Steps to avoid discrimination on basis of descent for primary school admission
Parliamentary Question, 4 March 2020
Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Education what steps are taken to avoid discrimination on the basis of descent in our Primary school admission system which gives preference to children of alumni, given that Article 16(1)(a) of our Constitution provides that “there shall be no discrimination against any citizen of Singapore on the grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in the administration of any educational institution maintained by a public authority, and, in particular, the admission of pupils…”.
The Second Minister for Education (Ms Indranee Rajah) (for the Minister for Education): Mr Speaker, the Member has referred to the Constitution of Singapore in her question. The Constitution provides that there shall be no discrimination against any Singaporean Citizens on the grounds of race, religion, descent and place of birth for the admission of pupils in national schools.
Hence, all our national schools are secular and no school will deny the admission of any Singaporean child due to the factors stated in the Constitution. Our Primary 1 admission system seeks to be as open and fair as possible. But when the number of students applying to a school exceeds the number of available places, we need a system of selection.
Since there are no exam results to look at for P1 admission, we have to consider other factors. These include proximity to the school and siblings already in the school, for the convenience of parents and children, children of alumni who have a strong attachment to the school and wish their children to have a similar experience as they did, members of organisations who set up and still legally own the school, active volunteerism in the school or community and students of the MOE Kindergarten in the Primary school. Admitting students with no prior connections with the school is also an objective, and we reserve places for such students.
These are all valid justifications for some level of priority admission. It is common for MOE to receive arguments from one group on why the other group is less deserving. On our end, MOE seeks to strike a balance. That is a complicated legacy we live with, but where possible, we will take steps to lean towards making schools more open and accessible to students who have no prior connections with the school.