Preschool kid made to wear hair clip in front of class

From ‘Pre-school teacher suspended after parent complains about ‘humiliating’ punishment’, 10 July 2016, article by Sanjay Nair and Chew Hui Min, ST

A teacher has been suspended by a pre-school after a parent lodged a public complaint about her behaviour towards his son. A Facebook post by Mr Eric Cheong on Saturday (July 9) accused the teacher at Zoo-phonics School’s Serangoon Central branch, identified as “Ms Theresa”, of making his son stand in front of the class for sporting long hair, and then putting a “girl hair clip” on the boy, “much to the amusement of all the other kids”.

Mr Cheong added that the teacher threatened to repeat the action the next school day if the boy did not cut his hair by then.

…In his post, which has been shared over 1,500 times, Mr Cheong said that a school should be a place where learning is “fun, encouraging and engaging”, and was worried about the psychological impact of the incident on his son.

He wrote: “A simple verbal warning or even standing for a period of time is acceptable. But to humiliate a kid, made to wear a classmate’s hair clip in front of the class, is totally unnecessary and intolerable in a school environment.”

I’m surprised the father of the traumatised kid didn’t lodge a police report. Making a boy wear a girly accessory is terrible for the self-esteem. It’s like forcing him to play with dolls in front of other girls. He may turn out to be a cross-dresser when he grows up, all because a teacher meted out shaming as a punishment for long hair. Quick, send him to a child psychiatrist before he plays with mommy’s lipstick.

With a name like ‘Zoo-phonics’, you wouldn’t imagine that it’s a preschool teaching kids how to pronounce human words. I initially thought it’s a place where you could train your kid to mimic animal sounds so that they can communicate with our bestial brethren like Tarzan. Maybe the kid was just trying to blend in by sporting a mane. But wait a minute, what’s a toddler doing in enrichment in the first place? Isn’t he still a bit too young to get permanent mental trauma, or know what Pink Dot is?

Well, thanks to Mr Cheong’s complaint, someone risks losing her job, and further aggravates the burden on aspiring educators who have to face the wrath of overprotective parents if they believe that the best way to instill discipline in a brat is to make an example of him in front of the rest. ‘Ms Theresa’ didn’t drag the boy around like a rag doll like another abusive teacher did in a high profile case some years back. Dad should count himself lucky that the teacher didn’t cut the boy’s hair herself. Now that you probably need to send in the SWAT team and SCDF too.

Kids used to be taunted for being sissies all the time by other kids, and our parents didn’t come rushing to our rescue back then. Old school parents adopted a ‘serves you right attitude’. Today, they witch-hunt teachers for abusing their darlings. We eventually grew out of the harassment, and if our teachers punished us by shaming, whether it’s throwing chalk at our faces or mocking our masculinity, we learnt to forget and eventually thank them for their tough love. Today, parents are so afraid of kids being emotionally scarred they don’t realise their constant meddling will only do more good than harm in the long run. Ms Theresa was simply preparing the kid, albeit a bit prematurely, for the shit he’ll get in the army, which will be far worse than simply putting on a Hello Kitty hair clip for laughs. Don’t worry kid, if your drill sergeant calls you a ‘gu-niang’ for your long hair, Daddy is there to make sure he gets sent to detention barracks.

By the way, why are fierce teachers always named ‘Theresa’?


Parents setting up social media accounts for babies

From ‘Never too young for social media’, 1 May 2016, article by Venessa Lee, Sunday Times

One-year-old Kallista Choo has several social media accounts, including Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. When she is old enough to access those accounts herself, she will see herself growing up via the photographs her parents have uploaded over the years.

They set up an Instagram account for her when she was two months old, and then a Facebook page and Tumblr blog.

…On Instagram, Kallista has more than 1,300 followers. Mr Choo says: “We wanted to give her a voice before she could even talk.”


Kallista Choo, Instagram talking baby, social media darling, is an influencer extraordinaire in the making. While other parents set up bank accounts, enrol their toddlers into modelling classes, or sign them up for cutest baby competitions, our ‘millennial’ parents have created the modern equivalent of the ‘Truman Show’ around their oblivious children.

We know how that movie ended. The protagonist, sick of having his life documented to micro-detail and shown off to the world by a father figure-dictator named Christof, walks out of his manufactured stage, saying ‘Kthxbye’ to surrogate Daddy and his tens of thousands of followers. Today, Harry Truman lives on among our children thanks to their over-enthusiastic, controlling Christofs.

In the neglected recesses of my old house my parents keep an endearing nude pic of me as a baby, among an embarrassment of forgotten memories like me dolled up for a kindergarten play. It’s the kind of stuff you would dig up only once in a while and laugh at the sheer stupidity of it. And that’s all it’s meant to be, as a private family joke, away from prying eyes of kaypoh relatives and pedophiles. Mentioned once or twice and then we move on. If it’s bad enough you will remember it FOREVER. You don’t need Facebook to send you random throwbacks. If they had put me on Instagram, or worse, Tumblr (renown for its porn blogs), with the caption ‘I’M TOO SEXY FOR MY DIAPERS’, for over 1000 buggers to scoff at, my teenage years would have gone beyond pustulant acne, exam stress and thoughts of cutting. I could be picked on at school because the first friends I have on Facebook are my damn parents.

Social media is a rose-tinted filter. You don’t see the likes of Kallista throwing a fit, bawling and giving them hell in the middle of the night. Her parents have presented her to the world as a cute-as-a-button bundle of joy. When the time comes for Mom and Dad to hand over the accounts to their teenage kid, she would have been drilled into believing that ‘I post, therefore I am’. She risks being overdependent on Likes, Facebook Reactions, the opinion of others, affected by ‘Unfollows’, and growing up constantly seeking mass approval, an ingratiating mess. On the flipside, if your kid screws up his life and ends up in the papers some day for felony, people would go ‘OMG that’s @hamsumboiboi! He used to be SOOOO adorable!’ But breeding a narcissistic complex, attention-seeking behaviour, a rebellious streak or generally annoying the heck out of singles or couples trying for kids are probably the least of your worries.

Over-sharing your children’s pics puts their safety on the line. For anyone with ill intentions, your baby photo could end up as a link to a paedo porn site. If some psychopath wants to steal your baby, stalking has never been easier with social media tagging. In the past, if I wanted to kidnap your baby I would have to physically get out of my house and follow you around, peep around corners and even buy a pair of binoculars. Today, all I need to do is log into Instagram from the comfort of my home in my dirty underwear. Grudging baby-haters may cyberbully her before she could even walk. And if you think you own the right to your pictures and they should never be reproduced without permission, think again.

But the absolute shittiest thing you could do to a baby online is Faceswap away whatever dignity’s left in your child. What kind of sick, creepy-ass parent are you, really. I formally disown you, Faceswap Father!

I’m sure parents would have thought all this through and adjusted their privacy settings accordingly. Except that most of us get so excited when our babies express their first sentences or emit farts louder than Grandpa’s that we lose our minds and let our fingers and thumbs take over. I don’t know how many of Kallista’s 1300-odd followers are friends, random admirers, spambots or lurking sickos. I don’t know how many of those would remain loyal followers when the kid grows up to be a boring as hell teen. It’s a good time, nonetheless, to be a child psychologist. My Dad abused me as a baby – by putting his ugly mug over mine for laughs and I haven’t been sleeping well since.

Maybe all this isn’t about the baby at all, but a vanity showcase of ourselves as awesome parents. Some folks have been known to even set up accounts for their unborn foetus. If I insist on documenting the birth of my child from scratch I may post a photo of Mummy’s positive pregnancy test, right down to the graphic details of how I pumped our shared DNA into Mommy’s cervix.  I long for the old days when parents remain as parents and do normal parenting stuff like teaching their kid how to ride a bike so that kids can, well, be kids, and grow up in a world where their development isn’t being constantly hampered by the pressures of being an unwilling Internet celebrity, where a memory doesn’t need to be hashtagged and commented on for it to exist.




Millennial parents over creative with baby names

From ‘Hello, my name is Abcde’, 6 March 2016, article by Antika Varma, Sunday Times

When 24-year-old Rachel Siu was looking for a name for her son, she went to Greek mythology for inspiration, searching through names of gods and emperors for something “bold and different”.

The mass communications student’s online search led her to the Greek god of flowers, Dianthus, whose spelling she modified to Dyanthus for a twist. She, her husband and son currently live in Perth, where she is studying.

The name is supposed to be pronounced Dee-an-thus.

…Drawing inspiration from diverse sources such as the hit HBO fantasy series Game Of Thrones and popular celebrities, and freely mixing up the spelling to create tongue-twisting, phonetics- defying new words, these parents want a name that no other kid would share in the playground.

So goodbye to John and Jane, and hello to Matz, Ckash, Zoen, Zeremy and Abcde (pronounced Ab-si-dee) – which are not typographical errors, but the tricky names that Ms Sherlyn Chan, 28, a teacher at enrichment centre The Learning Lab, has encountered in her young students.

Dear Mum and Dad,

Glad we caught up over Chinese New Year. Ben already misses his grandparents. Trust you two to have the experience and wits to manage a 2 year old monster.

It’s been great here in Perth since I took up the new job posting. Boss is awesome and the colleagues are more than what any foreigner can ask for. But there’s something I couldn’t bear to tell you over the holidays. Mum cried the moment she saw us come out of the arrival hall, so I held back. I suppose this letter would do.

No I don’t have cancer.

I decided to legally change my name.

I know you two were inspired by both Star Wars and Game of Thrones when you had me. Giving kids an unusual name was the ‘in’ thing then. I remember asking you as a kid what it meant and you said ‘golden child of summer radiance’ in some fantasy fiction tongue, that it reminded you guys of your first picnic date at Marina Bay. It probably didn’t occur to you that not everyone binge reads Lord of the Rings.

Pronunciation was just one of the problems. In primary school there were at least 3 variations, and even the English teacher was stumped. She confessed to me that she tried to Google it but failed. Since then, I was that special kid with a weird name, who grew up holding up Starbucks queues because no one at the counter knew how to write on the cups. When I told them there’s a double consonant in there, they gave a pained expression, as if I just told them to write out Pi to 10 decimal places.

But the real killer was the jokes. I had already switched to my dialect name when introducing myself to new people, but I couldn’t escape when I had to show people my ID. When I got caught illegally parking, the LTA officer shot me a look and backed away ever so slightly. My former boss let it rip at the New Year office party, and everyone was laughing, slapping their thighs because they wouldn’t dare tell him how offensive it was. I couldn’t take it anymore.

So I moved on.

It’s probably not your fault that people make fun of my name. It just happened to be a fatal coincidence. I should be thankful I didn’t get something slightly worse. I’m glad it’s not Ckash, Abcde, wxyz, Antron, LITTLE or BOULDER. I mean, I would have settled for Tan Ah Kow anytime, rather than sound like a gangsta rapper, the sides of a parallelogram, an unflaterring adjective, a megalomaniac evil robot from the Avengers, or a large rock. Though I have to admit it was a conversation starter, and partly because of it I have Sarah, and we have Ben.

Still, given the current situation, I thought it was best that I gave myself a name that didn’t remind people of a deadly virus, but was close enough so that you wouldn’t be too upset. I hope you understand.


Your son, Zachary (formerly known as Zykker)

I Love Children campaign is ‘scaremongering’

From ‘Fertility ads give birth to controversy’, 5 Feb 2016, article by Tan Weizhen, ST

A voluntary welfare group advocating early parenthood has defended an advertising campaign featuring four controversial cartoons.

The ads – which show sperm and eggs in situations such as rowing together in a boat or playing darts – were placed in train stations by I Love Children (ILC) this week, with slogans like “Even the best marksman could miss the target” and “Women are born with a finite number of eggs”.

The group hopes they will encourage people to conceive earlier while they are more fertile, but they have been criticised by some members of the public for being distasteful and insensitive.

Women’s rights group the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has called the campaign “scaremongering“, saying it might have an emotional impact on women who might be infertile or who have had miscarriages.


It’s not just married folks without children who’ll be irked by the naggy tone of the ads. Even those with curious kids who’ve seen the ad will have trouble explaining to them what a sperm is and where it comes from, before they start asking you whether those two happy creatures are new Pokemons.

Like all evangelical fertility campaigns, I Love Children only presents a one-sided rosy picture of childbearing, and with it being launched in perfect timing with CNY, it’ll only add more fuel to the fire for those having to face the traditional interrogation by pesky relatives during visiting. This sudden urgency to bump up baby stats is a far cry from the ‘anti-natalist’ movement in the 70’s, where you’re advised to ‘take your time’ before settling down. If you ‘take your time’ these days, you’ll get parents giving you dirty looks assuming you’re a ‘children-hater’. You can ‘take your time’ to choose the right primary school, the right career, the right house, but when it comes to babies, it’s ‘WTF are you waiting for already!’

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 6.29.00 AM

From ‘Fertility and the Family:An overview of Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore’ Theresa Wong, Branda S.A Yeoh

To be fair, it’s hard to come up with a fertility campaign with the right nuance. Some mild threatening is needed for it to be effective. Like ‘Children – Life would be empty without them’. This would make sense in the 90’s. Today, if you don’t have children of your own, there’s always Netflix and line dancing to fill the gaping void in your otherwise lonely, miserable existence.

In 2013, some NTU students came up with a ‘Singaporean Fairytale’, which featured ‘negative stereotypes’ in the form of a Golden Goose laying eggs, with the terrifying warning that your ‘egg making device may become rusty and old’. Again, the usual scare tactics of that timebomb ticking away in your oven. Time to put a bun in it!

In 2012, Mentos created ‘National Night’, urging you to ‘perform your civic duty’, and tapping your partner’s body like an ‘EZ-link card’. Cringeworthy, but for different reasons.

ILC, you don’t need to tell me what I already know. Jubilee Babies, SG50 baby bonuses, enhanced parental benefits. We already have agents out there, intentionally or unintentionally, promoting procreation for free ALL THE TIME. Not just the Government, parents and kaypoh aunties, but every father mother son who’s ever posted a montage of their bundle of flippin’ joy on Facebook. I’m reminded of putting my sperm to good use everytime I send a Whatsapp message to a friend with his baby as his icon.  If I see a baby dressed like Obi Wan Kenobi, I get the urge to impregnate the nearest womb I see. When I see a mini-series about families with 8 kids it gives me a newfound passion for harem-making.

So there’s no need for pro-lifers to hire graphic designers to draw cartoon sperm and ova rowing a boat, doing pole vaults or doing the Lambada to give us the warm, tingly  ‘AWWWWW..SO CUTE..LET’S HAVE SEX NOW’ moment. In fact, these ads do the exact opposite. Like a badgering aunty telling you so-and-so just had a fourth kid and still got that promotion at work. It saps the romance right out of any form of sexual intercourse, oral, vaginal or otherwise. Unless you people are telling me ‘Screw romance and do it like they do on the Discovery Channel!’

In short, money wasted, which could have been put to better use helping people struggling with kids so badly they resort to giving them up for adoption, accidental teenage mums thinking of throwing their neonates down the rubbish chute, or going into some fund for assisted reproduction for desperate couples. If you Love Children so much, help children that are living NOW, not play bedroom Peeping Tom, matchmaker, and midwife.

This is all we need.

Kiasu parents compiling top PSLE scores online


From ‘Parents compile online lists of PSLE top scores’, 30 Nov 2015, article by Calvin Yang, ST

A move to stop revealing the names and scores of top performers at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) to reduce the emphasis on academic results has not stopped parents from compiling their own lists of top scores.

When primary schools withheld the scores of their high-fliers after the PSLE results were released last Wednesday, some parents went online to assemble unofficial lists of aggregate scores attained by the supposed top pupils in their children’s schools.

They told The Straits Times that these lists give them some indication of whether their children have a shot at getting into “brand name” secondary schools here.

Engineer Daniel Yeo, 44, whose son got his results last week, said: “It is about managing expectations. At the end of the day, we don’t want our child to be disappointed if he can’t get into a particular school.

‘At the end of the day’, when results are out, no parent for all practical purposes, cares if MOE claims that the reason why top and bottom PSLE scores are not disclosed is to ‘align practices with the emphasis on holistic development and all round excellence’. 

Without official announcements from MOE, we now have instead rumour, speculation and questionable ‘crowdsourcing’ on education forums like Kiasu Parents. Now people don’t just make assumptions of what the ‘best’ schools are, but which among these unofficial lists are the ‘worst’. When it comes to the PSLE, there’s no limit to how creative our parents can get, even though ‘creativity’ is not something you’d associate most Singaporean kids with.

As a consolation to those who did not fare so well, the media gets famous people to confess their ‘terrible’ PSLE results to public. Like ex-gangster turned lawyer Josephus Tan’s middling 183 for example. Sometimes happy successful people are where they are now not despite their atrocious PSLE score, but BECAUSE of it. Maybe to get a more ‘holistic’ explanation of why the rest of your life is not determined by a 3-digit number, they should interview not just winners at life but disgraced failures too, people who are obviously very smart and can ace the PSLE with one eye closed, but end up as storybook villains, like folks from a megachurch going to prison for corruption. So you can tell your kid that spending your education in a ‘middle-class’ school doesn’t mean you won’t descend into a life of sin and debauchery.   In any case, you’re still giving undue attention to The Score, which is exactly what MOE does not want.

This isn’t the first time people obsessed with PSLE ranking bypassed the MOE’s gag order. You can also gauge how good a secondary school is by ranking their cut-off scores. Despite not divulging top scorers, schools continue to honour kids who score ‘above 250’, which already tells you that anything less than 250 is mediocre. And then there are braggy-ass parents who insist on telling the world on Facebook how well their children did, which eventually will draw other FB parents into a heated T-score comparison war. My kid went up on stage but yours didn’t. HAHAHA.

Not many parents are willing to groom their children into artists like the Holycrap family. The urge to keep up with the Jones’s is part and parcel of not just the Singaporean but human psyche, so for the rest of us, with perfectly average children with no special talent to exploit, the PSLE is the proverbial trial by fire that allows parents and their kids to express and exaggerate that survival instinct, more so in a potboiler society where high office candidacy is still restricted to degree holders, and children have nothing much to live for other than homework and CCAs.

It’s dog eat dog, winner takes all, and the T-score is the golden snitch, the battle scar, the trophy on the shelf. I don’t care if that guy on stage in the top 1% is a douchebag, his score is an aspiration. And that’s what the PSLE, and the MOE’s futile diversions from it, is doing to us all. We celebrate a top score as if the kid has just won in life, while other kids with non-academic accomplishments like musical or sporting talent are given a brief nod, not a standing ovation. We’re engrossed in the numbers game to the point that we even make PSLE jokes of the PSI when it hits the 290s.

One Jurong West Secondary School principal exposed the hypocrisy behind the dictum ‘every school is a good school‘ by asking how many of our elite actually put their children in neighbourhood schools. Every school will want to distinguish themselves from the rest. Every school has its own tradition of excellence, however you want to define it, in academia or otherwise. That’s all part of the ‘branding’. Even if I say to hell with the PSLE and decide to push my child towards Wushu mastery, I would have to choose carefully. I’d go for one with a track record of winning competitions, just like how a kiasu parent who wants his child to become a rocket scientist would track PSLE scores in addition to how their science team fares in Robot Olympiads.

If the MOE wants every school to be as ‘good’ as the other, then it’ll have to do much more than playing hide and seek with PSLE scores, which desperate parents have the means to sniff out anyway.  It has to come down hard on schools known for their ‘exclusivity’ to a certain class of Singaporeans. It has to do away with this mindset that top dollar gives you top education. It has to review the entire GEP scheme. The top brass should have no shame telling people that their kid is working part time at McDonalds’ to pay for an education in arts or drama. We’d have to find a cure for this tuition epidemic. We’ll need to stop rich people from moving house just to get a better chance at securing the school ‘of their choice’. If we continue to jail parents for lying about their addresses, then the ministry has failed in its mission.

Yet at the same time, we shouldn’t succumb to the ‘Zuckerberg’ myth that results are not important, that you could drop out of school and become a internet multibillionaire. And we shouldn’t bring everyone down to the common denominator like some socialist utopian state. Ultimately, we don’t want to hear if this school is as ‘good’ as that school. What we want is this – It doesn’t matter which school you go to or how well you did. It’s what you made of your education, and who you are that’s most important.

NSP candidate joking about Tin Peiling’s weakness as mother

From ‘Being a mum is not a weakness: Tin Pei Ling’, 4 Sept 2015, article in CNA

Her new status as a mum is not a weakness, and neither is her youth, the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Tin Pei Ling said on Friday (Sep 4). Ms Tin, the PAP’s candidate for the MacPherson single-seat ward, had written a Facebook post in response to a TODAY report in which National Solidarity Party’s (NSP) Cheo Chai Chen was quoted as saying that being a mother was Ms Tin’s weakness.

Mr Cheo, who spoke in Mandarin, had said: “If voters choose her, she might focus more on her child than on her voters. This is her weakness.

Disagreeing, Ms Tin said she is committed to MacPherson, and that she returned to work two weeks after she gave birth because she wanted to continue to serve. “I am confident that even as a mum I can continue to focus on my work in MacPherson,” she said.

…Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr Cheo said his comments were meant as a joke. “I just said: ‘Tin Pei Ling now has a son, so she will focus on the child. Then she will split her attention to the residents’,” he said. “It was not my intention (to criticise her), it was a joke.”

Ms ‘Kate Spade’ herself should be used to getting picked on, none more so than by her former Marine Parade GRC team mate, ESM Goh Chok Tong himself, who posted on Facebook that Tin had been ‘traumatised’ by election pressure back in 2011, and was seeing trauma specialist Dr Fatimah Lateef. He clarified that it was ‘tongue in cheek’. Goh recently boasted that the PAP could be its own ‘self-check’ (which spawned Pritam Singh’s ‘Ownself check Ownself’). Not sure if his tongue was in his cheek then. At least the PAP needs someone to check on the appropriateness of their ‘jokes’ perhaps.

When Cheo passed what has been deemed to be a discriminatory remark about mothers, he clearly forgot about fellow NSP candidate Kevyrn Lim, who revealed to the media a few days back that she was a single mum. If Tin’s baby were a liability to her political aspirations, then what of Kevyrn? The latter already had to endure online catcalls and nasty comparisons to a streetwalker. NSP hastily backpedalled after the incident, but with the Macpherson card already a case of three’s a crowd, it looks like Cheo inadvertently just made it easier for Tin to secure the SMC.

Cheo’s not the first to be a potential nominee for AWARE’s Alamak award. In 2001, then Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang responded to Dr Lily Neo’s call in Parliament to use Medisave to cover breast screening by saying: ‘Save on one hairdo and use the money for health screening’. Tampines and 3-time contestant Desmond Choo raised the analogy that voting for the PAP was like choosing a housewife who’s really good in the kitchen. Some even call out the Cabinet for being predominantly male. While other Asian countries are seeing women take top leadership posts, we still have some in our midst indulging in old fashioned stereotypes, that women are meant to stay at home to look after their kids, look good for their husbands, cook your meals, or, in the case of the AHPETC saga, check the utility bills.

Yet, nobody questions men if they would be able to juggle their hectic day jobs with politicking, looking at the portfolio of some of our more distinguished MPs, be they directors of law firms, mega corporations or prominent lecturer-surgeons. An attractive female candidate like Nicole Seah is labelled ‘a pretty face‘, but no one doubts the abilities of PAP’s undisputed ‘selfie king’.  Neither did anyone in the new PAP Sembawang GRC team retort when they were referred to as a ‘boyband’. If you had an all-women team fielded instead and you decide to nickname them the Pussycat Dolls, you won’t be able to walk in the streets without someone sticking a stiletto heel up your groin.

Parents sending kids for brain-training

From ‘Parents jump on brain-training wagon in bid to boost concentration and memory in children’, 9 Feb 2015, article by Amelia Teng, ST

Forget maths tuition, swimming lessons or piano classes. Parents are now sending their children for brain training, hoping to improve their concentration and memory skills.

…Some opt for these classes – which can cost more than $100 per session – as they think tuition may not be as effective. Aiming to train motor and processing skills, for instance, the centres use methods such as listening exercises and puzzles, as well as physical activities like catching balls.

…Ms Cheryl Chia, founder of BrainFit Studio, said getting distracted is a common problem. To combat this, children learn to focus and follow instructions. BrainFit has three branches here, two of which were set up in the last five years. Each branch takes in 200 pupils every year.

To cater to the growing interest, it started programmes in the last two years for pre-schoolers and toddlers as young as six months old. These programmes had about 50 and 20 children respectively last year.

At Happy Train, children go through “right-brain training” to speed up information processing skills. The centre has seen more than 400 children sign up, twice as many as seven years ago. Children younger than two years old make up half of its pupils today, compared with 30 to 40 per cent in 2008.

Another centre, People Impact, uses brain training techniques among its methods to boost intellect and social skills. It had over 100 children last year, a 45 per cent jump from the year before.

‘Brain training’ is preparatory class for what would eventually become tuition, and we already have enrichment classes for toddlers. Before you know it, with advancements in brain-fitness ‘neuroscience’, we’ll be training brains of foetuses while they’re still in their amniotic sacs. Maybe pregnant mummies will have to gyrate their bodies in a certain way to the nourishing sounds of Mozart so that their unborn child will exercise the necessary ‘mental muscles’ to prepare them when they’re discharged out of a womb into a chaotic world. You could call this Pre-brain training, priming your child’s rudimentary nervous system with tools based on the latest ‘neuroscientific principles’ when there’s nothing bigger than a budding hypothalamus in that gooey pre-head of his, so that he can develop an ‘intellect’ before he can even climb and descend a playground slide.

Anyone familiar with dystopic sci-fi should be able to see the creepiness of all this. An analogy would be an elite group of human beings with superior intellect and powers plugging newborns into a vat filled with neurochemicals and hormones, their eyes glued to a series of flashing cue cards and images from the history of mankind, subject to constant physical aquatic exercise, so that by the age of 3 years they emerge from their cell ready to devour Shakespeare, form theories of the universe, play tennis blindfolded and attend  a cocktail party without experiencing any social awkwardness at all.

Brainfit Studio is unabashed in giving its programmes titles like Baby Da Vinci, Baby Newton and Baby Einstein, with the notable absence of Baby Michael Jordan, Baby Britney Spears or Baby Lee Kuan Yew. It’s practically giving you a choice to pick the kind of genius and fine physical specimen you want your kid to grow into. Happy Train claims to imbue the powers of PERFECT PITCH and ALPHA-WAVE RELAXATION into their students, which are exactly the kind of properties you would want a docile singing robot to have. Heguru Education wants to take you out of the ‘Friendzone’ and into the INCREDIBLE GENIUS ZONE. And this is how People Impact describes one of their ‘creative sequencing’ courses:

The learning objective for this module is to enhance each student’s ability to recognise, encode, and generate sequences of significant symbols, objects and events, in ways which enhance memory whilst also reducing their cognitive workload. Students will learn to identify and make use of the differences between arbitrary and ‘naturally’ ordered sequences, whilst developing the means to construct time- and energy-efficient hierarchically organised sequence embedding when set-sizes become too large to handle ‘in-the-head’ when relying upon short-term memory alone.

Which sounds like something a theoretical physicist needs to decipher gravitational waves, not kids who’re barely old enough to tell the time. Playing with wooden blocks is not good enough, these guys want you to break codes that would stump Alan Turing. With all this emphasis on ‘right-brain training’, your kid may grow up with a skull that looks exactly like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Einstein never needed a gym instructor for the mind nor an intellect on steroids. Kids these days.

As a parent you could, of course, forget about the prenatal ratrace and only start preparing your kid by buying past years’ PSLE assessment books when they’re Primary 5. You could bring them to the beach instead of a ‘learning lab’, build sandcastles, play catch, hide and seek, climb a tree, challenge to tic-tac-toe in the sand, catch a crab or skip stones.  Or, if you want your kid to grow up into Megamind, you could splurge on a brain-training session so that someone else can play damn ball with him, and not waste time with all this dirt and adventure bullshit.

There’s already a tried and tested, but more importantly, FREE, method available to any parent who wants to see their offspring develop into a human being full of potential with his own personality, not a polished automaton with a bootcamp brain with chill alpha-waves. It’s called PLAY.