Singapore’s Primary 1 Registration Can Be Made Simpler, Says Yale-NUS Study

·3-min read

A recently study reveals that primary school registration in Singapore is not simple and can only be fair to parents and children, if it were simplified.

According to the Yale-NUS College study, simplifying its system can especially make it fairer for those with fewer resources. 

The study was published in May 2021, and was conducted by Yale-NUS assistant professor of social sciences (psychology) Cheung Hoi Shan, and Yale sociology lecturer Mira Debs. It is based on the analysis of local media coverage of the school registration exercise from 2010 to 2020.

Primary School Registration In Singapore Can Be Confusing And Lacks Transparency, Says Study

Image source: iStock

The study states that with over a hundred school options and a tiered system with several phases, the primary school registration process can be confusing for families in Singapore. Children who are privileged also get more advantage this way. 

Looking into the whole system of the primary school registration process in Singapore, the study mentions features that make it disadvantageous to other parents:

  • There are parents who may have alumni connections to popular schools that can be more beneficial to their children.

  • The system favours families who already have alumni ties. 

  • Parents who have the money to rent or buy a home near their preferred school can just change their address to increase their child’s chances of getting a coveted place in the school.

  • The study says parents need to be “conversant… in a series of complex calculations” during the primary school registration process in Singapore to assess their options. 

  • There is a lack of transparency in the registration exercise that results in parents having too many options.

  • In the study, researchers added that parents who are unable to access any online forums are “at an even greater disadvantage.”

  • The system also favours parents who have the time, financial resources and skills to become a parent volunteer at their school of choice.

Parents who don’t have such privileges are at a disadvantage when it comes to the registration process and the study says they “end up taking their place at the end of the line.”

How Can We Make The Primary 1 Registration Process Fairer?

primary school registration in singapore
primary school registration in singapore

Image source: Facebook / Ministry of Education, Singapore

The Yale-NUS study also gave suggestions on ways to solve these problems to make the primary school registration system in Singapore fairer.

They added that despite the stereotype that Singaporean parents can be overly competitive, they can still work together to navigate the enrolment system.

So that no one gets left behind, researchers give the following solutions:

  • To increase the diversity in popular schools, researchers suggest having Primary 1 spots reserved for children from low-income families.

  • Much like the secondary school election system, the process for Primary 1 registrations can also reduce the number of school options by allowing parents to make a ranked preference of a few schools.

  • There should also be a consistent and transparent selection process across schools to reduce the number of privileged groups in the system.

  • Researchers also add, “Retaining sibling and distance preference but requiring everyone else to ballot could also make the system more equitable for those without prior affiliations, or the cultural capital and economic resources to volunteer their time.”

The Ministry of Education is still reviewing the Primary 1 registration framework and is looking into increasing the number of places set aside under Phase 2C which is considered the most competitive phase.

What do you think of the current P1 registration? 

Lead image source from Facebook / Ministry of Education, Singapore.

News source: The Straits Times

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