Here's what you need to know about the mass restructuring.
1. Why is there a need for the changes right now?
The main reason is to accommodate shifting student demographics across schools in different neighbourhoods.
According to the Education Ministry, demand for Primary 1 places in mature estates has fallen, resulting in surplus places and low enrolment in some schools. On the other hand, new schools may need to be built in newer estates to meet a higher demand for school places there.
In JCs, enrolment has declined since 2014 due to falling birth rates. For example, the birth rate of Singapore citizens and permanent residents between 1993 and 2002 fell from about 49,000 to 39,000, a drop of about 20 per cent. The corresponding JC enrolment between 2010 and 2019 is projected to fall by a similar 20 per cent, from about 16,000 to 12,800.
2. Has this happened before?
This is the first time JCs are merging. Before Thursday’s announcement, MOE previously announced that three pairs of primary schools will merge in 2015, four pairs of secondary schools in 2016 and 11 pairs of secondary schools in 2017 and 2018.
3. Which are the schools affected?
The seven pairs of primary schools in 2019 that will be merged are:
- East View and Junyuan Primary, to be located on the site of Junyuan Primary.
- Balestier Hill and Bendemeer Primary, to be located on the site of Bendemeer Primary.
- Da Qiao and Jing Shan Primary, to be located on the site of Jing Shan Primary.
- Damai and East Coast Primary, to be located on the site of Damai Primary.
- Coral and White Sands Primary, to be located on the site of White Sands Primary.
- Casuarina and Loyang Primary, to be located on the site of Casuarina Primary.
- Cedar and MacPherson Primary, to be located on the site of Cedar Primary.
A new primary school in Sengkang, Fern Green Primary, will also begin operations in 2018 to meet the high demand for school places in the estate.
Three pairs of secondary schools will also be merged. They are:
- Yuhua and Shuqun Secondary, to be located on the site of Yuhua Secondary.
- East Spring and East View Secondary, to be located on the site of East Spring Secondary.
- Hong Kah and Jurongville Secondary, to be located on the site of Jurongville Secondary.
For JCs, there will be four merger pairs:
- Anderson JC and Serangoon JC, to be located on the site of Anderson JC.
- Meridian JC and Tampines JC, to be located on the site of Meridian JC.
- Yishun JC and Innova JC, to be located on the site of Yishun JC.
- Pioneer JC and Jurong JC, to be located on the site of Pioneer JC.
4. Do fewer schools mean that teachers will lose their jobs?
No staff retrenchments will take place due to the mergers, according to MOE. Affected teachers at the junior colleges will either be posted to the merged school or redeployed - either to other schools or to the Education Ministry's headquarters. MOE will also provide training and support to teachers who may be deployed to teach at the primary or secondary levels, it said.
5. What does this mean for students?
The cut-off points will change for some JCs with the merger, the ministry said, with schools such as Anderson and Pioneer JCs likely to raise their cut-off points. These cut-off points are fluid and determined by student choices. All students who qualify and apply for JCs will be given a place, according to MOE.
The merger will also give the schools the "critical mass" of students needed to run more programmes that can meet students’ interests and needs.
In smaller schools, the range of programmes and subject combinations available may be limited. The school mergers are expected to offer students the continuation or expansion of existing subject combinations and co-curricular activity (CCA) options, said the ministry.
Four of the affected JCs - Serangoon, Tampines, Innova and Jurong - will stop taking in first-year students from next year to minimise the need for JC students to relocate physically to another site.
However, the Education Ministry has stated that it will still be able to meet the expected demand for JC places after the mergers.