The biggest headstart a child can get is at Primary 1, in the Singapore Education System.
This is because prior to Primary 1, there is no standardized education system, and hence students have a varied depth of knowledge. After Primary 1, students enter the public schooling system, and hence have much less extra time to study in advance to get a headstart.
According to the Straits Times, many students already know Hanyu Pinyin before entering Primary 1. “Too many times, parents say, teachers breeze through topics some pupils are familiar with because they have had tuition, and other pupils are expected to find tutors too“.
Hanyu Pinyin is a romanized way of writing Chinese characters, using the English alphabet. It is extremely useful in this current century, since most users will be using Hanyu Pinyin to type Chinese characters on the phone or computer.
Also, students from English speaking backgrounds are highly advised to study Chinese in advance before Primary 1, as naturally they would be at a disadvantage in Mother Tongue compared to their Chinese speaking classmates.
Hanyu Pinyin has many rules of “grammar” and cannot be written anyhow. One of the rules is encapsulated in this Hanyu Pinyin poem:
（1）有a 不放过； （2）没a 找o、e； （3）i、u 并列标在后； （4）单个韵母不必说
Intonations is the hardest part of Chinese Pronunciation, as Chinese words have four tones. “Ma” in the four different tones means totally different things. “Ma (First Tone)” can mean mother 妈, “Ma (Second Tone)” can mean numb 麻, while “Ma (Third Tone)” can mean horse 马! For completeness, “Ma (Fourth Tone)” may mean scold 骂! Hence, from this example it shows how important Hanyu Pinyin is.