Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday that he sometimes gets asked why children of clan members can participate in an earlier phase of Primary 1 registration.
The reason, he added, is that Singapore should not forget the history and roots of government-aided schools, including the contributions of key stakeholders like parents and the Chinese community.
"Without them, these schools would not be here," he said at an award ceremony held by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (SHHK) to recognise outstanding teachers.
"Today, they continue to play the role of upholding the tradition and culture of the schools and the community that started them."
In the Primary 1 registration exercise, children whose parents have clan or church connections to a school can apply in Phase 2B, the fourth of seven phases.
The priority given to these children has been a source of controversy in the past, with some calling for the Ministry of Education (MOE) to free up more places for those living near schools.
In his speech, Mr Ong, who is also chairman of the Chinese Community Liaison Group, traced the history of the SHHK's contributions to education in setting up six schools.
Number of teachers nominated this year for the annual award sponsored by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.
They are Chongfu (formerly Chong Hock Girls' School), Nan Chiau High School and Primary School, Ai Tong, Kong Hwa, and the oldest among them, Tao Nan - founded in 1906.
"These are all wonderful examples of schools set up by the community and for the community… Given their origins and the historical backdrop of their origins, these schools also carried the ethos, the culture and the values of their founding communities," Mr Ong said.
He noted that these schools and others set up by different communities in Singapore are collectively known as government-aided schools - distinct from government schools.
While both get government funding and have teachers from MOE, only the government schools are owned by the Government.
The minister was speaking to more than 1,000 teachers and staff at the Leap (Listening Educator for Advancement and Progress) award presentation ceremony held at Fairmont Singapore hotel.
This year, 224 teachers were nominated for the annual award sponsored by the SHHK, which recognises exceptional teachers who nurtured their students.
Only 10 were eventually selected.
In remarks made in Mandarin, Mr Ong said the schools set up by SHHK reflect the importance Chinese community pioneers placed on education. "It is only through education that students will learn to contribute back to society, continuing the good Chinese tradition of 'using what society has given you for society'," he added.