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Alumni parents ballot for P1 slots for first time in two decades

Four primary schools - Henry Park, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls', Nan Hua and Radin Mas held ballots for Phase 2A(2) on Thursday (July 17).

SINGAPORE: Four primary schools which were oversubscribed in Phase 2A(2) of the Primary 1 registration had to hold a ballot for places on Friday (July 17) - the first time in 19 years balloting has been conducted in this phase, which is for children whose parents are former students of the schools they are applying for.

The Government decided last year to set aside 40 places in every school for children without family connections, resulting in fewer places for Phase 2A(2) this year. Prior to this change, Primary 1 registration for parents who wanted to enrol children in their alma mater had been relatively stress-free.

The four schools that held balloting for Phase 2A(2) are Henry Park, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls', Nan Hua and Radin Mas.

At Henry Park, balloting was conducted for 39 applicants who were vying for 28 places, while CHIJ St Nicholas' Girls had eight vacancies left for 16 applicants. Even those who managed to win the ballot told Channel NewsAsia that the experience was a stressful one. "It was really tense, because I didn't expect to be balloting at this phase,” said parent Caroline Chew. “Traditionally, (parents who are former students) always get in during this phase."

At Radin Mas Primary, there were just four vacancies up for balloting. With 11 parents vying for those spots, the majority had to go back disappointed. "There will definitely be a slot for someone somewhere. But all the parents have their reasons for wanting to put their kids in their alma mater, so being affected in this way is definitely frustrating," said parent Cally Looi, who lost the ballot.  

The new policy may have implications for primary schools’ alumni associations, whose members qualify for an earlier phase of registration, Phase 2A(1). The changes to this year's Primary 1 registration were announced last August - too late for parents to join their alma maters’ alumni associations, as the cut-off date for membership in order to qualify for Phase 2A(1) is June 30, 2013.

But for next year’s registration, many forward-thinking parents may have already planned ahead. The Catholic High Alumni said it has noticed greater participation from members in the past year, but added that it was not certain whether this was due to the policy changes to the Primary 1 registration.

The alumni association was initially concerned about a spike in membership and was considering introducing changes to its structure, but is hoping it will not have to do that.

“We want to keep an eye on this. We are going to be getting the statistics from this year's application and see if the situation has changed drastically, said Mr Lim Teng Sherng, President of Catholic High Alumni. “If not, I think we will probably not make any drastic changes at all and continue to focus on the purpose and the mission of the alumni association, which is really to bring the old boys together and let them have an ongoing sense of belonging to the school.”

"As an alumni association, we want to really be thinking about the welfare of our alumni members as well. It's not just about saying unless you fulfil the following criteria, then we'll make you sort of move up the list in terms of 2A and get more privileged treatment,” he added. “I think that would make it rather elitist and foster almost a culture of being so pragmatic. That is something we really do not want."

THE NEXT REGISTRATION PHASE

The next phase of registration, Phase 2B, is for children whose parents are volunteers or community leaders, and starts on Monday.

  • For this phase, 58 per cent of Singapore's 187 primary schools each have 100 or more places available. This estimate is based on registration numbers on the Education Ministry website at the end of Phase 2A(2) on July 15.
  • 20 schools have fewer than 50 vacancies. They include Pasir Ris Primary School, Anderson Primary in Ang Mo Kio, and Temasek Primary in Bedok.
  • Five schools, including Bedok's Yu Neng Primary, have just 20 places available. This was the minimum number of places set aside specially for Phase 2B, under new rules set by the Education Ministry.     

Every school has at least another 20 places set aside for the subsequent Phase 2C, which is for children with no connections to the school. 

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