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Singapore Education System

If you have been reading my posts, you see that I use general terms such as children or write how old the child is. Every country has its own education system. Thus, using general terms is easily understood by most people. If you would like to know what K2, P1 or Sec 1 means in Singapore, below is the table to show the education system in general*:

Stage Sub-categories Typical Age Short Form Used
Pre-school Playgroup age varies  
Nursery 3 — 4 N1, N2
Kindergarten 5 — 6 K1, K2
Primary   7 — 12 P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, P6
Secondary Lower Secondary 13 — 14 Sec 1, Sec 2
Upper Secondary 15 — 17 Sec 3, Sec 4, Sec 5
Post-Secondary / Pre-University   age varies JC, poly, ITE (depending on which institution you are in)
University   age varies

* Note: I do not have children (as of now). The above table is made based on my personal understanding. If there is any deviation from the current system, please feel free to update me. Thanks.

Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level)

Disclaimer: This Mathematics question is purely created for discussion purpose. Any resemblance to actual questions from books or schools is coincidental.

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Q: The sum of three numbers is 125. The smallest number is 25. The difference between the largest number and the smallest number is 35. Find the second largest number.

A: Method 1 — This is a common question for Primary students in Singapore. First you need to draw the diagram to show the relationship of the three numbers, based on the question. Once you get the diagram correct, that means you have understood the question and it is easier for you to find the answer.

joyfulyue.wordpress.com_Singapore Mathematics_Primary Level

Diagram for the question

To find the second largest number, you need to subtract the smallest number and the largest number from the sum.

The largest number = 25 + 35 = 60

The second largest number = 125 – 25 – 60

                                 = 40

Method 2 — Use variables to represent the three numbers, a = the smallest number, b = the second largest number and c = the largest number.

a + b + c = 125

a = 25

c – a = 35

To find c, c = 35 + a = 35 + 25 = 60

To find b, b = 125 – a – c

                           = 125 – 25 – 60

        = 40

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Pros and cons of the above two methods

Method 1: Pro — This method is taught in school. As long as you get the diagram correct, you are not far from the correct answer.

Con — If the student cannot understand the question and unable to draw diagram, the student will leave the answer blank, which leads to zero mark. Many parents have not been taught about this method when they were studying. This is when both parents and students are at a loss because parents are unable to teach the children how to solve the question in “school way”.

Method 2: Pro — If you are good at algebra, this is a good method to use. Parents are able to teach the children how to solve the question. Often, the parents are afraid to teach the children this way because it is not the way how teachers teach in school. No worry, the students are actually encouraged to use different ways to solve problems, as long as they can find the correct answer.

Con — Algebra is a more complicated concept than diagram, thus some students may not get used to the idea of variables. If the students learn two methods at the same time, they may get confused.

Note to parents: Algebra will be taught in Secondary schools. Thus, if your children are able to solve the question using the model method, you may want to introduce the algebra method to your children as an alternative way to solve the question or to check whether the answer is correct.

My Two Cents to Parents

From my experience of tutoring, I have met different types of parents and students. I have always wanted to share my views on tuition. If you are a parent, please feel free to share your views too.

Below are a few reasons when parents start looking for tutor(s) for their child(ren):

  1. When a child with good results suddenly regresses in his / her study
  2. When a child starts a new school year, for example, getting into Primary 1 or Sec 1
  3. The parents want the child to improve further, even his / her results are good
  4. The child has not-so-good results

I would like to highlight reason (1) When a child with good results suddenly regresses in his / her study. As a parent, before you start panicking and looking for tutors, please find out the reason(s) why the child regresses in his / her study. Most of the time, the child just wants to get your attention, maybe due to the addition of younger sibling. Thus, having tuition may not helps if the mystery is not solved.

For reason (2) and (3), I can understand that the parents want the best for the child. But, please give your child and yourself some time. If the child is doing good in school and he / she already has a lot of homework, there is no need to get extra tuition. The child needs time to rest and play. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. For the child who just starts a new school year, let him / her cope first. If after a few months or after the first exam, and you find that the child cannot cope, then you start looking for a tutor, it is still not too late.

For reason (4), it is obvious that the child needs help. Similarly, the parents need to do some homework before engaging a tutor. Some aspects to consider when you are finding the suitable tutor:

  • Is it one subject or more subjects?
  • Is your child more comfortable with group tuition or one-to-one tuition?
  • For group tuition: Is travelling needed? How much time will be spent on travelling?
  • What is the teaching style of the tutor?
  • How long should the tuition be? For lower primary, please restrict to one hour at most for one subject. It is because young children have shorter attention span.

Finding a tutor is like finding a suitor — Your child does not need a trophy tutor, your child needs a suitable tutor. Instead of asking “How do you charge?” or “What is your highest qualification?”, you can ask “What is your teaching experience?”, “What is your teaching style?” and provide some information about your child to the tutor. It is a two-way communication, you want to understand the tutor, the tutor also needs to understand what your child needs.

Final and the most important aspect to consider, does your child want to go for tuition? I have met with parents who always change the tutor after one or two sessions, just because the child does not “like” the tutor. I believe sometimes it is because the tutor and the child do not click. But if this is repeating for a few tutors, be warned, stop finding tutors immediately. If your child does not want to go for tuition, stop wasting time, effort and money.

For all the tutors out there, I know this post is a controversy. This post is not meant to discourage parents from finding tutor for children, this post is asking the parents to stop and think before finding a suitable tutor. I believe it is a win-win situation for parents and tutors because the tutor and the child can develop a bond that lasts for a long time and the parents also save the worries and troubles to keep finding the right tutor.




A. 儿非          B. 宝儿

This is a Chinese sentence for Primary level. The question — What is the name of the little bear?

For non-native Chinese learners, they may face problem and choose 儿非 as the answer. The correct answer is 宝儿.

If we rewrite the sentence, 小熊, 宝儿非常顽皮, the answer becomes obvious. But there are many authors, thus we will have different writing styles. Also, to train the thinking skills of children, questions in exam will not be written in an obvious way.

It takes practice to learn Chinese sentence structures. Another way to excel in answering comprehension is to read story books since young.

As parents, you may spend time to read together with your toddlers. (Yes, reading can start as young as toddlers). Later, you can add in Q&A session with your young children, asking them who are the main characters in the story, what are the characters doing?, etc.

With a lot of practices, children will like the language and thirst for more stories. Let them continue the good habit into adulthood.