Relax lah… no need to be so kiasu. New Singaporean parents tend to think that planning for Primary One Registration years in advance is just plain uncool. Some even believe that as long as they are staying near the school, there is no reason why they would not be able to place their children in that school.
Perhaps the following facts would help put things in perspective:
1. If you are unlucky enough that the school closest to you is very popular, even if your home is within a kilometer of it, chances are good that you will be merrily balloting alongside the rest of the parents within that 1km in Phase 2C. You may end up placing your child in some other school much further away than you want, even if you had never intended to be “kiasu” and try only for branded schools.
2. To get priority in the Primary One Registration exercise by engaging in a certain activity, you need to be involved in that activity for at least 1 YEAR before the registration exercise. Working backwards, that means you need to sign up at least 2 YEARS before your child turns 7, ie. when your child is 5 or 4 years old, depending on which month your child is born in. In cases of very heavy demand, some clans will only issue recommendation letters to longer serving members.
3. If you have a specific school in mind, the safest bet is to stay within 1km of it. That would require you to plan and time your residence very carefully. Generally you will need up to 3 years to complete a move from the initial planning. Longer if you are trying to line up the stars to make sure you get a good deal in property prices in your target area.
So, still think parents are being too kiasu if they start planning for their children’s Primary One registration when their children are 3 years old?
In this article, we will impart to you all the special moves we KiasuParents know about how to increase your chances of getting that school you’ve been eyeing. This article is only possible because of all the contributions from our battle-scarred KiasuParents, so please at least offer a mental thank-you to the community for providing you the wisdom that could only be learnt from lots of frustration and tears.
OK, back to school. Let’s revise the concept of Phases during Primary One registration. The entire exercise is divided into 3 distinct Phases. Well, ok, there are 7 Phases to be exact, but our Ministry of Education (MOE) believes there is value to making new parents think that there are only 3 by labelling the phases as such.
- Phase 1
- For a child who has a sibling studying in a school of choice.
- The sibling must be a CURRENT student belonging to the school, ie. from P1-P6, and not just an ex-student.
- All children registered in this phase will be given places in the school.
- There is no distance prioritization in this Phase. You can stay in Tekong and still go to a school in Sentosa (um… Sentosa got primary school meh?)
- This is God-mode. Sure wan. Guaranteed entry. Of course, new parents need not apply. Sorry… members only.
- Phase 2A1
- For a child whose parent is a former student of the school and who has joined the alumni association as a member for at least 1 year prior to the registration exercise; or whose parent is a member of the School Advisory/Management Committee.
- Yes… only VIPs need apply here. New parents too, of course, if they are the VIPs. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about here, don’t fret – it probably doesn’t apply to you. But since 2012 where the rule of reserving 40 places for Phase 2B and 2C kicked in, it would be wise to start paying attention (and your Alumni fees) just so you can be one of these VIPs.
- Phase 2A2
- For a child whose parent or sibling has studied in the school of choice; or whose parent is a staff member of the school of choice.
- This phase is really where we NSIPs (Not-So-Important-People) begin to get some chance of getting some priority for our children. Finally, you understand the true reason for keeping your mouldy old Primary School Report Card and your PSLE certificate. It’s so that junior can carry on your proud tradition, assuming you have not been overly traumatized by your own stay in your alma mater. What’s that? No… we have no idea why you are still keeping your old primary school uniform.
- Of course, it doesn’t help if you are now staying on the other side of the island from your kampong school. But if you have the stomach to run that obstacle course past all the ERP gantries between your home and the school, the school will still welcome you even if you stay in Timbuktu.
- Phase 2B
- For a child whose parent
- has joined the school as a parent volunteer for at least 1 year prior to registration, and has given at least 40 hours of voluntary service to the school; or
- whose parent is a member endorsed by the church/clan directly connected with the school; or
- whose parent is endorsed as an active community leader.
- Yes… this is where the battlelines will be drawn, the last chance for parents to try to get some priority in the process. During this phase, parents will fight tooth and claw to get that extra something that can get them a place in the school before the vacancies are thrown to the hordes in dreaded Phase 2C.
- Phase 2C
- For a child who is ineligible for or unsuccessful in earlier phases.
- This is the main admission period, where most top schools will fill up all their vacancies. Your only help in this Phase is if you are staying within 1km from the school. While this is admittedly a significant boost to your chances, there is still that nagging probability that you may be balloted out of contention. Praying or wearing red underwear may help, but it would be hard for the divine powers to hear you amidst all the frantic prayers from the other parents.
- Phase 2C Supplementary
- For a child who is unsuccessful in gaining a place in a school of choice at Phase 2C.
- This is where you get to exercise your second choice if you are unlucky enough to not be able to secure a place in earlier Phases. Most of the top schools would be completely filled up by now, so you have to contend with the second stringers. However, even these could be quite hot at this stage, since everyone else who were unsuccessful will also be trying for the remaining places. Distance prioritization still plays an important part in your chance of getting a place in these schools. So don’t go and turn up your nose at these schools when you visit to evaluate them during the earlier Phases… they may be your saving grace.
- Phase 3
- For a child who is not a Singapore Citizen or a Permanent Resident.
- ’nuff said.
The reason why we have Phases is to prevent the more enterprising parents from registering in multiple schools at the same time to try their luck. If you successfully registered your child in one school in an earlier Phase, you are NOT allowed to register the same child in another school in a subsequent Phase without first withdrawing your child from the earlier school. After so many years in service, the system is well-oiled and iron-clad, so don’t play play.
Anyway, from the above, it should be clear that if you are a new parent and do not intend to send your child to either your own or your spouse’s old primary school, the only prioritization you can try for is in Phase 2B. Let’s go through each of the specific programmes that will qualify you for Phase 2B.
- Joining the School’s Parent Volunteer Programmes (PV)
- This is by far the most common method practiced by parents today. It is also the safest method, although we have to state that while being a PV qualifies you to register in Phase 2B, it does NOT guarantee your child a place in the school!
- How do you become a PV? These programmes are managed with significant autonomy by the schools themselves, so the Principals usually have the final say. However, MOE has the following minimum guidelines for PVs to qualify for Phase 2B:
- Parents must be PV for at least 1 year (from 1 July to the following 30 June in the year of registration)
- Parents must do at least 40 hours of time… um… voluntary school services
- Remember… these are MINIMUM guidelines, which means that some schools’ requirements for PVs may be much more, er, stringent. Word of advice – don’t antagonise the Principal by comparing PV requirements of other schools you are evaluating. You may be told to go fly your kite in the other school since the wind is stronger there. Even better – keep the fact that you are doing PV in other schools to yourself.
- It is rumored that certain schools:
- do not have PV programmes
- require parents to do more than 40 hours
- require parents to sit through interviews before they are accepted
- allows parents to share and accumulate hours under 1 account
- have take-in periods from 1 Jan to 31 Dec instead of 1 Jul to 30 Jun.
- To verify these facts, do call up and ask the schools about them as soon as you decide to join the PV ranks for a school. Every school manage their PV programme differently. Write in or otherwise communicate with your desired school directly – do NOT write in to MOE to enquire about PV for any specific school; MOE will just direct you back to the school.
- So what are PVs expected to do? It varies widely depending on the school’s needs and the skill sets of the PVs. Activities can generally be classified as:
- Fixed programme. PVs are expected to commit to a specific periodic activity, usually for 1hr per week. Examples are traffic warden duties, school canteen assistance, librarian services, CCA, etc. Like antibiotics, to be effective, PVs must commit to complete the entire “course” of a number of weeks (usually 40), before they are given the hours. We are not sure what the consequences are if you miss 1 or 2 of these weekly “pills”, but we advise that you keep to the schedule as much as possible lest you start growing hair in strange places. It is left to the PVs themselves to ensure that their schedule allows them to complete the full course before P1 registration starts, and to supplement their “treatment” with extra ad-hoc “vitamins” as necessary.
- Ad-hoc activities. PVs can sign up for one-off activities such as organizing and implementing events/parties/excursions for the school. They can also do administrative work such as help out in the P1 Registration process by helping parents fill in forms, etc.
- PVs are required to complete timesheets at the completion of each activity which must be endorsed by the person-in-charge. These timesheets must be submitted periodically to the school for compilation.
- Some time before the P1 Registration exercise, the school will send you a letter certifying that you have completed your 40 hour PV requirements. You may laminate/frame/print a trillion copies of it, but do not forget to bring it along with you when you go to register your child during Phase 2B.
- Here is the forum thread where parents share their experiences in PV. Feel free to contribute your ideas and experiences as a PV!
- Getting endorsed as an active Community Leader
- “Active Community Leaders” are defined as current serving executive committee members of the Residents’ Committee (RC), Neighbourhood Committee (NC), Citizen’s Consultative Committee (CCC), Community Club Management Committee (CCMC) and the Community Development Council (CDC).
- Join the RCs if you are in public housing (heart-landers), and NCs for private housing (no heart-landers like condo-landers/house-landers/own-landers).
- Most importantly, make sure your target school is in the GRC that your RC or NC is serving in! You may check this by referring to this link. Please double check especially during pre-election years because GRC boundaries tend to “change”.
- When you first join, you will be registered as an Observer and you must be an active participant for at least 3-6 months before you are granted Executive Member status. You must be an Executive Member before you are given a chance to request for a letter signed by your MP to endorse you as an active community leader for priority registration in Phase 2B.
- There is some debate on whether you need to be active for at least a year before you can be granted Executive Member status. What is certain, however, is that you must be prepared to be very active in all the meetings and activities of the RC and NC for a block of 3-6months.
- In general, if you do not like your neighbours or doing community work, I would recommend that you do not go this route. You will be spending a lot more hours than PV, and it is not politically correct for you to do community work just because you want to get your child into a school you desire.
- Here is the forum thread where parents share their experiences in being active community leaders.
- Joining a heritage association or religious organization affiliated to the School
- [Sorry… ran out of saliva… To be continued…]
- Here is the forum thread where parents share their experiences in being members of clans or religious organizations.