Registering one’s child at any reputable primary school in Singapore has been a much talked about topic year after year. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has come up with a system of phases (http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/admissions/primary-one-registration/phases/) to allocate children with places in primary schools. And this system has caused much anxiety to kiasu parents who are not in the ‘privileged’ group (phase 1 and 2A) where successful admission is guaranteed.
I believe that many parents would choose to enroll their children into a good primary school for the following reasons:
1) The school has a proven track record of outstanding PSLE results;
2) The school is deemed to have caring, hardworking teachers and a driven principal;
3) The school has done well in non-academic areas;
4) The school has a good learning environment;
5) Good school image as reflected in pupils’ attire, behavior and success stories
Seeing the stress that many parents went through in order to enroll their kids into a premier primary school, I thought that we better start finding out more and plan early. I don’t mind being labelled as a kiasu parent. It is our prerogative as parents to give Hannah the best where possible. And we take Hannah’s education seriously. It is one significant aspect in life which would mould the person she would become one day. She would be spending more and more time at school than at home and so yes, the kind of school she would enroll in matters.
Our selection criteria for Hannah’s primary school are 1) it has to be a Christian mission school, and 2) it should be ideally an all girls’ school. Having taught in both co-ed and all girls’ schools, I see the benefits of learning in an all girls’ environment. There are only a handful of such schools in Singapore and the one nearest our home is beyond the dreaded 2-km radius! *big sigh*
After short listing the preferred primary schools, we visited their websites to analyze their past records for primary one registration to get a sense of how intense the competition might be when it’s our turn. If a school is over-subscribed, as in the case of all popular schools, balloting would be conducted. Now, this is where the stress begins.
Priority for balloting will be given to those who are staying within the blessed 1-km radius to the school, then the risky 1-2km radius, and lastly (if there are still vacancies left) to the quite hopeless applicants beyond 2-km radius. To increase a child’s chances of successful enrollment, some parents did the exodus exercise, i.e. to relocate their homes to be near the school. And to further increase the probability of getting enrolled, parents ‘volunteer’ to do time, i.e. to sign up as parent volunteers to offer their services to the school for a minimum of 40 hours.
There has been much unhappiness aired by unsuccessful applicants through the local media. Their gripe is mainly about the privilege given to PRs to ballot for a place in those popular primary schools. No matter that a Singaporean gets 2 ballot slips while a PR gets 1. Whenever a PR’s kid got through in a ballot, the sentiment has been that the Singaporean father gave his 2 years of National Service to his country in return for losing a primary school placing to a PR who migrated here to enjoy our economic success without having to make any sacrifices.
In time to come, we’d be in the shoes of those parents who went through the dreaded balloting process. Hannah does not qualify for phase 1, 2A1 or 2A2 because she 1) does not have sibling(s) already in the school of choice, 2) her mother is not an old girl of the school of choice, 3) her parents are not in the school management committee, and 4) her parents are not staff of the school. These phases are 100% guaranteed enrollment for those who qualify.
To date, we are exploring available options to increase the probability of enrolling our girl in one particular school. One major consideration is whether we should relocate. One big advantage is minimal travelling time for Hannah for 6 years. The primary school is also affiliated to a secondary school – in case our girl didn’t do well at PSLE, she might be enrolled into the affiliated secondary school. Another long-term plan. Just the other day, Yang asked me whether I have thought of a backup plan. The truth is, I don’t. Sigh, I should start cracking my head for that one too.
After all this drama, I realized that in all my kanchong-ness I forgot that we have God to turn to. What a relief that we have God to lean on and not fret or be afraid. :)