Why don't Singaporeans have more children

Late afternoon in the "Beauty World Center": Nelly and her mother come down the escalator. You hurry past a takeaway bar that serves laksa, Singapore's national dish. On the four floors of the shopping center, small shops are lined up like honeycombs. And everywhere parents run through the corridors with their children. Most of them didn't come to shop. You don't have time to spoon up spicy noodle soup either. Nelly and her mother are heading for the "Squirrel Learning Center" in the basement. There the nine-year-old is expected by her private tutor. The girl has done her school workload for this day. But an extra session of English is on top of that.

Many Singaporean parents send their children to "Tuition" or "Coaching". With tutoring, as we know it in Germany, this system is not adequately described. Outside of schools, an extensive parallel universe of learning has developed here. The centers are called "Aspire Hub", "Mindlab" or "Ignite". Big signs advertise the centers on every corner.

Singapore and its students have aroused worldwide interest, since they regularly come off as the best in international school comparisons. In December, the results of the latest Pisa study, which assessed performance in science, math and reading comprehension, came out: The front runner in all three areas: Singapore. How can these successes be explained? Do you have anything to do with the tutors? Or are there completely different reasons for this? Anyone looking for answers in the city-state will meet students and teachers, bureaucrats and professors. And of course parents who give an insight into the everyday life of their families.

For example Nelia Yong, 43 years old, long black hair, heavy make-up. Her daughter Nelly took her to the tutor at five o'clock sharp. While the girl is studying, Yong has time to talk in the next room. But first you would like to know: Do the Pisa results actually make the Singaporean proud? "As a mother, that's at least a comforting feeling," says Yong. "Our schools seem to be doing a lot right."

And the parents? "Well," says Nelly's mother, "it is quite certain that we expect a lot from our children." Of course, she knows the somewhat older bestseller from US law professor Amy Chua, who describes how she drilled her daughters. And why you can't challenge children enough to do them good. Does Yong find himself in the role of "Tiger Mom"? "Oh," says the mother, somewhat startled, and repeats the question: "Am I a tiger mom? I suppose you could put it that way. But if I'm honest: I don't want to be one at all."

Up to five private tutors come to the house every week

Yong now talks a lot about the "social pressure" that weighs on her and Nelly. "Neighbors, friends, relatives, everyone constantly wants to know what grades my daughter is bringing home." And she just has to look around her residential complex in the west of the city, where families from all over the world live. Americans, Indians, Australians, Swiss, Germans. If she looks out the window into the pool, almost all the children from other nations play there. "Our kids are sitting at their desks."

Which brings you back to the tutors. Up to five private tutors come to the children of some neighbors every week, says the mother. And if she does discover the neighbors' children in the water, then never without a swimming instructor. Stroke, back, chest. The others can splash around.