SINGAPORE - Forty places will be set aside for children who do not qualify for priority admission in the Primary 1 registration exercise from next year, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Thursday (Sept 9).
This is double the current 20 places reserved in Phase 2C of the annual exercise, which is the open phase for those who have no links with the school. Priority is given to those who live nearby.
The annual exercise had till this year comprised seven phases with early phases reserved for children with ties to the school through their siblings or parents or networks like church associations.
To accommodate the increase in Phase 2C, MOE said it will be collapsing the two phases for alumni - 2A(1) and 2A(2) - into a single phase.
Phase 2A(1) was reserved for children whose parents had joined the school's alumni association or are members of the advisory or its management committee.
Phase 2A(2) was reserved for children of alumni who are not members of the association; children of staff; and children in the MOE kindergarten located within the primary school of their choice.
Here are answers to some common questions on the changes.
Q: Why has MOE decided to set aside 40 places in Phase 2C for all primary schools? Will MOE consider setting aside more places in future?
MOE said the change was made to ensure more children have access to schools near where they live, regardless of whether they have prior connection to the schools.
It said: "While some schools may find the increase of 20 places under Phase 2C benefiting children in their immediate neighbourhood, this will invariably put pressure on the earlier phases, especially for Phases 2A(1) and 2A(2).
"We therefore have to strike a balance, and are of the view that the doubling of reserved places in Phase 2C from 20 to 40 is one step in the right direction."
MOE added that it would continue to closely monitor the annual trends in the registration exercise and carefully consider if more changes are necessary in the future.
Q: How many schools will benefit from the increase in reserved places for Phase 2C?
Based on data from this year's registration exercise, 32 primary schools, or 17.6 per cent, would most clearly benefit from this change, said MOE.
Looking at data from this year's exercise, The Straits Times found that 32 schools had 40 or fewer vacancies for Phase 2C. This includes schools such as Rulang Primary, Ai Tong School, Nan Hua Primary and Anglo-Chinese School (Primary). In 2020, the number was 35.
Parents with no connections to these schools who want to gain entry for their children are most likely to benefit immediately from the change because there will now be more spots open to them in traditionally oversubscribed schools.
Q: Why did MOE decide to give one-third of the remaining places from Phase 2A to 2B? Why not give an equal proportion to both Phase 2B and 2C, as per the current framework?
MOE said the division of vacancies is proportionate to the number of reserved places for Phases 2B and 2C - 20 and 40.
It added that the division is also in line with its broader objective of setting aside more places for Phase 2C to ensure that more children with no prior connection to the school can go to a school near their home.
Q: Will MOE consider giving one more year for alumni members to enjoy Phase 2A(1) priority by having the changes start in 2023?
MOE said these changes have been announced after carefully weighing the different considerations and trade-offs, in order to ensure our schools remain accessible to students from all backgrounds.
It added: "As the changes to the P1 Registration Framework are interconnected, they should be implemented as a package. If we delay combining Phases 2A(1) and 2A(2), some registrants in Phase 2A(2) would be very severely impacted, as there may be relatively few or no places left in Phase 2A(2) for several schools."
The ministry added that if all the changes were delayed for another year, it would also deprive those who would benefit from the increase in reserved places in Phase 2C.
"While alumni members will continue to have priority under the combined Phase 2A, we encourage them to also consider various options when choosing their primary school for next year, including in other phases like Phase 2C," said MOE.