SINGAPORE - Another 18 primary and secondary schools are set to be merged over the next three years as student enrolment continues to shrink due to Singapore's falling birth rates.
The first two schools to be merged are Juying Primary School (JYPS) and Pioneer Primary School, which will be combined in 2022 and occupy the current JYPS site.
The two are being merged earlier than the rest to make way for the development of the Jurong Region Line MRT extension, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) at a briefing for the media on Wednesday (April 7).
The merged school is expected to be relocated to a new school site in the Plantation District of Tengah from January 2025. It will be the first primary school in the Tengah area.
The merged school will not admit new Primary 1 cohorts until after its move to the new campus in Tengah. Existing pupils of the merged school will remain at the current JYPS campus, and the last batch of Primary 6 students will graduate in 2026.
Pioneer Primary School principal Lee Wai Ling said that although the staff was upset at the news, they were understanding of the bigger picture.
"It's sad and difficult, because we just celebrated our 25th anniversary last year and some of the staff have been around since the school was founded, but we will do our best to help the children transition to the new environment," she said.
Another 16 schools will be merged - 14 in 2023 and another two in 2024. These include Eunos Primary School and Telok Kurau Primary School, which will take the site of Telok Kurau Primary School; and Chua Chu Kang Secondary School and Teck Whye Secondary School, which will occupy the current location of Teck Whye Secondary School.
Since 2010, 68 schools have been merged, including eight junior colleges in 2019.
MOE said that 23 schools have also opened over that period. The majority of these are primary schools in newer housing estates like Punggol and Sengkang.
Falling birth numbers among Singapore residents play a large part in making these mergers necessary.
Last year, 38,705 babies were born, the lowest figure since 2010, when there were 37,967 births. MOE said that in the 1990s, resident live births averaged about 46,000 annually.
Many of the affected schools are in mature estates, where there are fewer young families.
"Nationally, there is a drop in the number of students but at the same there is an even more uneven distribution (of students) at a localised level," said an MOE spokesman.
"As such, we need to consider merging schools in areas where demand for school places is smaller and we need to build new schools in areas where there is greater demand, especially where there are new housing developments," he added.
While MOE declined to provide the specific numbers of students and staff affected, it emphasised that no MOE teachers would be retrenched due to the school mergers.
Instead, they will be redeployed, possibly to teach students at other levels. MOE said that there would be training support for these teachers if necessary.
The ministry said merging the schools would allow students to continue to have a fuller school experience, including varied subject combinations, co-curricular activities (CCAs) and leadership opportunities.
It said that schools with low enrolment numbers find it difficult to offer a good range of programmes and CCAs, and smaller student populations affect the diversity of experiences and choices the school can offer.
"These help provide a vibrant and meaningful educational experience for our students to develop to their fullest potential," it said.
Planning for mergers and selecting the pair of schools revolves around four key considerations, along with local supply and demand factors, said MOE.
They are the schools' enrolment trend, their geographical proximity to each other, the suitability of the merger partners and the receiving school's infrastructure capacity.
Teck Whye Secondary School alumnus S V Anand Kumar said that while there will always be fond memories of the school, the planned merger offers a good opportunity for his alma mater.
"Combining resources may allow both schools to revamp, especially as neighbourhood schools with a lot of potential," said the 25-year-old Singapore Institute of Technology student, whose sister attended Chua Chu Kang Secondary - the school which Teck Whye is set to merge with.
The names of the newly merged schools will be decided on later in the process, added MOE.
Some of the schools to be merged have had a long history that stretches back before Singapore's independence. Tanglin Secondary School officially opened in October 1964.
It was Singapore's first Chinese medium technical school and was also the first to admit female students to its technical courses.
Telok Kurau Primary School began life in 1926 as Telok Kurau English School. It's alumni include former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Upcoming school mergers
Schools to be merged: Juying Primary School and Pioneer Primary School
New location: Site of Juying Primary School (to be relocated to a new school site in Tengah, move tentatively set for 2025)
Schools to be merged: Eunos Primary School and Telok Kurau Primary School
New location: Site of Telok Kurau Primary School
Schools to be merged: Farrer Park Primary School and Stamford Primary School
New location: Site of Farrer Park Primary School
Schools to be merged: Guangyang Primary School and Townsville Primary School
New location: Site of Townsville Primary School
Schools to be merged: Bedok Green Secondary School and Ping Yi Secondary School
New location: Site of Bedok Green Secondary School
Schools to be merged: Chua Chu Kang Secondary School and Teck Whye Secondary School
New location: Site of Teck Whye Secondary School
Schools to be merged: Fajar Secondary School and Greenridge Secondary School
New location: Site of Fajar Secondary School
Schools to be merged: New Town Secondary School and Tanglin Secondary School
New location: Site of New Town Secondary School
Schools to be merged: Fuchun Secondary School and Woodlands Ring Secondary School
New location: Site of Woodlands Ring Secondary School