Singapore children learn social graces - for a fee

Don't spit in public. Throw your litter in the bin. Pee into the urinal, not on the floor. Speak proper English. Singapore has become famous for government-funded campaigns designed to rid society of nasty habits from its impoverished past, but parents in the city-state have taken self-improvement a notch higher.


 

Pricey etiquette classes designed to turn little girls and boys into proper ladies and gentlemen are becoming popular among Singaporeans who are not content with traditional ballet classes and piano lessons for their children.

"I feel that it is best to train children before bad habits have a chance to develop, and such skills will also stay with them for life," said Eunice Tan, a trainer and consultant at the Image Flair Academy of Modern Etiquette.

Tan, 37, says "please" was the first word her own daughter Ethel, now six, learned to speak when she was just one year old.

"The skills they learn in the social graces classes will stay with them as they mature and will influence them in all areas of their lives," she told AFP.

After breakneck economic growth turned Singapore into one of the world's richest societies in just one generation, commentators and government officials admit Singaporeans have yet to catch up on the etiquette front.

One government campaign urges Singaporeans to make it a point to show small acts of kindness in their everyday lives.

"I think the soft skills are something that parents do see as important," said Jonathan Goh, an associate professor at the National Institute of Education of Singapore.

"I do see a lot of benefits," he added, stating that children well-versed in social graces would have a "special advantage in the working world" when they grow up.

Typically held during the school holidays in June and December, children's etiquette classes don't come cheap, with hourly rates ranging from 30 to 48 Singapore dollars (about 22 to 35 US).

But many parents can afford it. Singapore's per-capita gross national income stood at 35,924 US dollars last year, making it the world's 33rd richest society, according to the World Bank.

Tan, who conducts classes of 10 students each, said she had to open a new class during the month-long June school holidays as all lessons were fully booked, a far cry from her company's quiet start four years ago.

Lessons are divided into three levels, with the introductory grade teaching children as young as three how to meet and greet people.

Level two teaches telephone manners as well as anger management techniques, and the most advanced course imparts values such as honesty and responsibility in a step-by-step method.

"The quiet encouragement they receive when they do well and the extra coaching given to quieter children makes them good learners," Tan said.

"After the sessions, children are eager to showcase their new graces in front of parents, family and friends, be it their newly-acquired dining skills, tolerance for siblings or sensitivity to their pet!"

But not all parents pay as much attention to their children's social graces, said Elaine Heng, founder of a self-named image consultancy firm which offers similar classes as well as one-on-one etiquette consultations.

"Nowadays, parents send their kids to lots of enrichment classes to discover their musical, artistic talents and focus more on academic results, but many forget that their kids require coaching in social graces," Heng said.

The former beauty queen also conducts etiquette and grooming sessions for schools and organisations, and says she has taught more than 2,000 youths so far.

"It is much easier for a third party, like us, to teach the students on the proper social graces as parents may not know how to go about doing this."

Agnes Koh of training firm Etiquette and Image International suggested the attitudes of some children of double-income parents could be attributed to growing up with foreign maids as their main companions.

Lack of social graces also resulted from over-emphasis on academic work, Koh said.

"Parents are competing among themselves on making their kids score on education and achievement-oriented results. The basic modesty of humanity has thinned," she said.

plj-rc/lb

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Life and Style
life
News
‘The Graduate’, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, was directed by Nichols in his purple period
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

    Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

    £30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

    Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

    Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

    Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

    Day In a Page

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
    Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

    What are Jaden and Willow on about?

    Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
    Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

    Cold war

    How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
    Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

    Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

    From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
    Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

    Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

    New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
    Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

    Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

    ‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager