Distribution of students of different socio-economic background

Published Date: 19 November 2018 12:00 AM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Seah Kian Peng, Marine Parade GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education whether it is desirable for schools to achieve an even spread of students from different socio-economic status and, if so, what are some of the measures that have been introduced or are being contemplated.

Response

1. Schools are major national platforms where Singaporeans from all walks of life get to mingle and build friendships. We do not set out to achieve an even distribution of students from different socio-economic backgrounds across schools. This is because it will mean a significant departure from the current admission policy, which is based on various admission phases for primary one, and academic results, strengths or aptitudes for secondary school and beyond. Actively intervening to ensure an even spread of students across socio-economic backgrounds will change the bases for admission, quite fundamentally and I am not sure if parents and students are ready for that.

2. Notwithstanding, we do not want our schools to become segregated, as it will reduce opportunities for social mixing and weaken Singapore’s social fabric. Thus, we try to encourage as much mixing and mingling as possible. We adjusted primary and secondary school registrations to ensure that primary schools do not become closed circles. For primary 1 registration, since 2014, 40 places are reserved in Phases 2B and 2C for children without prior connection to the primary school. For secondary schools, starting from the 2019 posting exercise, 20% of places for each course in every secondary school with an affiliated primary school will be reserved for students without affiliation.

3. We are also enhancing the opportunities for mixing and interaction amongst students from diverse backgrounds within and across schools. Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) enable students to work and engage with peers from other schools. We revised the formats of the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) and National School Games to encourage combined school teams. For example, the SYF Celebrations 2018 saw the participation of 351 schools, of which 56 engaged in combined school performances. Another way is through outdoor learning. Since its implementation in 2017, the MOE-OBS Challenge Programme enabled about 17,000 Secondary Three students from different schools to come together in mixed school cohorts to experience the outdoors and overcome challenges together.

4. I should emphasise that MOE is committed to ensuring that all our schools are well-resourced, so that the learning needs of our students are met regardless of which school they go to. We will continue to provide timely interventions at all levels to students who require more help, such as levelling up programmes in literacy and numeracy skills, and additional after-school support through school-based Student Care Centres. Ultimately, our lower-SES students are not, and will not be worse-off in terms of learning and support provisions at any of our schools, and it remains MOE’s duty and mission to ensure that every child is given a strong foundation to do well.

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