Good or no diff?
Edit: Add link CNA
Greater chance for S'pore citizens to secure place at popular primary schools
By Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 20 December 2009 1413 hrs
SINGAPORE: From next year, Singapore citizens will have a greater chance of getting their child into the primary school of their choice.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) is tweaking the Primary One registration exercise to allow pink identity card holders an additional ballot during the balloting exercise for popular schools, where applications outstrip vacancies.
Currently, permanent residents (PRs) and citizens both get one ballot slip each. Foreigners will not be affected by the change, as they may only apply for a school under Phase 3 of the registration exercise, after Singaporeans and PRs have secured places.
The MOE said on Sunday that giving citizens two chances at the ballot "will provide for diversity in our schools, while simultaneously according Singapore citizens an additional privilege."
It added that the move is in line with the government's intention to "over time, sharpen the differentiation between Singapore citizens, PRs and foreigners to reflect the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship" as highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a speech in September.
Announcing the change at a residents dialogue, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen however said: "I don't want this to come across as against PRs. We still want PRs in our schools, and it doesn't mean that for all our policies, we're always going to be able to say that Singaporeans get two chances compared to the one chance for the PR. That's not the general message."
PRs make up about 8 per cent of students in schools, while foreigners account for about 4 per cent. These relate to the population in primary and secondary schools, as well as JCs and centralised institute.
While the proportion has been consistent over the past few years, the growing presence of new immigrants has nonetheless raised some concerns among Singaporeans.
Dr Ng said: "I know that over the years, Singaporeans have said, 'look, we already have to ballot to get our children into the schools, and we live near. Even with the priority schemes, we still find it hard to get our children into the schools'. What about the issue of Permanent Residents and foreign students?"
But he noted the government has to strike a "delicate balance" between the two.
"We do want, also, PRs to have some privilege of entering our schools, because PRs become citizens as well. And if you don't allow their children to enter the good schools, they might not want to take up PR-ship or become citizens later on," said Dr Ng.
Speaking at a separate event, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua hoped that the move "sends the message that citizens will always be the primary focus of government policies".
On how the government would explain this policy to non-citizens, she said: "I think the explanation will really revolve around the relative importance of citizens to any country versus permanent residents, and versus non-citizens and non-residents.
"And that the distinction is seen not just in this case, but also in the way we differentiate between healthcare costs and so on. That necessarily would have to be the way we run our policies."
While the change was welcomed by most, parents are still realistic. Jasmine Liang, a parent, said: "In the end, it's still balloting. So in the end, it's still by luck, whether (your child) really can get in (or not)."
Dr Ng added that having PRs and international students in schools has its advantages, as they add diversity to the schools and can expose young Singaporeans to competition at an early age.
Some parents, like Candy Yoo, agreed. "Like my girl, she likes to make friends with people from China. They like to read books that are very difficult, but they're willing to try. So, my girl sees that 'why they can do it, I can't? I have to learn from them'."
The government has in recent years introduced big changes to the education landscape. This invariably means that the costs of schooling will go up. So who will foot the bill?
The minister said that while non-citizens will still get subsidies, they will have to foot the bulk of the costs. Hence, non-citizens will see their school fees go up.
To minimise the impact on existing students, the increase in monthly fees, which include both school and miscellaneous fees, will be spread over two years from 2011.
PRs currently pay between S$14.50 and S$29 a month, depending on the level of education. By 2012, these will go up by nearly four times to range from S$51 to S$102 a month.
Foreigners, who now pay between S$131 and S$372 a month, will soon pay double. They will be charged between S$246 and S$772 a month. Students from non-ASEAN countries, who now pay more than ASEAN students, will also see a bigger increase.
Citizens will see no change, for now. Monthly fees for Singapore citizens will remain at the current rate of between S$11 and S$28.
But some Singaporeans felt the hike for non-citizens was too much. Denis Chow, a parent, said: "If you talk about another 20, 50 percent more, or even double, I think it's still reasonable. But to quadruple, it's a bit hard to stomach.
"To me, if they actually made the choice to come to Singapore to study and stay in Singapore, leaving their own countries and families behind, I think as a basic right, so to speak, we should give them the same kind of fees as Singapore citizens."
But MOE said that even after the hikes, fees are still competitive compared to international and private schools.