Entering Primary One is the first step that will see Singaporean children prepped for 10 years of a competitive education system. As it is a high-stakes exercise, anxious parents study the registration process as if they are running the race themselves.
When parents compare schools, they can unconsciously get sucked into how prestigious a school sounds on a child’s report. The key is to respect your child. A brand name school that offers Higher Chinese may not work for a child who is not keen on Chinese. Instead, go for a school that offers Chinese at a pace your child can enjoy.
I followed the crowd and enrolled my daughter in a brand name kindergarten, only to find her hating school for two years because of constant comparisons by a teacher who deplored her language ability. For her Primary One registration, I was determined to undo the damage. I decided to go with a learning culture that I believed would work for her quiet temperament – it took up to Primary 4 to get her to be more confident with her language.
When to start
Yes, such decisions need to be thought out. It can be daunting for one parent to handle, so both parents should work with each other. Before reading forums and blogs for various registration experiences, your stay-sane primer is the Ministry of Education's Primary One Registration website.
Apart from your child’s birth cert, it also tells your what documentation you need to bring for the phase you are eligible for.
Don’t put all your dreams in one basket. For planning your Plan A and Plan B scenarios, use this list of schools in different estates.
How it works
The registration process consists of seven phases, depending on the parents’ connection to the school of choice.
If you are eligible for one phase but unfortunately forget or fail to register, you will have to register in the next phase. With each phase, the longer you take to know for sure if your child is admitted to the school or schools you choose, the greater the level of uncertainty for you. So plan ahead and spare yourself the nagging fears.
The seven phases are as listed, with Phase 2B and 2C as the most stressful for most parents:
Phase 1: For children with siblings who are already studying at the primary school of choice. This would have been completed by this week (2 July).
Phase 2A (1): For children of parents who are former students and who have joined the alumni association not later than 30 June 2019. This is also for children of members of the school advisory or management committee.
Phase 2A (2): For children whose siblings or parents used to study at the school of choice. This is also for children who have a parent who is a staff member of the school.
Phase 2B: For children whose parent has volunteered for 40 hours at the school of choice by 30 June 2020; and who had joined not later than 1 July 2019. This is also for children with a parent with church or clan connections with the school.
Phase 2C and Phase 2C Supplementary: For children who have not registered for P1 in the following year.
Phase 3: For children whose parents are not Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents.
The registration dates for Phases 2A(1) to Phase 3 are held sequentially from 7 July this year till October this year. Parents can register at only one school at any one time or they may lose the place they get.
To ensure access to children whose parents are not alumni, primary schools also have to reserve 40 places to be split evenly between Phase 2B and Phase 2C.
The most nerve-wrecking phases are Phases 2A (2) to 2C. A child who is unable to get a place in one phase will have to register in the next – and find his chances open to the vagaries of balloting. After all, if there are more applications than vacancies for each phase, balloting will decide if a child gets a spot.
It is important to start queuing earlier, although the queue numbers do not ultimately decide admission. Be prepared for a Plan B school if your Plan A does not admit your child.
Some schools post real-time numbers of various phases at its registration area, which is great.If balloting takes place, you can check MOE’s P1 Registration Balloting Webpage. Results of the balloting are sent to parents via post before the next phase starts. The details can also be found on this page.
The ballot works by according Singapore Citizens priority over PRs. Those living closest to the school will get highest priority.
This means that Singapore Citizens who live less than 1 km away from school will be admitted first, followed by citizens who live between 1 to 2 km away. Those who live more than 2 km away have the lowest priority. If there are five places left and there are seven citizens, a ballot will be held for them.
Even in Phase 2A (2), a parent who used to study at the school of choice may have to ballot for a place if the number of applicants exceeds the number of vacancies.
Getting in the school of choice can still be competitive, despite the 40 places reserved for kids of non-alumni. The home-school distance will be considered.
So, if you have volunteered at the school you want, and if you are planning to use your parents’ or siblings’ addresses near the school to get your child admitted, use the statutory declaration form from the Primary One Registration webpage.
If you are using a new address that you have not occupied, make sure you have papers to prove that you have purchased the property and will commit to live there from the date of your child’s entry to Primary One.
If you are renting the property, you need to update your lease and commit to staying there for 30 months from 1 July 2020, the start of the registration exercise. Otherwise MOE reserves the right to not admit the child to the school of choice.
Ensure your child gets a place by end of Phase 2C by planning ahead where you may register your child, simply to save yourself the uncertainty of getting into Phase 3.
But Murphy’s Law can strike, and all your plans may just go awry.
You may have volunteered but failed to get endorsement or recognition from the right authority in your clan association. Or the clan association you volunteered with is not affiliated after all, or has no say in your child’s admission. Or your rental cannot be renewed because your landlord wants to sell his house.
If all fails, should you appeal?
The ministry is very clear on its webpage for the registration exercise that it will not entertain appeals.
So instead of chancing it and waiting till Phase 3 when results are announced by October (and you are left with two months till January to insist on your school of choice!), do your due diligence first and plan for success of admission by August, when results for Phase 2C are announced.
Entering Primary One need not be unduly painful.
If you are adamant to transfer to your school of choice after Primary One, do factor in your child’s comfort level with the new culture, the new expectations. Some of us may be able to live out of a suitcase anywhere we fly to, but can a child form trusting friendships in a single day? His self-confidence can be affected if there are too many changes to his routine.
It is more important to choose realistically and help your child get used to a school he enjoys, because it is these early relationships that give him a sense of who he is.
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