Mr Chua Kheng Wee Louis (Sengkang): In his Budget speech, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong spoke about building a fairer and more inclusive society. This has to start with our children and with our primary schools where social mixing has arguably been on the decline.
I was heartened by MOE’s to tweak the Primary 1 (P1) registration framework by doubling the number of places reserved in each school under Phase 2C 2022 onwards. This allows more children who have no family connections to the school to get admitted into a school near their home.
But I believe the changes do not go far enough. Why are we still entrenching the mindset that just because my father or mother went to a certain school and so did I; hence, I must get my son or my daughter into the same school as well. Since MOE recognises that going to a school nearby is in the educational interest of each child, as the Ministry has really made clear in its news release, then the P1 registration framework should be redesigned to make sure that we honour this commitment to every Singaporean child entering Primary 1.
This was why I suggested in 2021 that MOE should consider using citizenship and home-school distance as a primary means of allocating vacancies for all three phases of the P1 registration, while retaining the existing Phase 2A and 2B criteria for determining balloting priority. Minister Chan’s reply was that MOE needs to avoid causing disruptions to parents and take care not to drastically affect the groups given priority under the current framework. But if inherited parental privilege is protected at the expense of another child being turned away from a school that is only a few hundred metres away from their home, can we truly say that our system is fair for all?
In the past, MOE has been constrained by a need to respect the history and legacy of many schools which started off as community initiatives. But the impending move of ACS (Primary) to Tengah and the largely positive response is drawn from parents and alumni tells me that attitudes are shifting. CNA also recently broadcast a very thought-through talking point video which questioned If a complex and confusing P1 registration process actually perpetuates educational inequalities. We can and we must take bolder steps to simplify the P1 registration framework and make it truly accessible for all.
Ministry of Education
28 February 2023