Priority in Pri One Registration

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)

Phase 2A(1)

(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

Phase 2A(2)

(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.

About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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2 Responses to Priority in Pri One Registration

  1. SM Goh says:

    I beg to differ on the points you raised.

    1) I agree that a school advisory/ management committee has spent time and effort with the school, but the question I would ask is this: How did they get appointed in the first place? Likely they were recommended by some well-placed, or well-connected with the school. Parent volunteers also invest time and effort with the school, with a minimum requirement of 40 hours, but why are they grouped in phase 2B? Are their time less valuable? Putting aside accusations of favouritism, collusion and elitism, the time and effort that a school want from all volunteers should be altruistic and motivated from a desire to contribute, and not the I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine type, which one can reasonably expect to disappear once the purpose is achieved.

    2) Alumni are an important part of a school’s community, but I feel the present system is not discerning enough. While many alumni help out with fund-raising and other activities, I am sure you would agree a majority do not, and simply joined the alumni for the purpose of getting priority for their child. Again how is it fair to parent volunteers when all an alumni parent has to do is turn up at the school gates 20-25 years later to claim a spot for his/her child? In the two decades after you graduated from Nanyang, how many times did you participated in alumni events? Do a poll of your ex-classmates, how active were they in supporting the school’s activities?

    3) I am of the argument that KIDS should get priority because they live near the school. I say kids because the focus should be them, and not the parents, so as to ensure that they are well-rested and ready to absorb knowledge, so as to maximise what they are getting out of school, be it learning, playing or interacting. It should not be about who their parents are, what dialects they speak, what gods they worship, where they studied, how well-connected they are, how many computers they can donate to the school etc. You are probably thinking that I live near a branded school in district 9, 10 or 11, but I live in Choa Chua Kang, and there are three ‘unbranded’ neighbourhood primary schools in the vicinity (including the one next to my block where I am close enough to look into the classroom to see what the teacher is teaching), all of which require balloting for children who live less than 1km from these schools.

    I believe the current system is broken and inherently unfair, and exposes it to abuse through collusion and possibly corruption.

    • vickychong says:

      I expected disagreement when I wrote the blog and I respect your views, so I won’t argue except to state the following wrong assumptions.

      May I asked if you have spoken to any schools asking how they chose their management committee? Have you spoken to any school advisory or committee members? As an active PSG member of a neighbourhood secondary school, I know the selection process of advisory committee and it’s not what you conclude.

      I assume you are not an active alumni to your alma mata. While majority do join alumni for the purpose you suggested, many also participate in school activities, just to keep in touch with old schoolmates and teachers. Just for your information, alumni in Nanyang return to school to support Teachers’s Day, opening day, art teachers’ personal exhibition, school anniversary and also visit retired school teachers. Of course the fact that the majority of our kids are studying in our alma mata makes the gathering more meaningful. Parents who are alumni are often more supportive of projects through their historical links than parents who are non alumni.

      It’s easy to jump to the worst conclusion when the situation is not favourable to you, but understandable.

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