By Kel Tan
Are enrichment classes truly necessary for your child? We get several parents to weigh in.
Piano, ballet, arts and crafts, speech and drama… For kids these days, the options for enrichment classes are practically endless. But are these extracurricular activities truly advantageous, or do they ultimately do more harm than good?
The pros of enrichment classes
Enrichment classes can bolster a child’s academic performance, especially if he or she isn’t doing well in school. And more often than not, parents lack the time and/or ability to coach their little one privately.
“Aiden (10) started math and Chinese tuition in Primary 2, when we felt that he was lagging behind his peers and were unable to spend time coaching him,” explains Candice, a full-time working mother of two. “Besides, the school syllabus has changed drastically over the years, and not all parents are able to teach using methods that are aligned with the current education standards.”
Her views are echoed by Lewis, who will be sending his daughter, Ariel (5), for Chinese lessons in October. “Ariel is struggling, and both me and my wife are not strong in the language. As such, we need and want to equip her with the basics before she enters primary school,” he shares. “The classes are for her to be able to communicate better and not struggle so much academically.”
Non-academic enrichment classes, such as sports and music, offer numerous benefits as well, as Candice can attest. “We chose to sign Aiden and his brother Ian (6) up for judo, as it is a useful form of self-defence. These classes allow kids to learn things that parents are unable to teach, or won’t be exposed to otherwise,” she says. “Plus, it’s a good opportunity for them to make new friends and be inspired by others who are passionate about their craft.”
The cons of enrichment classes
Yet, enrichment classes – both academic and non-academic – can be an added source of pressure for kids, who already have to cope with the various demands of growing up.
“Personally, I would prefer not to send my son for any enrichment classes if possible, as they can be stressful. I want him to have a fun childhood without any worries,” confides Ferlicia, whose son, Elijah (3), currently does not attend any such classes.
These pursuits can be time-consuming too, impinging on leisure hours or parent-child bonding. “As working parents, we are only left with evenings and weekends to bond with our kids. If we were to add enrichment classes to the mix, we would have even less quality time to spend with them,” says Mrs Yue, who is the mother of two kids, JY (6) and XY (2).
This is something that Lewis agrees with. “We would send our children to a maximum of two classes at any one time… we would prefer any additional time to be spent with family, and we don’t want them to be overwhelmed by stress as well,” he says.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, parents should consider if enrichment classes are truly a necessity. If your child is consistently failing at school, it would be in their best interest to attend extra classes to ensure that they can cope academically. Or if your kid demonstrates a talent for, say, sports or music, it would be remiss not to help them hone their skills further.
It is also important to take into account your child’s preferences – after all, they would likely be more motivated to do well if they possess a genuine interest in the activity in question.
6-year-old Clovis currently does not attend any enrichment classes, but his mum, Cecilia, isn’t ruling them out. “If Clovis is keen, we will let him choose so he can truly enjoy the classes,” she says. “We prefer letting him make his own decisions.” In the same vein, Lewis stopped sending Ariel for piano lessons after she lost interest.
Ultimately, it is crucial to strike a balance. Enrichment classes may have various benefits, but the value of free time and unstructured play cannot be overlooked. As Mrs Yue sums it up, “In enrichment classes, kids can interact with one another, building teamwork and social skills. At home, simple pursuits – playing with toys, drawing, colouring – allow them to exercise their creativity”.
As such, if you do decide to send your child for enrichment classes, ensure that they still have enough downtime to spend with their family, and to explore their natural interests. After all, as the popular saying goes, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.