3 Things Singaporeans Parents Should Spend Money On Instead of Tuition

By Joanne Poh

If you thought you car or your flat were expensive, wait till you calculate the cost of bringing up your kids. Part of the reason Singaporean parents pay so much to raise Junior is the heavy reliance on tuition.

The irony is that there are many kids who don’t benefit much from hours and hours of tuition each week—only one third of parents who sent their kids for tuition agreed that their academic performance had improved noticeably in a 2015 report!

And if you’ve ever been a tutor yourself, you’ll have seen first hand how some kids just snooze through their after-school lessons because they’re too bored or too tired from their hectic schedules, or struggle to retain any information because they’re already at saturation point.

Instead of tuition, here are some things Singaporean parents should probably be spending on instead..

Swimming lessons

It might be something in the water, but scarily enough, the number of kids involved in near-drowning episodes has risen sharply in the last five years. And about half of these mishaps happens in condo pools.

We’re pretty sure it’s not because kids are having more leisure time and choosing to spend it hanging around near swimming pools.

The problem seems to be that children aren’t being taught proper swimming skills at an early enough age, and that parents aren’t paying enough attention to them when they’re near potentially hazardous water bodies. It’s not uncommon to see kids being sent to the pool with helpers who may or may not be paying attention.

Even if you don’t live in a condo with a pool, it is a good idea to enrol your child in swimming lessons at a relatively early age. There’s no need to go overboard by sending him or her for swimming lessons as an infant, but children can usually start to learn from around age 5 to 6. Do note that it does take a few years to develop into a competent swimmer, though.

Child-proofing the home

Every so often, you wince as you hear about kids falling to their deaths from their HDB flats. It’s so sad we’re not even going to include links to relevant news articles here. Many parents don’t really give much thought to the fact that the home holds many hazards for babies and young children.

Sure, you might be supervising the kid most of the time, but unless you’re keeping him on a leash he’s going to be out of your sight from time to time. And if you’re relying on a helper or relative to look after the child, expecting her to stare at directly the kid 24/7 is unrealistic, especially given the other tasks around the house she’s likely to have.

Instead of enrolling your kindergarten kids in tuition like some kiasu Singaporean parents are doing, use that money to child-proof your home. Get rid of or secure unstable furniture that might topple over, tie up loose cords, spend on quality cribs and prams and consider installing grills on your windows if you don’t have them.

Access to sporting facilities

When you consider the fact that most kids spend hours after school sitting down at their desks, either trying to follow yet another mind numbing tuition session or struggling to complete piles of homework, it’s no wonder their health is suffering.

A 2014 report revealed that teens in Singapore are sorely lacking in physical activity, and this can have long-term repercussions on their health in adult life. You heard that right—if you think there’ll be time to exercise when they’ve passed all their exams with flying colours, graduated from university and gotten high paying jobs, you’re sorely mistaken, as kids who lack physical activity and end up with metabolic syndrome (which 12% of the surveyed teenagers had) enter adulthood with increased risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease.

That doesn’t mean you should go the crazy tiger mum route and start grooming your kid to be an Olympic swimmer or badminton player. Not all kids take to sport immediately, and it might take some time before yours finds a form of physical activity he or she likes enough to pursue actively. Kids who don’t like team or competitive sports might prefer other forms of exercise like dance or skateboarding.

The important thing is that you be willing to spend a little money to give your kids the exposure they’ll need to find some form of exercise they like and will do regularly. You don’t need to sign them up for super expensive activities like golf, sailing or horse riding, but do encourage them to try a range of sporting or dance CCAs when they reach primary school level, or send them for external activities if there’s nothing that interests them.

This article was first published over at MoneySmart blog on 22 March 2016. It is reproduced with permission.

About The Author (Joanne Poh)

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.


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