What exactly is Parents’ Guide® all about?
The idea for Parents’ Guide® came about when I was trying to guide my (then) Primary 2 son in his mathematics homework. I was stumped by the modelling method that he was taught in school and he refused to adopt the algebraic approach that I was familiar with. That moment gave me pause.
After a brief period of self-reflection, I realised that the education landscape has changed significantly since the time when I was being schooled. (Admittedly, that was a long time ago.) Syllabuses have changed. Teaching methods have changed. Hell, even the technologies for imparting and acquiring knowledge have changed.
The struggle to keep up with the changes is thus not in the exclusive domain of first-time parents with school-age children. Many experienced parents feel the same angst at the beginning of every academic year.
More importantly, the path to success (and I don’t mean just academically) is no longer straight and narrow. Following the traditional route of going to a good school, getting a good degree and securing a good job does not guarantee the achievement of personal happiness, let alone the eradication of the tug-of-war between what parents want for their children and what their children insist on doing.
So I decided to embark on a journey to “help parents guide their children in education choices”, which now forms our tagline. The rationale behind this is that parents can only guide their children if they know what’s going on in the first place. And by providing parents with the information needed to know what’s going on, they can make a better, more informed decision about their choices. That is how the Parents’ Guide® website came about.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Ok, but why do you have so many sub-sections?
In a typical family nucleus, parents will likely have children at different stages of learning and, by that extension, have different information needs. By having content that serves the varying needs of a family nucleus, it allows us to effectively target our audience (without having to pigeonhole a specific type of parents to reach out to) and stay relevant to them as their children progress to the next learning stage (all the while maintaining their mindshare). It’s a bit like the through-train mode offered by some schools in Hong Kong. In the Singapore context, Higher Education and Scholarships tend to go hand-in-hand. Our competitors in this space primarily target students, but we feel that parents need to have the buy-in when it comes to education and scholarship choices because most of the time they are the ones who fund their child’s education and act as guarantor for the scholarship (if it comes with a bond). This is an important aspect because bond-breaking has serious repercussions in Singapore. Enrichment Programmes is the one that we struggled with a bit. Our marketing slant is that we have a community of like-minded parents who believe that their children's learning journey should be more than getting good grades (although we don’t explicitly discourage tiger moms and cat dads from joining our community). But the enrichment culture is prevalent in Singapore so the force is strong with this one and we decided it makes business sense to go with the flow. Plus, it fits in with our family nucleus approach and we are providing information that parents need.
Isn't there an apparent contradiction between what you're preaching on your site versus the business you're trying to solicit?
That is true to a certain extent and does pose a problem in our business development. So far, we have been pretty selective in the businesses we choose to engage with, which is why commercially, we are not a runaway success (yet). There are businesses that prey on the kiasu mentality, which we try to avoid.
There is, however, a fine line between parents who are trying to be helpful and parents who are just kiasu. Furthermore, academic success and responsible parenting are not mutually exclusive. Being an understanding parent doesn't mean you have to tolerate an inevitable slide to mediocrity. As such, we are not prepared to make the huge leap of faith that these parents are not interested in the services offered by education institutions. If the child has the ability and the desire, encourage him to pursue his dreams (academic or otherwise), even if this means taking extra classes on top of the existing curriculum. What parents need is reliable information, not hearsay and fear-mongering, that will help them guide their children to better choices.
If this sounds like money grab, we balance it out by supporting organisations that are effecting change for our children. It’s our way of paying it forward.
Why do you not have a forum for parents to share their thoughts?
We considered this option, but we don't have the resources to pull together a moderated forum at the moment. In our experience, unmoderated forums tend to quickly degenerate into a free-for-all for people looking to engage in mindless chatter or looking to sell something to unsuspecting participants. Conversations also sometimes become a toxic comparison of whose child has better grades. That doesn’t mean having a forum is a definite no-no. Once we have figured out a way to execute this idea in a beneficial way for our community, we will launch it.