SINGAPORE: Twenty-two secondary schools will merge over the next two years due to falling student cohort sizes, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Friday (Mar 4).
This is the largest merger exercise conducted in the past five years. MOE said Singapore's declining birth rate over the past two decades has led to a similar decline in demand for school places, and this has led to a "significant excess of secondary school places at a national level".
Seven of these 22 schools did not receive any Secondary 1 students for 2016 after the 2015 Secondary One Posting Exercise. About 38,600 students were posted to secondary schools after the exercise.
"SUFFICIENT MASS" NEEDED
The schools affected are:
To merge in January 2017
- Balestier Hill and Beatty Secondary, with the school located at Beatty Secondary
- Henderson and Bukit Merah Secondary, with the school located at Bukit Merah Secondary
- MacPherson Secondary and Broadrick Secondary, with the school located at Broadrick Secondary
- North View and Northland Secondary, with the school located at Northland Secondary
- Pioneer and Boon Lay Secondary, with the school located at Boon Lay Secondary
- Siglap and Coral Secondary, with the school located at Coral Secondary
- Si Ling and Marsiling Secondary, with the school located at Marsiling Secondary
To merge in January 2018
- Bedok North and Damai Secondary, with the school located at Damai Secondary
- Bishan Park and Peirce Secondary, with the school located at Peirce Secondary
- Chong Boon and Yio Chu Kang Secondary, with the school located at Yio Chu Kang Secondary
- Greenview and Loyang Secondary, with the school located at Loyang Secondary
"Sufficient critical mass is needed for a school to offer a good range of educational programmes and co-curricular activities for its students," the ministry said.
"Schools with low enrolment will find it challenging to offer a good range of educational programmes due to the smaller number of students and this would have an impact on students' learning experience," it added.
NAMES NOT YET DECIDED
The final names of the merged schools have yet to be decided. MOE said these schools were identified based on factors like enrolment size, facilities, and the capacity to accommodate students.
The final school locations were chosen mainly based on their proximity to public transport, and the quality of the buildings and facilities. The ministry added it will work together with the schools to ensure a smooth transition, and the new locations will also house a heritage space for the schools' histories.
Two pairs of schools merged in 2011, while four pairs of schools which merged started operations this year.
Principals Channel NewsAsia spoke to say the merger would be an opportunity for both sides to "build on each other's strengths".
Said Ari Manickam, the principal of Coral Secondary, which will be joined with Siglap Secondary: "We are talking about a merger, it is not about starting a new school altogether. So we are very clear that the heritage and history of both schools will have to be retained. So there will be a space in the school, or a room for that matter, that will be set aside - where the history of both schools will be kept."
The principal of Siglap Secondary Low Joo Hong said of students and staff: "They were obviously very surprised that we are merging with Coral, obviously a little bit anxious because there's some level of uncertainty.
"But I have a high level of trust that my staff are professionals. We are teachers, we serve wherever needs us, we don't choose who we teach. So I think we are all prepared to move on, and do the best that we can out of the situation."
STAFF MAY BE POSTED TO MERGED SCHOOL OR REDEPLOYED
MOE said teachers allied educators, and Executive and Administrative Staff at the present schools may either be posted to the merged school, or be redeployed to other schools.
The vacant school premises will either be used for future MOE plans like as holding schools or be returned to the Singapore Land Authority who will assess the future uses for the vacant sites.
MOE also said that "all students in each of the merger pair of schools will naturally be given a place in the merged school".
"If the parent wishes to transfer the student to another school, similar to current processes for school transfer, the parent can approach the school of his/her choice directly for the schools to consider the transfer request. School transfers are subject to the availability of vacancies at the point of application. If the school is able to admit the student, the school will advise the parent on the transfer procedures," the ministry added.
ALUMNI FEAR LOSS OF HERITAGE
For Bishan Park Secondary School (BPSS) alumnus Nur Nadiah Ahmad Jani, the judo training grounds in the school are among the things she will miss most when her alma mater moves into Peirce Secondary School’s Sin Ming Walk premises as part of a merger in January 2018.
“I have so many fond memories training there with my former team-mates and coaches in the short four years. I found my passion for sports through judo and BPSS and I want the legacy to continue so future students will get to share the same experience,” said the 25-year-old, who is now a teacher.
BPSS’ white and navy blue uniform and team of dedicated teachers are other distinct features that are etched in Ms Nadiah’s memory, and she fears they will be lost after the merger.
Agreeing, a former school-mate Avinash Iswar, 25, said: “I hope to still see my teachers when we go back to school, and that the merger will not have too much of an impact on them.”
Damai Secondary alumnus Haraf Tamhar hopes the school’s “kampung spirit” will be preserved after it merges with Bedok North Secondary in January 2018.
“It is heartbreaking to know that Damai will never be the same as before ... During my time in Damai, everyone got along well with just about anybody. Students in upper secondary befriended the younger ones. I hope this spirit will continue,” said the 21-year-old banker.
Nostalgic sentiments aside, most ex-students of the schools that will be merged recognised that the moves hold potential benefits for prospective students. “It may be quite sad, but as long as all students get access to better programmes and attention from teachers, it is better down the road,” said homemaker Josephine Toh, who was in the first batch of students at Pioneer Secondary in 1994. Her alma mater will merge with Boon Lay Secondary in January next year.
Siglap Secondary principal Low Joo Hong said students and staff received news of the school’s impending merger with Coral Secondary with a mixed bag of emotions, ranging from anxiety and uncertainty to excitement. “I trust that as teachers, we serve whoever needs us and do not choose who we teach. So, I think we are all prepared to move on and achieve the best we can in this situation,” he added.
Coral Secondary’s principal Arivazhagan Manickam said both schools are looking for opportunities for their students to gather and bond over joint activities. The merger will allow schools to leverage on each other’s strengths, he said.