, he would cry even more.

My husband and I decided to speak with the principal again to explain to her everything that we were observing. Her advice was to keep him in PG class for another term as the teacher was new and needed a bit more time to get to know him.

Consequently, we patiently waited a little more until one day I asked the new teacher how she felt about his progress and moving him to N1. The response was the same: “he’s not ready.” What started to bother us was the fact that there didn’t seem to be any type of action plan around it, no specific milestones, or areas of improvement, just more time required.

We were a bit lost and we didn’t know what to do. The idea of changing schools was discussed but we were filled with doubts, we were afraid that perhaps he did need to stay in PG, maybe we would regret making the change.

One day, I sought council from another trusted friend who is a teacher and I gave her the details of what was going on. She was instantly shocked and advised us to immediately change him to another school. “This is outrageous!” she said.

She completely opened my eyes for which I am grateful. I am so happy that I confided in her because changing him to another school was the best decision we could have made.

There Was No Need To Hold My 2-yea-old Back A Whole Year

Image for representational purposes only | Courtesy: iStock

There was no need to hold him back. Firstly, he’s only a 2-year-old. He is an active kid, yes, but kids this age are all about exploration and play. He did participate in some of the activities, he wasn’t on the run all day. They expected too much from him to be sat down, focused on a single passive activity for too long and that is not a reason to hold him back.

Additionally, by the time he got comfortable with a new teacher, they would change teachers again. So of course, he needed to regain trust every time.

Not to mention new kids were entering the class every week or every other week so it was a lot of change for him to process on an ongoing basis.

Not Sure If The School Stuck To MOE Rules Or Realised The Repercussions Of Their Decision

Honestly, I am not sure. I would not think so because I’m not sure that is something you can just decide to do. As I imagine that you would need specific development feedback rather than just arbitrarily saying “he’s not ready” to do that.

Honestly, I don’t think they realised how bad an effect that had on our 2-year-old son and how it affected us as parents. I could see it in his eyes that he felt left behind, and it broke my heart.

It Was Difficult For Other Mums To Understand My Position

Image for representational purposes only | Courtesy: iStock

My child’s proficiency level matched the requirement of the school. He’s just a toddler, is very sociable, very loving. My son was a bit behind in his speech development according to the standard but nothing to be concerned. He is learning three languages at the same time (English, Spanish & Chinese) which is known to slow down the process, so a bit delay is expected. My son has now leapt forward significantly on his speech development since starting at the new school.

Luckily, it all worked out in the new school. He’s now in N1, the class he should have been in, he participates in all the activities, he dances, paints, and plays along with his new class friends. He just needed more reassurance and stability, that’s all. He’s smiling and happy in all the pictures they share with us.

I think it was difficult for other mums to understand my position. It was hard, I felt very lost.

Why Singapore Parents Must Know About This Incident

I think it’s important to share this because you expect to trust the teachers and principal ‘s judgement and unfortunately it is not always right. No one knows your son more than you do.

If something doesn’t feel right, you should get a second opinion, share it with friends or family or a specialist if needed. I’m lucky to have received really good advice but what about other parents that are not as comfortable sharing or questioning the school’s recommendation?

As told to theAsianparent. We reached out to this Singapore-based mum and conducted the interview via call. The names of all involved, including the school, have been withheld to protect privacy.

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