Tweak primary school admission system

Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua has suggested a pilot 10-year through-train education system that would do away with the Primary School Leaving Examination to counter the country's preoccupation with academic scores ("3 unhealthy trends plaguing education: Denise Phua"; Thursday).

While I agree this could be a solution, I am afraid it will create another set of problems.

In the existing system, pupils compete based on merit to get into the best secondary schools.

Without the PSLE, the competition to get children into perceived top primary schools will definitely intensify.

Thus, before the Ministry of Education (MOE) proceeds with the pilot programme, perhaps it should look at the primary school admission system.

How can we give every child, regardless of background, equal opportunity of getting into the primary school of their choice?

The current system gives priority to children of alumni and also those who live in close proximity to the school.

Some primary schools that are located within predominantly private housing estates would have a higher proportion of children from upper-income families who can afford a home in the estate.

These schools also tend to have a longer history, and, thus, have a large alumni population, leaving few spaces for children whoare neither affiliated nor liveclose by.

One solution would be to relocate such schools to HDB estates.

This would immediately change the pupil mix to one that is more representative of our nation's population profile.

One pilot programme that MOE could consider is to exchange the school campus of a neighbourhood primary school with that of an "elite" school.

An alternative that may be easier to implement would be to have an admission quota system based on household income or type of housing.

Yeo Chee Kean

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Tweak primary school admission system'. Print Edition | Subscribe