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Tuesday March 27, 2012

P1 priority for citizens

Singaporean children will have a further edge over permanent residents (PRs) during Primary 1 school registration.

From this year, available places in registration phases where balloting is required will be given to Singaporeans first. The remaining places in the phase will then be open to PRs.

This means Singaporeans in each phase, regardless of where they live, will automatically have priority ahead of PRs who might be living nearer the school.

If there are more Singaporeans than places available, those Singa­poreans living nearer to the school will still get priority, with the rest balloting for the remaining slots.

For example, if a school has 50 vacancies in a specific phase and 56 Singaporeans and five PR children apply, none of the latter will get a place, even if they live within 1km of the school.

As for the Singaporean children, those who live within 1km of the school will get first bite, followed by those living between 1km and 2km, and finally, those outside 2km.

Balloting will be used to decide who gets a slot for distance categories when there are more applicants than places remaining, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said when announcing the news on Sunday.

Welcoming the move, Member of Parliament and Government Parlia­mentary Committee for Education chairman Lim Biow Chuan said it sent a clear signal that Singaporeans were valued.

“For some branded schools, balloting takes place for just one or two places, so if you can give Singaporeans priority, it’ll go a long way,” he said.

Lim admitted “PRs won’t be happy” but they “cannot expect the same degree of priority as citizens”.

The changes will take place from the Primary 1 registration exercise this July. It replaces a previous policy change in 2010, where Singaporeans got two ballot slips compared to one for PRs, when they had to ballot for a Primary 1 spot.

It was reported last month that the ministry was reviewing the Primary 1 registration exercise.

Parents have complained about intense competition for limited places, especially at brand-name or popular neighbourhood schools.

Last year, about half of Singa­pore’s 173 primary schools had to hold ballots and there were children who could not get into schools near their homes. There are currently several phases in the registration process.

In the first phase, siblings of Singaporeans and PRs already in a school are automatically given places. There is no change to this phase.

The next few phases allow Singa­porean and PR children of alumni and staff, and those with parents who are volunteers, grassroots leaders or with church or clan connections to register, followed by those who are not yet registered.

These phases are where the latest changes will take effect. The final phase is for children of foreigners.

Principals said the move should reassure Singaporean parents. Some principals from the more popular schools said PRs might not be able to get in after the change.

White Sands Primary principal Daphne Leong said that in recent years, balloting had taken place even for those living within 1km of her school.

“I don’t think I will have enough places to accommodate all the applicants within 1km and outside 1km, and still have places for PRs,” she said.

But Tan Chun Ming, principal of Nan Chiau Primary, felt PRs still stood a chance at every stage of the registration process.

“Even with the extra ballot given to Singaporeans from 2010, we still had PRs coming in,” he noted.

Tan and other principals also said PRs need not worry as there were many other schools with many vacancies. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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