This is how many assessment books Singapore parents buy for their primary school kids

To many parents, this will sound all too familiar. Madam June Tan bought 10 assessment books for her older daughter when she was in primary school. “But she could finish only half of the books because there was no time,” said the 45-year-old, who is self-employed.

Yes, children in primary school may have more assessment books than the number of subjects they take – and they often cannot go through all of them.

Ms Ong Hui Juan, 29, who runs an online marketplace for education resources, said that based on her customers’ buying trends over the last three years, primary school pupils typically each have seven assessment books at a time.

On average, they complete about 60 per cent of the books, according to a poll by her company, OpenSchoolbag, that 120 parents took part in last year.

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Some parents had reported completion rates as low as 10 to 15 per cent. “This could imply that parents may be over-preparing. They think that their children can finish these books, but in reality there is no time,” said Ms Ong.

That is not all.

Based on the company’s sales trends, about 20 per cent of parents buy assessment materials that are a level higher than their children’s educational level, she added.

The firm, which works with publishers such as Shing Lee Publishers and Fairfield Book Publishers, lists some 1,900 titles, of which 1,400 are for primary school pupils.

“Challenging, latest exam format, strategies, techniques – these are the words on assessment book covers that parents like,” said Ms Ong, who hopes to provide parents with more information on how to pick the right books.

She and her team put up articles online to help parents decide .

She added: “We try not to do sales bundles to discourage overbuying.”

Ms Ong, a former bank analyst, became interested in education after being a part-time tutor for nine years. She gave mathematics and statistics tuition to students from secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities.

“Assessment books can be used to reinforce what children learn in school, to help them with more targeted practice,” she said. Private tutor Bernard Toh agreed that some parents tend to overbuy assessment books.

“I know some will buy every science reference book available from Popular. They want to be safe, so that everything is covered,” he said.

The parents then often tell him to use all the assessment books they buy during tuition, he added. “I would choose the books that are more useful and tell them what really can be finished.”

Parents contacted said that assessment books are important, but they try not to pile too much work on their children.

Madam Tan now buys fewer assessment books for her younger daughter in Primary 4, and is more selective in her choices. “No point buying and not doing… or doing so many questions blindly,” she said.

Housewife Karen Chen, 35, started buying English, Chinese and maths assessment books for her daughter when she was in kindergarten. “She doesn’t have tuition, so we use these books to reinforce concepts taught in school,” she said.

Her daughter, now in Primary 2, has about five assessment books .

“I don’t make her finish everything. Bedtime is still more important. She has to be in bed by 8.30pm,” she added.

A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.

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