A NEW rule requiring children to live for at least 21/2 years at the addresses they used to apply for primary school has been introduced, with parents largely supportive of the change.
Beginning this year, those who gain priority admission to schools based on distance need to live at the address for at least 30 months from the start of the Primary 1 registration exercise.
Those with a yet-to-be-completed property also have to live at the new address for as long, but this can start only from when they move in and not from the registration, subject to certain limits.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) did not set any specific time period previously. If this condition is not met, MOE may transfer the child to another school.
When asked, MOE said the distance priority has always been given with the expectation that the family will live at the address declared for Primary 1 registration.
While the MOE's intent is that this should be for as long as the child is in primary school, it "recognised the practical challenges of imposing an explicit 'minimum stay' that would meet the policy intent while not making it overly onerous and rigid".
The news, reported by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao yesterday, has sparked a lot of discussion. Parents felt the rule would deter people from renting homes and moving away shortly after their children get spots in schools, and said it will not affect them as they do not plan to move soon.
But some who rented properties near schools may be stuck if their leases do not last 30 months.
For Primary 1 registration, schools conduct a ballot when the number of applicants exceeds available places. Those who live nearer the school - usually within 1km - get priority in the ballot.
A handful of parents have taken advantage of this to get their children into popular schools. A father who lied about where he lived to get his daughter into a top school in 2013 was given two weeks' jail this year.
Property agents said the rule is unlikely to affect rental or home prices. One agent, Mr Jack Tam, said those who rent places near popular schools are rare.
Horizon Real Estates' key executive officer Lena Low agreed, but said those who rent homes may need to get longer-term leases.
Some who just want the address get cheaper studio apartments without living there, she said. If they have to move in now, they need a bigger place, she said.
Housewife Shellin Tan, 38, who has a six-year-old son, said the rule is fair but "those who want brand-name schools will still find properties with longer leases or buy homes near them".
Mr Lim Biow Chuan, chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said the rule ensures families live near their kids' schools. But the period may be too long as some may genuinely need to move, he added.
Additional reporting by Ong Kai Xuan