The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced changes to the Primary I registration framework from next year to help more children obtain a place in a school near their home in Phase 2C, which is for those who have no prior connection to the school. The number of places reserved for this group will be doubled to 40. Since 2014, when the MOE decided to set aside 20 places a year for Phase 2C, competition has intensified. Thus, this year, one in three schools had to conduct balloting in Phase 2C for Singaporeans living within 1km of the school, up from one in four schools that balloted in the same category in 2014. The move is in the educational interest of children because it will help them spend less time travelling and give them more time to pursue other interests, and be convenient for families.
However, it is instructive that the purpose of the policy change could be overshadowed by the instincts of some parents to use the property market to benefit from it. Property experts have observed that the sale and rental prices of homes near popular primary schools, which are high already, may rise even more now. Those who will benefit are people who can afford to buy or rent homes near top schools, and owners who are intent on leasing or reselling their homes to capitalise on such demand. Such property transactions are legitimate enough in themselves, but signal how difficult it is to move on a practical policy matter - shortening travel time - without setting inventive parents off on a scramble to maximise gains for their children through the expedient and costly process of buying or renting their way into the neighbourhood of popular schools.