MP Gerald Giam

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Education (a) whether the Ministry has plans to relocate schools other than Anglo-Chinese School (Primary) that are currently located in higher income neighbourhoods like Bukit Timah to the HDB heartlands; and (b) what are the Ministry’s consideration in deciding to relocate schools.

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Education (a) whether the Ministry has plans to convert more single-sex primary and secondary schools to co-educational schools; and (b) if so, what are the considerations for doing so.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Speaker, Sir, when planning the locations of new schools and reviewing the distribution of schools across Singapore, including possible relocations, the Ministry of Education (MOE) takes into account current and projected residential populations to meet educational needs both at the national and at the local levels. In deciding whether or which school to relocate, we are also mindful that each relocation case and its circumstances are unique.

In general, all new schools that MOE opens are co-ed, as is the case of schools opening in recent years in Punggol or those slated to be opened in Tengah. This is to ensure that these new schools meet the local demand for school places for both boys and girls, especially since home-school proximity is an important consideration at the primary school level.

In the specific case of ACS (Primary) School, ACS Board of Governors had discussed with MOE on a possible move of one of their two primary schools in the Bukit Timah area to the heartlands to serve a different community and to inject more diversity into their student profile. In the course of these discussions, MOE offered a Tengah school site to the ACS Board of Governors (BOG), but explained that it would not be tenable for the school not to take in girls at its Tengah location as that would constrain school options for families in the area. MOE was glad that the ACS Board was open to this request, and subsequently, ACS Board informed MOE that ACS (Primary) School would be the relocating school.

MOE does not have a plan to proactively convert existing single-gender schools to co-ed schools, but we have had several such cases over the decades. As the circumstances for each case are different, MOE takes a customised approach and discusses with key decision-makers in each school to facilitate the transition and provide the necessary support.

Where there are major changes for schools, including relocation and turning co-ed, MOE will give advance notice as far ahead as possible once plans are firmed up, and will work with the schools on transition arrangements to minimise impact and inconvenience for existing students and their families.

Mr Speaker: Mr Gerald Giam.

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song (Aljunied): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I declare that I am an alumni of ACS but not ACS (Primary), and I am the parent of a student in one of the ACS secondary schools.

Given the shrinking cohorts of students, will more schools in older estates in the future be moved to new estates in this fashion? And did MOE conduct any consultation with existing and future Tengah residents who are likely to be the parents of future ACS (Primary) students? Lastly, what would happen to the ACS (Junior) site on Winstedt Road after the school moves out in 2039? I understand that there might have been some recent enhancements done to the campus and would that go to waste when the campus is returned to MOE.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Speaker, Sir, on the first question, the answer is that we will look at the demand according to each of the redevelopment plans in the respective new towns. We also have plans to rejuvenate the old towns. So, whether it is a new town or a old town, we will have to look at the current demand and the projected demand in planning for our schools.

The second to the third question – what will happen to the site at Winstedt Road after 2039 – I think the answer is that it will be returned to the state.

The Member’s second question is?

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song: My second question is related to the third question because if there were some enhancements done on the site, then would it be a waste.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Yes, so from now to 2039, we have a good 15 to 16 years to go. So, after 2039, the site will be returned to the state. On the other question on whether the ACS board consulted its stakeholders, I think the ACS board did consult the relevant stakeholders but it had to keep it to within a tight circle, given some of the sensitivities with this move, particularly, price sensitivities related to the property market.

Mr Gerald Giam has also brought up a very important point. In making any decision, we have to consult not just the current generation of stakeholders but also future stakeholders. And in any democracy, as I mentioned the other day, one of our biggest challenges is that it may not always be possible for you to consult your future stakeholders because they are not there yet. Because the future residents of Tengah have not even gotten their flats yet and they may or may not know whether they will be residents of Tengah.

Having said that, there is where leadership comes in, from both MOE and the ACS board. We have to project not just the needs of the current generation, but also the needs of the future generation. Since the announcement has been made, I think our ground feedback has generally been positive, particularly for the people staying in the West to have the added options of the new schools, including ACS in Tengah. Not just ACS in Tengah but also the broader plans of the siting of the various new schools in the Tengah and Hong Kah area.

Ministry of Education
28 February 2023

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