I read an article yesterday on Huffington Post about “How Singapore is Limiting Basic Human Rights” and it touched a really raw nerve. While it focused a lot on the journey that activists have taken in over the past 20 years and showed how there have been some improvements, the reality is we still have a long way to go.
And I was reminded of it yesterday.
Recently we have been searching for a school for Zoey. She is currently enrolled in the delightful Pony Running Early Childhood Education Centre in Marine Parade where she attends a playgroup for toddlers 3 times a week. We chose this school because it is a small school where the teachers know every student and has a small teacher to student ratio. The only problem is the school is very far from our home and they only keep students until 4 years old. That is why when she turns 3 next year, we will need to start her in a school nearer to our home so that she can attend classes 5 times a week. This has proven to be a challenging search.
There are basically 2 options to choose from when looking at preschool options. Either a childcare centre or a kindergarten. Childcare centres operate for the full day and while you can opt to send the child for half a day, most parents will choose the full day option as the price difference is quite minute. Kindergartens generally hold 3 hour to 4 hour classes with an option for a morning or afternoon session.
Given that we are not eligible for any childcare subsidies as Zoey is not Singaporean, we will have to pay full price for whichever school we pick. A good childcare centre will cost anywhere between $1,000 a month to $2,000 a month. This would essentially work out to be around 10% of our household income. A kindergarten will cost between $600 to $1,200. This is more affordable, but it also means we need to find other ways to occupy the rest of Zoey’s day.
There are obvious advantages and disadvantages for both options. Childcare centres tend to have larger facilities as they tend to be bigger and have more children enrolled, however, it means that the student-teacher ratio is often not great. Kindergartens often are small with a much smaller student-teacher ratio. This advantage is offset by the space constraints that they have. Curriculum wise, it is largely dependent on the type of school it is. Some are more academic focused, others are more play based.
So for the past few weeks we’ve been having serious discussions on this topic and doing research into our available options. We have toured a number of schools to get a feel of what would work for us. The key factors are a school within 2 km with play based curriculum, a good student-teacher ratio, in a good space with progressive teachers and a reasonable price. As of today, we have yet to find anything that fits the bill, although a number of options come close. The schools we have toured so far have been progressive and open to the idea of having the child of same-sex parents attend the school. Until yesterday.
During the tour of a small kindergarten yesterday, we were asked by one of the teachers “Is it legal?”
I know she did not mean it with malice. By her own admission, we were the first “single-sex” (she really means “same-sex”) parents she had encountered. She kept saying that it was their first time and that they would need to seek advice from MOE.
This incident reminded me that while we have been fortunate to meet understanding and progressive people on our journey so far, there is still much work to be done as there is a large portion of the population who have no idea that same-sex parents do exist in Singapore and our children need to attend preschool as well. As long as 377A remains on the books, people still see LGBT couples as illegal and in turn this mindset spills over to LGBT families as well.
We like the method of teaching deployed by the school, but are now concerned about how they will handle discrimination incidents and also whether the teachers will be open to learning about how to support Zoey when questions are raised by other students. If we decide to enroll Zoey in this school, we will have to meet with all the teachers and come to a mutual understanding on how they will handle any potential issues that surface. While I do not mind doing so, it also highlights a need for us to come up with some guidelines on best practices against discrimination in schools that can help tackle the education piece.
For now, if anyone has any recommendations for pre-schools in the North-East area, namely Hougang, Seng Kang and Serangoon that won’t cost us an arm and a leg and fits our criteria above, please let me know. Our little one needs a school soon, and hopefully it will be in a place where no one will question whether or not she is legal.