SINGAPORE: A move by the Ministry of Education (MOE) that will give children attending its kindergartens priority to attend the primary school that their kindergarten shares a compound with has made some parents happy, taken some by surprise, and left others expressing some major concerns.
MOE said on Monday (Nov 27) that under a pilot programme, these children will be eligible under Phase 2A2 starting from the 2018 Primary 1 registration exercise, for admission in 2019.
Phase 2A2 is third out of a seven-tier priority framework in the Primary 1 registration exercise. The phase was previously reserved for children whose parents or siblings have studied in the school, and whose parents are staff members of the school.
To help parents understand the move, the MOE published answers to five questions that parents might have about what is planned.
Housewife Felicia Tee - who volunteers at West Spring Primary School in Bukit Panjang - is among the parents unhappy with the change in the registration framework.
Earlier this year, she had opted, after much thought, not to enrol her five-year-old son in an MOE kindergarten co-located with West Spring Primary. While it was relatively near to her home at just three bus stops away, she decided to place her son in a kindergarten located under her block instead, as that option provided greater convenience.
To better her son’s chances at securing a spot at West Spring Primary under Phase 2B - which is one notch below Phase 2A in the registration framework - Ms Tee has been doing volunteer work at the school. Children who have a parent that volunteers for at least 40 hours at a school are eligible to register under this phase.
The tweak in the framework now means that Ms Tee's decision makes no sense - despite her volunteering at West Spring Primary, her son will have less priority than if she had enrolled him in the MOE kindergarten when she had the chance.
What is so special about them that they can get such priority?
Her frustration stems from struggling to make arrangements to volunteer her time at the school with a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter to look after, while others are able to get priority through “sheer luck”, she said.
MsTee also questioned the timing of the policy, as it coincides with children born in the Year of the Dragon entering Primary 1. The cohort is usually larger than others as the Year of the Dragon is regarded as the most auspicious for having babies.
“It is already so stressful to get a spot. It’s so difficult. They had to ballot for a spot in the school this year. That means that next year, we most likely need to as well,” Ms Tee said.
Another parent who does not welcome the news is Ms Linda Liu, whose child graduated this year from an MOE kindergarten.
Parents, including herself, had repeatedly asked if they would get priority in applying for the co-located primary school, but were told no. She herself chose not to apply for the same school as it was oversubscribed, she said.
SOME PARENTS LOOKING FORWARD TO UNEXPECTED ADVANTAGE
However, others, such as manager Mubeen Muhd, whose five-year-old son is currently in an MOE kindergarten, could not be happier. His son will now get priority in entering Sengkang Green Primary School, where his kindergarten is co-located.
"Those who live in the same block as me said that it is difficult to get a spot in the school. So my wife and I were discussing, and we were thinking about school bus arrangements in case he has to go to a school further away," he said.
They had even considered the possibility of moving homes in order to help their child get into a primary school, he said.
"I feel much better. I've fewer things to worry about now. And once he gets in, things should be settled for my other two children too," said the 32-year-old. He is however also bracing himself for the Dragon Year competition in securing a spot.
Ms Tricica Oh, 39, whose daughter will be entering Northoaks Primary next year after graduating from the co-located MOE kindergarten, is glad that she was able to secure a place in the school, saying that school had arranged for the children to practise buying food from the canteen, and sitting in during a classroom session.
“It gives me less to think about. She can focus on learning instead of adjusting,” said the executive assistant.
Ms Siti Nurrafidah Samat, deputy centre head at MOE Kindergarten@Springdale, said that moving on to the co-located primary school will benefit the children as they remain within a familiar environment and physical space.
“If we are able to help them adapt to the physical change, we can ease their anxiety and let them focus on making new friends, and getting used to new teachers and routines,” she said.
In announcing the change during a media briefing on Monday, MOE said that it will continue to set aside a minimum of 40 places for Phase 2B and 2C, which include children whose parents are school volunteers and children who have not yet registered in a primary school.
It added that there are sufficient primary school places and that no child will have to travel a long distance to get to school.
MOE, which has been operating kindergartens for about four years, currently has 15 kindergartens. The remaining three are in community sites and will eventually be relocated to primary schools.
MOE expects to increase the number of kindergartens to 50 by 2023. These include those co-located with Pei Tong Primary School, North Vista Primary School and Huamin Primary School.