ST Forum letter writer wants guaranteed spots in primary schools for parent volunteers' kids

Should volunteerism ensure something in return?

Sulaiman Daud | November 03, 2020, 10:35 AM

Back in your primary school days you may hazily remember adults who were not part of the teaching staff, but were still around for class trips and other activities.

It might have come as a surprise to learn that they weren't merely lonely and had nothing better to do, instead they had other motives in mind.

"This feels unfair"

Straits Times reader wrote in to the Forum to ask if volunteering at a school could guarantee their child a place there.

One Rachel Lim said, in a letter published on Nov. 2, that she felt it was "harsh" to make parents who have invested time and effort in volunteering to still go through balloting.

"After taking time off from work and arranging for alternative childcare to put in the required hours at the school, it is such a disappointment to end up unsuccessful in the balloting.

Some families even move to be closer to the school after the parent starts volunteering, and end up wasting their time and money."

What is Lim's proposed solution? If a parent has been accepted by the school as a volunteer, then that parent should have a reserved place for their child as long as they complete the required number of hours.

Otherwise, Lim feels the schools should restrict the number of volunteers in the first place.

"The Primary 1 registration exercise is stressful for most parents in Singapore, and can lead to sleepless nights and eventual disappointment," she added.

How to get your child in a primary school

Under the Ministry of Education's rules, there are multiple phases for allocating children to primary schools.

Phase 1 is for kids who already have a sibling studying at the preferred school. Applicants in this phase are guaranteed spots in the school.

Then comes Phase 2(A)(1) which is for kids whose parents are:

  1. former students and have signed up as members of the alumni association, or
  2. members of the Advisory or Management Committee of the school.

Phase 2(A)(2) is for kids whose parents:

  1. are former students, or have kids who are former students, or
  2. are staff members of the school, or
  3. enrolled the applicant in an MOE Kindergarten under the purview of, and located within, the preferred school.

Phase 2(B), the one highlighted by Lim, is for kids whose parents volunteer with the school.

These parents must complete at least 40 hours of service within a certain time frame. This phase is also for kids whose parents are endorsed by the church or clan directly connected to the school, or are endorsed as active community leaders.

Phase 2(C) and its supplementary phase are for kids who have not yet been given a place after all of the above.

MOE does not accept multiple applications, only one for each prospective student.

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Top image from MOE's Facebook page.