Friday 27 July 2012

PRs face tough fight for places: Primary One Registration Exercise 2012

Only 1 out of 28 schools conducting Phase 2B balloting had spot for PRs
By Kezia Toh & Matthias Chew, The Straits Times, 26 Jul 2012

IF THIS year's Primary 1 registration is anything to go by, children who are permanent residents (PR) face an unusually tough fight for a spot in the most popular schools at Phase 2B.

Phase 2B is where parents try to get ahead of others by volunteering with the school or becoming members of an affiliated church or clan. Parents who are community leaders can also apply under this phase.

But PR parents can no longer enjoy a clear head start by doing so, with a new ruling which gives priority to Singaporeans whenever balloting is required.

This year, 28 schools conducted balloting because they had more applicants than places. Balloting was conducted at these schools yesterday.

Only one of these schools had vacancies for PR applicants. Three PRs had to vie for the one available spot at CHIJ Our Lady of Good Counsel in Ang Mo Kio.

PR applicants at the remaining 27 schools did not even qualify for balloting.

All places available went to Singaporeans. In each of these schools, even some Singaporeans had to be turned away as applications outstripped places.

Previously, when schools went to balloting, PRs got one ballot slip, and citizens two. That meant PRs could still harbour some hope of getting into popular schools like Tao Nan and Ai Tong.

PRs form about 10 per cent of the Primary 1 cohort.

One PR parent who qualified for balloting at CHIJ Our Lady of Good Counsel yesterday told reporters it was 'a fair game' even though he failed to clinch a spot for his daughter. He declined to be named.

Schools interviewed say they had to turn away disappointed PR parents who put in at least 40 hours as parent volunteers in order to qualify for Phase 2B.

Referring to the new ruling, Methodist Girls' School (MGS) principal Shirleen Ong said: 'The impact is obvious.'

Yesterday, 45 applicants competed for 28 places at MGS. They were all Singaporeans - PR applicants did not qualify for balloting.

Singaporean parents interviewed yesterday said that they were happy with the new system.

Business development manager Timothy Tan, 42, managed to get his child into Kong Hwa School in Guillemard Road, which is the most hotly contested school with 62 applicants vying for 41 spots yesterday. The school is affiliated with the Hokkien Huay Kuan, and this phase is open to clan members.

'It was nerve-racking inside. I am delighted, relieved,' said Mr Tan.

Another happy Singaporean parent was accountant Lee Siew Li, 41. She clinched a place for her daughter at Catholic school CHIJ Toa Payoh yesterday. The school had 18 applicants vying for 16 spots.

She said: 'For this school, this scheme works because a large number of PRs are Filipinos, many of whom are Catholics... So we stand a better chance. That is the reality.'

The priority-for-Singaporeans policy is expected to have a bigger impact for the next phase of registration, which starts on July 30. It is open to all citizens and PRs yet to be registered.

Indian PR and banker Akash Agarwal, 35, said he has given up on trying to enrol his daughter in Mee Toh School in Punggol, which has relatively few places left.

He said: 'I will have to settle for a school that is not the best.'


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