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How the Pri 1 registration system evolved over almost 5 decades

SINGAPORE — Since its inception in the early 1970s, the Primary 1 registration system has undergone many changes and refinements in the past decades.

How the Pri 1 registration system evolved over almost 5 decades

The Primary 1 registration system — which currently offers at least nine ways for parents to get a spot for their child under seven phases — has undergone many changes and refinements in the past decades.

SINGAPORE — Since its inception in the early 1970s, the Primary 1 registration system has undergone many changes and refinements in the past decades.

Over time, particularly in the last 10 years, the system has morphed into a complicated scheme comprising seven phases and a multitude of rules.

Indeed, it is a major source of stress and consternation for parents, with some already making preparations and plotting a strategy when their child is yet to be born.

With the Ministry of Education (MOE) in the midst of conducting the latest review, specifically to allow more children to attend a school near where they live, TODAY — which is examining the topic in its Big Read this weekend — takes a look at how the system has evolved over the years:

1972: The Government introduced a registration system to make primary school admission more transparent and orderly, in view of excessive demand for places in a few popular schools.

In the subsequent years, priorities were given for children whose parents were sterilised, in line with the country’s “Stop at two” campaign to limit the number of children per family. 

1984: A new Graduate Mothers’ Scheme was rolled out to give priority admission to children of better-educated mothers over those of lesser-educated mothers. This was scrapped the following year after it generated a great deal of unhappiness and animosity.

1995: A 50 per cent cap was placed on Phase 2B, which gives priority to parents linked to the clan or religious group which runs the school and parents who help out in grassroots groups.

1998: MOE announced that Phase 2A, traditionally reserved for children whose parents or siblings were former students, or who were on the school’s advisory or management committee, would be divided into Phase 2A1 and Phase 2A2 by 2000.

Children of parents who join a school’s alumni association at least a year before registration would come under Phase 2A1, taking priority over children whose parents and siblings were former students, but not members of the schools’ alumni associations.

The ministry also stipulated that parent volunteers would have to spend at least 40 hours a year helping the school in order to qualify for Phase 2B, which is meant for children whose parents do volunteer work in schools.

2012: Singaporeans were given “absolute priority” over permanent residents (PRs) in the event of a ballot at any phase.

2013: MOE announced that every school would have to set aside a total of 40 places for registrants under Phase 2B and 2C starting from the 2014 exercise. This was to ensure that more places are available to families without alumni connections.

2015: MOE issued a new rule that children who secured a place in the Pri 1 registration exercise based on the proximity of their homes and the school would have to stay at the address until they finish Primary 2.

The 30-month residency requirement came about in response to complaints that parents were renting flats that they never lived in near popular schools.

2016: Changes earlier announced by the People’s Association took effect: Parents who become grassroots volunteers in the hope of getting priority for their children would have to serve at least two years of grassroots work.

They would also be restricted to schools in the constituency where they live. Up till then, they could get priority for their children in schools near their homes as well as in the constituencies where they volunteered.

2017: MOE announced that children attending MOE kindergartens situated within primary school compounds would be eligible to apply under Phase 2A2 from the 2018 exercise.

The priority would help ensure a smoother transition for a student moving to Pri 1, as the primary school would already have an understanding of his or her developmental and learning needs, the ministry said.

2018: Computerised balloting replaced manual balloting, which meant that parents would no longer need to make arrangements to physically attend the balloting in schools as the process would be done at MOE’s headquarters in Buona Vista.

2020: Pri 1 registration exercise goes online amid Covid-19 outbreak.

MOE also introduced a cap on the intake of PR children into each school to prevent any concentration of PR children in the schools. But the cap, which would be about 25 to 30 per cent of the school’s planned Pri 1 intake, would be applied in Phase 2C and Phase 2C Supplementary only.

March 2021: Then Education Minister Lawrence Wong announced that MOE was looking at how to increase places under Phase 2C. Responding to calls from Members of Parliament (MPs) to review the Pri 1 registration framework, Mr Wong acknowledged that the competition for spaces in more popular schools has intensified in recent years.

Related topics

MOE education primary school Primary 1 registration

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