The annual Singapore Primary One Registration Exercise is meant for 6 year old children who are Singaporean Citizens or Permanent Residents to register for Primary One in the following year. The age of the child eligible for registration is dependent on the calendar year – as long as the child will turn 7 before 2nd Jan of the following year, he/she must be registered in the Registration Exercise of the current year.
This means that the age difference between the youngest and oldest child in the cohort can be as much as an entire year.
The Registration Exercise is divided into 7 distinct phases: Phase 1, Phase 2A(1), Phase 2A(2), Phase 2B, Phase 2C, Phase 2C(Supplementary), Phase 3.
The intent of the Phases is to assign priority to students who are already affiliated to the schools in some way because of their parents or siblings.
The Phases are mutually exclusive and sequential – there are no overlaps. This means that while parents can participate in 1 or more of the Phases, they must surrender any successful registration they may have obtained for their children in earlier Phases before they are allowed to participate in subsequent Phases.
Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents can participate in any of the Phases. Children who are neither Singaporeans nor Permanent Residents can only participate in Phase 3.
SC vs PRs
Since 2012, MOE has assigned “absolute priority” for Singapore Citizens (SCs) over Permanent Residents (PRs) in any Phase of the Exercise. This effectively means SCs will never find themselves competing for a place in any given Phase with PRs. Even a SC who stays more than 2km away from a school has higher priority than a PR staying within 1km to the school. As an example, if a school has only 10 places left, and 20 SCs stay more than 2km away and 5 PRs stay within 1km, the 5 PRs will not even get a chance to ballot, leaving the 20 SCs to ballot for the 10 places.
Any student who applies for Phase 1 will be successful. Therefore, there is no need for citizenship or distance prioritization. However, as demand often outstrips the supply of vacancies after Phase 1, priority is given to those that stay near the school. This distance prioritization is categorized as 3 buckets:
- (Highest Priority) those who stay within 1km,
- those who stay between 1-2km, and
- (Lowest Priority) those who stay beyond 2km of the school
Should the number of qualifying applicants exceed the number of places available for a particular Phase, the rule is to fill the closest <1km bucket first, followed by the 1-2km bucket, and finally the >2km bucket. Balloting occurs at the bucket where the number of qualifying applicants exceed the total number of available places, and anyone in the lower priority buckets will not even get a chance to ballot.
- As an example, if the number of available places is 100, and there are 20 <1km applicants, 30 1-2km applicants, and 60 >2km applicants, then the 50 applicants that are <1km and 1-2km away from the school will be successfully registered, and the 60 >2km applicants will have to ballot for the remaining 50 places.
- As another example, if the number of available places is 100, and there are 100 <1km applicants, 20 1-2km applicants, and 20 >2km applicants, then the 100 applicants that are <1km will be successfully registered, and the remaining 40 applicants will not even get a chance to ballot. Hence, no balloting will occur for this Phase, even though there are more applicants than vacancies. This is the cut-off situation.
It is therefore paramount that if your child only qualifies for Phase 2B or 2C, you should check the balloting history for the school you are targeting and weigh your chances based on your distance from the school. In general, if you are not within 1km of the school, you should NOT attempt to register in the school if the school has a past history of balloting in Phase 2B or 2C. Spare yourself the disappointment of not even being able to join the ballot if you are outside of the cut-off bucket.
Allocation of Places
Since 2012, 40 places are kept aside to be equally split between Phase 2B and 2C. This is to prevent parents with school affiliations from consuming all the places in a school in Phase 1 and Phase 2A.
The places remaining after the end of Phase 2A2 are equally distributed between Phase 2B and Phase 2C. No places are explicitly reserved for any Phase subsequent to Phase 2C. This means that for most popular schools, there are unlikely to be any vacancies left for either Phase 2C(Supplementary) or Phase 3.
Registration Strategies Worthy of Consideration
- Whenever possible, get your child registered in Phase 1, 2A1 or 2A2 in the school that you have that priority. Spend more time preparing your child for Primary 1 instead of biting your nails over getting him/her in one of the top Primary schools. If your child is good enough, you can always get a transfer for him/her into the elite school should you still desire it to be so, at the end of Primary 1.
- Go for the school that is nearest to your home. This distance becomes significant when the child enters Primary 3, where he/she will have to do lots of extra curricular activities. Less time on travelling can also translate to more time at home relaxing or revising.
- Go for a co-ed school if you have both sons and daughters. This will mean you only need to go through the registration hassle once.
- Go for the school that has affiliation with a good Secondary school. This makes it easier for the child to get into the Secondary school even with just average PSLE results.
- Try to get into Phase 2B only if you are staying <2km or less to the school. If you are staying beyond 2km, chances are, you will not even get to ballot in Phase 2B. Again, check the balloting history to fine-tune your actions. Read this article for ideas on how to get into Phase 2B.
- Register towards the end of the Phase you qualify for. Only Phase 3 is first-come-first-served – for the earlier Phases, you don’t win by registering early. This is especially true if you do not stay within 1km of the school. Registering later allows you to gauge the demand in the particular Phase, and estimate your chances better. If you are trying to get into a very popular school, always have as your backup at least 1 more school which you can go to register once you determine that you have no chance for your first choice school.
- Register as soon as Phase 3 opens, if you are a foreigner. This is the only Phase that is first-come-first-served. If you wish to get your child into a “better” school, refer to first point above.
- Put your child on the school’s waiting list, should you fail to get your child in by Phase 2C. I have known of cases where the places open up in the month of December due to parents withdrawing their children for various reasons. You can then choose either staying with your 2nd choice, or going back to your 1st choice.