Schools are drivers of estate renewal

I read with much concern the recent efforts of the Ministry of Education to combine secondary schools due to declining enrolment ("22 secondary schools in big pair-up"; last Saturday).

While the underlying reason - to ensure a critical mass of students, leading to diversity in education and co-curricular programmes - seems sound, these mergers seem like knee-jerk reactions with little thought behind them.

Besides the fact that many of these schools have decades of history and have become landmarks in estates where they operate, closing these schools effectively removes a very strong driver of estate renewal.

Without a school in the vicinity, there would be no influx of parents with children settling in the area, and gradually, the estate gets "older", leading to a vicious circle which can be broken only by tearing down old buildings and building newer ones.

Additionally, some of these schools would likely have niche co-curricular activities (CCA).

In fact, in Sunday's report ("Some merged schools still suffer falling enrolments"), it was noted that in a number of these merged schools, CCAs were being closed and students rejected from certain CCA groups because there were just not enough members.

All this is contrary to one of the reasons cited for merger.

Rather than employing such stop-gap measures, the MOE should perhaps reconsider its decision and work with other ministries to come up with a holistic plan to redistribute the enrolment of students, thus leading to renewal.

Benny Tan Cheng Kiat

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Schools are drivers of estate renewal'. Print Edition | Subscribe