Delaying or cancelling school mergers to evaluate effectiveness of smaller class size

Published Date: 10 May 2021 09:00 PM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Chong Kee Hiong, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education (a) whether the merger of Guangyang and Townsville Primary Schools can be deferred in view of the 2,000 HDB BTO flats to be completed in Bishan, leading to more demand for primary school places; (b) whether the merged school can be located at the Guangyang site as the school was rebuilt in 2012 and Guangyang Secondary School is at the adjacent plot thus providing for shared activities and facilities; (c) what factors determine the new name of the merged school; and (d) whether the 100-over-year-old history of Guangyang will be considered.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Assoc Prof Jamus Jerome Lim, Sengkang GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education instead of merging the nine pairs of schools, whether the Ministry will consider allowing half of these schools to operate with reduced class sizes as a pilot to evaluate the efficacy of smaller class sizes on student performance.

Response

1. Declining birth rates, coupled with changing demographics in our housing estates, have led to steadily falling enrolment in some schools. In the case of the merger of Guangyang Primary School and Townsville Primary School, the decision to locate the merged school at the Townsville Primary School site is primarily because of its better student catchment, and that the school is on a bigger site, with its own school field.

2. MOE has taken into consideration the 2,000 BTO flats that are currently under construction in Bishan, as well as other newly-completed BTOs and other likely future plans for both Ang Mo Kio and Bishan estates when we made the decision to merge Guangyang Primary School and Townsville Primary School in 2023, and to locate the merged school at the Townsville Primary School site.

3. In naming the merged schools, MOE works closely with the affected schools, taking into consideration a range of factors, including the schools’ history and heritage, enrolments, as well as stakeholders’ interests and sentiments. Regardless of the eventual name decided for each of these merged schools, MOE provides guidance and support to preserve and document the history and legacy of each school in a heritage space in the merged school. The names of the merged schools will be announced at a later date.

4. Associate Professor Jamus Lim has suggested that instead of merging the nine pairs of schools, MOE could allow half of these schools to operate with reduced class sizes as a pilot to evaluate the efficacy of smaller class sizes on student performance.

5. But doing so will mean that we will not be able to optimally re-deploy teachers to other schools with growing enrolment and more significant needs. This includes schools with a relatively higher proportions of students with greater learning needs, which we support with more teachers so that the school has the flexibility to deploy teachers to teach such students in smaller classes.

6. Furthermore, as enrolment in the proposed merger schools drops further, students in these schools will not be able to enjoy the same holistic range of learning experiences as their peers in other schools, in terms of subject combinations, educational programmes and Co-Curricular Activities. These remain critical aspects that contribute to the vibrant and holistic educational experience we want for every student.

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