The couple checked out some private pre-schools that their friends had recommended but were surprised that the well-known ones were charging fees that ranged between $1,600 and $2,000 per month.
“I thought maybe I should do it,” Andie mused, “then I remembered that two years later, I’d be sending (daughter) Avery there.”
The savvy dad did his sums and realised that his kids might chalk up $4,000 per month in school fees alone if they were studying in private pre-schools.
And what if baby No.3 comes along?
In the final episode of Real or Not?!, the 34-year-old actor talked about his experience at school and what he thought of the local education system, now that he’s a dad himself.
Getting a good start in life
With private schools out of the picture, Andie took a look around and found an NTUC pre-school that fitted what he and his wife were looking for.
At these government-supported childcare centres, monthly fees range between $3 to $390 after subsidies, depending on the family’s household income. Finding out which subsidies were available to his family was quite simple, he said, as it only involved chatting with the school and signing up for them.
Some of these monthly subsidies include the basic subsidy (up to $300 for full-day childcare; up to $600 for full-day infant care) and an additional subsidy for families with working mothers, depending on their income tier.
“$300 makes up about a third of the school fees,” Andie noted.
Currently, one in two children has a place in a government-supported pre-school. By 2025, that number will rise to eight in 10 kids.
More families will benefit from the Additional Subsidy and Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) from this year, as the gross monthly household income ceiling is raised from $7,500 to $12,000.
Pre-school subsidies across all income tiers will also be increased. By 2022, KidSTART will help 5,000 more children from needy families.
Fortunately, primary school fees, capped at $13 per month, are a lot more affordable as compared to pre-school expenses, Andie noted.
Beside school fees, other expenses such as enrichment programme fees can be paid for using the students’ EduSave accounts, which receive annual top-ups ($380 for primary school; $440 for secondary school).
PHOTO: FACEBOOK / ANDIE CHEN
Nurturing kids’ talents
As Aden turns seven next year, Andie said he’s bracing himself for Primary 1.
“Primary school is a totally different ball game, they start to do homework and stuff,” Andie explained.
To help children discover the joy of learning and move away from a focus on grades, there will be no more mid-year examinations for Primary 3 and 5 pupils, as well as Secondary 1 and 3 students, by 2021.
This move is something that Andie agrees with. “I’m against testing your kids too early because there are too many factors [involved],” he said.
The dad is also keeping close tabs on changes in the local education system and added he’s a big fan of the introduction of subject-based banding for PSLE students.
Sharing his own experience, Andie said: “When I was in school, my overall grades were decent. But my Maths was bad, so I was placed in a really bad class.”
Come 2024, Normal and Express streams will become a thing of the past as they get replaced by subject-based banding.
The programme, which will be piloted in 28 secondary schools this year, will see students taking subjects at three levels — G1, G2 and G3 — based on their abilities and strengths.
For instance, a student like Andie, who was good at Chinese and History, could take those subjects at G3, and his weaker subject Maths at G1 or G2.
“Nurturing talents in arts and sports, not just academics… I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Andie observed.
Meanwhile, children with special needs will also receive greater support. Three new special-education campuses have opened since 2016, with a new one to be ready by 2023.
Grooming his successors?
Image source: Instagram/Andie Chen
They’re no strangers to the camera.
Aden, five, and Avery, three, are the stars of their own YouTube channel Kandie Network, run by daddy Andie and mummy Kate, a host-actress herself.
In the videos, the adorable kids can be seen exploring new places and trying out various activities with their parents, offering a glimpse into their family life.
Through these clips, Andie gets to see how independent they can be, for example in a recent video where Aden and Avery tried taking public transport by themselves.
So, is the celebrity couple grooming their kids to be the Next Big Thing in showbiz?
“If they like it, they do it. If they don’t like it, they don’t do it lah,” Andie said. “Sometimes they just want to play instead of filming, but for the most part, they do enjoy being on camera.”
While some parents might encourage their kids to pursue certain things, the actor prefers to expose his children to as many activities as possible and try to support their interests. For example, Aden has been taking classes in martial arts and abacus.
“If they choose acting, I know it’s going to be a rough road, but I’d be able to help them.”