Singapore

Singapore a good country to raise kids, but maybe not the best

Survey that ranked S'pore top country for children to grow up in needs to consider other factors, say parents and experts

Is Singapore truly the best country in the world for children to grow up in?

Last week, international non-governmental organisation Save The Children published its annual End of Childhood report, which ranked Singapore as number one out of 175 countries, tying with Slovenia.

The indicators were: under-five mortality rate, child stunting, out-of-school children and youth, child labour, child marriage, adolescent birth rate, population displaced by conflict and child homicide rate.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook post said he was happy about the results.

He added: "We are fortunate that these grave threats to children are rare or do not exist in Singapore."

But the 15 parents The New Paper spoke to said that although Singapore might be a good place for children, it might not be the best.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said Singapore meets the minimum for whether children can have a good life in a country.

He said: "I think this survey captures the basics and what I would call the minimum standards for a positive childhood."

Clinical psychologist Carol Balhetchet added that the survey seemed to emphasise the safety of children, which Singapore fulfils as it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

In terms of cleanliness, transport and medical services, she said Singapore also provides one of the best environments for children to grow up in.

Madam Mary Lim, 45, a freelancer and mother of three girls, said her children can walk to school safely.

Mr Mohammed Yusof Said, 50, an operations manager and father of two children with special needs, added that Singapore has good financial, social and educational support for children with autism.

But parents and experts said there were other areas the survey could have considered.

Ms Geraldine Tan, principal psychologist of The Therapy Room, said: "Maybe we should be looking at child suicide rates, or maybe obesity."

Family therapist Evonne Lek said the well-being of children should also be looked into.

She said: "From the suicide rate among children, you can see that kids here are being put through a lot of stress.

"Culturally, we are conservative too. Children undergoing issues related to their sexuality will find there are limited avenues to seek help. Singapore also does not concentrate much on mental health."

Dr Goh Kah Hong, head and consultant of psychological medicine at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, said: "Our children are facing high academic stress resulting in problems with maladjustment often presenting anxiety and depression.

"Our children who have learning disorders are still getting diagnosed and treated later than in other developed countries despite our world -class healthcare system."

Parents agreed that Singapore's grades-focused culture is not good for their children.

Mr Khairul Karim, 35, a project manager with four children, said: "In terms of self-development and creativity, Singapore is lacking. The system puts kids in a box..."

Ms Suzanne Westerbeek, 50, a housewife with three teenagers, added: "There is a competitive culture here where children can be pushed till they don't enjoy learning."

The high cost of living also affects children, said delivery driver Ridzuan Jamel, 32, a father of two.

"Both parents need to work to cater to the children's needs... There is little chance for the family to truly bond, which can lead to future problems."

Ultimately, Ms Tan said: "Research tells us part of the story.We need to continually relook the structures and regulations that are in place... We should use this as a guide and not rest on our laurels."

Education