School selection - Culture

Lynne Tan, an ex-secondary school teacher, contributed this series to provide parents another perspective to selecting a school for their child. She is currently working as a consultant in one of Singapore’s leading character development consultancy firms.

BESIDES academic or sports performance, there are equally relevant aspects that one could consider when identifying potential schools to enrol your child after a major examination like the PSLE. In this part, we focus on school ethos as a key consideration.

Like all organisations, the school values underpin its culture which determines the behaviour of the staff which the children will model after. Understanding this ethos requires you to find an opportunity to chat with the principal about the school in the following aspects:


Have him articulate his vision for the school and the plans to realise it. Do not be impressed by the grandeur of his visions without getting him to share the current performance of his students and teachers. This will include the academic achievements, school disciplinary measures, teacher readiness and capacity to execute the plans as well as the resources and support from other stakeholders. The willingness of the principal to share will demonstrate the degree of transparency in his management style, an indication of his openness to working with parents.

Philosophy of discipline

The school philosophy and approach to disciplining students can be fairly sensitive and important, and parental support is critical to ensure its effectiveness in the long run. If the leadership is soft in its disciplinary approach, the teachers are likely to have a hard time getting the pupils to cooperate while learning.  A test of this - the average attendance, punctuality, absentee and truancy rates.  Benchmark these against the minimum guidelines set by the Ministry. If they fall below, this may be an indication that the pupils of the school are poorly motivated and engaged.

Belief in holistic development

While academic pursuits are important, a far-sighted and caring principal has the desire to groom the children holistically with a well-planned character development programme for the students.   Resources are dedicated and channelled to this aspect of development to ensure success. To gauge this, ask for past year programmes.

School selection - Grades
School selection - Principal's management style
School selection - Teacher development