P1 registration: 4 reports lodged over lying about address last year

An admin staff looking through documents submitted by a couple  on July 19, 2012.
An admin staff looking through documents submitted by a couple on July 19, 2012.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Ministry of Education (MOE) lodged four police reports against parents suspected of lying about their addresses in last year's Primary 1 registration exercise.

This was revealed yesterday when a father, first sentenced to two weeks' jail for faking his address in 2013 to get his daughter into a top primary school, was fined the maximum $5,000 instead.

The prosecution did not oppose his appeal for a fine, despite pushing for jail for the 35-year-old in the State Courts earlier this year. This was because it was made aware of four other cases between 1995 and 2004, in which the accused were given the maximum fine of $1,000. This was raised to $5,000 in 2008.

The self-employed man is not being named to protect the identity of his daughter.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Jia told the High Court that the girl will be transferred out from the school, in line with MOE's policy. The DPP also revealed how the ministry had lodged four police reports in last year's Primary 1 registration exercise. Investigations are ongoing for two cases, and no further action was taken for one. In the last, a stern warning was given as the address had no bearing on admission.

In yesterday's case, the man indicated that he lived at an address that was within 1km to 2km of the brand-name school when he registered his daughter in July 2013, giving her priority in admission.

The address was also on his identity card, but he actually lived in Balestier Road, which was outside the priority radius. His lie came to light when MOE officers visited the fake address.

In January, he pleaded guilty to giving false information to the school's principal. A second count of giving false information to a police officer to change the address on his IC was taken into consideration. He lodged an appeal after a district judge sentenced him to two weeks' jail in March.

Yesterday, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon agreed with the district judge that some parents may consider it worthwhile to risk a criminal conviction just to give their children a perceived head start in life. But he did not see how any child would benefit from knowing that he got into a school through the "devious and unlawful conduct" of his parents.

Still, a jail term was not warranted in this case, in the absence of evidence that such offences were becoming more prevalent.

The punishment for giving false information to a public servant is up to a year's jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

This year, the MOE set a new rule, which applies to children entering primary school next year, in which those who gained admission under the home-school distance priority scheme are required to live at the address for at least 30 months from the start of the registration exercise. Previously, no length of time was specified.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'P1 registration: 4 reports lodged over lying about address last year'. Print Edition | Subscribe