Junior college, school mergers a painful but necessary decision: Ng Chee Meng

(Clockwise from top left) Innova Junior College, Tampines Junior College, Serangoon Junior College and Jurong Junior College.
(Clockwise from top left) Innova Junior College, Tampines Junior College, Serangoon Junior College and Jurong Junior College. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE, LIM YAOHUI, ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The merging of schools recently announced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) is "a painful but necessary decision", Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said in a Facebook post on Thursday (April 27).

Last Thursday (April 20), MOE announced that 14 pairs of schools will be merged in 2019, including - for the first time - eight junior colleges.

Serangoon, Tampines, Innova and Jurong JCs will be absorbed by Anderson, Meridian, Yishun and Pioneer respectively, and MOE had said the mergers were due to Singapore's declining birth rate.

"I personally agonised over the decision and explored different possibilities," said Mr Ng. He added that many had given him "heartfelt feedback", and that he felt JC mergers especially were "a most difficult choice we have to face".

"If we do nothing, we would see that several of our JCs will only be able to fill less than half of its JC1 desired intakes - it is possible that some would struggle to fill even just 200, given the sharp drop in JC1 cohort for the coming years," wrote Mr Ng. He said this will "limit our students' educational and CCA experiences".

After the news broke, many discussed the possible reason for the JC mergers - some said the growing attractiveness of polytechnics could have contributed to this, but MOE said that this is not the case.

Instead, polytechnics have also been hit by falling birth rates, with student enrolment being cut by a fifth in recent years.

Mr Ng in his Facebook post said he and his educators "do not take school mergers lightly", and that they proceeded with the merger only because "we are sure it is for the better for our students to come".

He acknowledged that many people feel strongly about the mergers, and understandably so, as the decision affects students, alumni, parents and teachers personally.

"It is not an easy transition, but let us - students, alumni, parents and teachers - all work at it together, to honour the identities of our schools even as we make the necessary adjustments for the future," said Mr Ng.