I have seen these comments often lately, the call to remove priority for primary one registration for parents with ‘relationship’ to the school, primarily under phase 2A and 2B: (From MOE’s website)
(a) For a child whose parent is a former student of the primary school and who has joined the alumni association as a member not later than 30 June 2011.
(b) For a child whose parent is a member of the School Advisory / Management Committee
(a) For a child whose parent or sibling has studied in the primary school of choice
(b) For a child whose parent is a staff member of the primary school of choice
The call from these disgruntled parents who cannot get their kids into the school of their choice, is to remove these priorities and instead allow children who live near these schools to have higher priority.
What is well debated is that allowing this move would breed elitism, as richer parents could well afford to purchase properties near branded schools and we may see schools in rich area like district 10 and 11 catering only to the well-off.
What is less well debated is why parents in 2As are given priority.
Alumni (either under phase 2A(1) and (2)) – Alumni forms a very important part of a school community. They are a resource for monetary and in-kind donations as well as manpower or skill resource. Intangibly, they form the soul of the school through their historical ties. It’s only natural that being an alumni, if you are proudly associated with your alma mata, that you would want your child in that school, regardless the distance. However, I do know of some sensible parents who forgo the priority and opt for a nearer school, even when they were from branded schools themselves.
School Advisory/Management Committee – Members of this committee have contributed time and money to the school to help steer the school in its vision. Many I know serve without getting anything in return, unless you count the thank-you plaques one gets. It’s only logical that their children gets priority since the parents have a stake in the school.
Many of the so-called branded schools are popular because they have a strong alumni and a dedicated Management Committee, which help bring up the status of the school. The stake holders – students, staff, alumni, management committee, PTA, PSG, are ultimately responsible for how the school performs. The more dedicated these stake holders are to the school, the brighter is the school’s future.
My grandma, mother, and five aunts were all from SCGS – a stone throw away from their house at Cuppage Road. My father decided that he preferred the values of a Chinese school and sent me to Nanyang. Luckily for that decision, all my boys went in to Nanyang through my connection. If Mike’s school, Tuan Mong High School, was still around, we might have had an argument at the time for Andreas registration, for Tuan Mong has a strong Alumni which will be celebrating its 106 anniversary in October. It’s a pity it’s now closed. (That’s a poor MOE decision but another story altogether.) My point is, older and more established schools have strong roots through its alumni and new neighbourhood schools need time to build these.
Not all Nanyang Primary students graduate to branded secondary schools, although a larger percentage than other schools do because of its GEP classes of higher achievers. Many are streamed into neighbourhood secondary schools after PSLE. Similarly, many neighbourhood primary schools send their top students to RGS and RI, etc. So really, the standard of the schools are the same, branded or otherwise. (I should know, my boys went to three different schools after PSLE.)
Parents who argue that they should get priority because they live near the school are probably living near branded schools. After all, in a small city-state like Singapore, there are many schools within one constituency. In Clementi where I live, there are already three primary schools within a 2km radius, and another one in West Coast. No one really needs to travel far if they are not choosy. (I know of one who had complained that her child couldn’t get into Nan Hua Primary, which is opposite her house, and was allocated to Pei Tong, one bus stop away. That for her is too far!)
The questions to these parents are, what are you doing, as a new stake holder of the school, to raise the school’s profile and make this school worthy for your grandchildren to gain priority in future.