Friday, July 20, 2012

School No More

St James Church Kindergarten has been in the news quite a bit. It is the twins' kindergarten. Their kindergarten might close if they can't extend the lease of their current campus and they cannot find an alternative site to house their students. It doesn't affect the twins. They graduate next year and they will graduate from the campus that everyone loves. But there is Muffin. 

What will happen to him if and when the school closes? To the lay person, it is simple. Find another kindergarten/ pre-school. There are so many to choose from. 

Unfortunately, in our eyes, there really isn't. I went onto the St James page on Kiasu Parents and I realised that the main complaint about the school was that it didn't really academically prepare the children for Primary 1. They didn't do pinyin, they didn't do Chinese or English spelling, they didn't do creative writing at K1; their Chinese programme, compared to other academically focused kindergartens, wasn't fantastic; it was getting better but it wasn't comparable to Nanyang.  The thing is these are all things that are true to some extent but they are, in actual fact, the reasons why I am heartbroken that Muffin might not actually get to go through the entire experience of St James. 

It's not that I don't care about Muffin and whether he does well in school. In fact, it matters to me a great deal. Not because I want to be part of the academic race in Singapore but because it is part of me to expect my children to be the best they can be. Blame all the competitive racing, blame my early lessons in life but that's my outlook and my kids will have to live up to that. But at the same time, while I think excellence (academic or otherwise) is good, I don't see that it should be achieved at the expense of everything else. 

And that is why I love this pre-school. They take play and fun seriously. They take creativity seriously. They even take public speaking and confidence seriously. Most importantly, they take God very seriously. 

When I got the email that very gently but firmly advised me to find an alternative for Muffin, my initial reaction was a very rational one. Find him another pre-school. The problem was the more I thought about the requirements the replacement school had to fulfil, the more depressed I got because I was sure I wouldn't find another one to match up. The more I looked and read up on what other parents had to say about the other pre-schools on the replacement list, the more I found myself hoping that St James would find a shovel big enough to dig itself out of this quandary because none could compare. 

The school isn't perfect. Far from it. But what they do offer, I think is admirable. And what saddens me further is that I read, side by side in the papers, about how the government wants to have quality pre-schools in Singapore on one hand but at the same time, the government agency that is in charge of the land claims that nothing can be done about the school's current predicament; forcing this school to consider shutting down.

If I had a magic wand or a genie in a lamp to grant me 3 wishes, all of the wishes would go toward the school and finding a solution. I know we live in a secular society and the Church hasn't been getting very good press lately. But this was a school that has placed values over everything else. 

When I told the twins what was happening with the school and the possibility that Muffin could not complete kinder there, how they reacted, they would never have reacted had they not been in St James. They asked if they could pray. They thanked God for the school, the rabbits, the sandpit, their teachers and the wood playground. Then, they asked God if Muffin could go there so that they could have as much fun as they have. By the time they were done, I had tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart. 

They, were the true testament of why St James should not close. My only hope is that God hears the prayers of these little children. 

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