Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

Should I go to JC or poly?

WHEN it comes to deciding on post-secondary education, parents such as Ms Acey Cheong, 45, want to be involved.

The IT professional took leave from work Tuesday to attend the Nanyang Junior College's (NYJC) JC Experience programme with her son, Bryan Kee, 16.

She said: "This is a decision which sets the stage for his future career and we have to help him with it."

Since 2009, NYJC has been helping O-level graduates with negotiating the dilemma of choosing between a junior college or a polytechnic education.

Over two days, 180 graduates from 36 secondary schools took part in games and talks at NYJC.

There was an Amazing Race which took students to five stations across campus. Students were also able to sample 30-minute lectures in General Paper and economics, subjects which are new to them.

This is the fourth year the junior college has held the programme, which costs $4,500.

This year, for the first time, 20 parents joined in, taking part in a partially separate programme of talks and a school tour.

Mrs Elsie Lee, a part-time childcare teacher in her 40s who was there with her 16-year-old daughter Shermaine Lee, said she learnt useful facts, like how about 80 to 85 per cent of NYJC graduates enter local universities every year, not including those opting for private or overseas universities.

Still, the programme "does not advocate that students must join a JC", stressed Mr Kwek Hiok Chuang, 57, principal of NYJC.

He explained: "We are frank about the challenges, when it comes to the rigour of JC education. But we also try to clear misconceptions - that students shouldn't skip JC just because they want to avoid GP, for example."

NYJC decided to run this special programme after the Ministry of Education's decision to scrap the Provisional Admissions Exercise in 2009, under which students used their preliminary exam results to enter a JC.

Under the old system, students had a three-month period to experience JC life, before the Joint Admission Exercise after the release of O-level results next month.

Onus on students

With the present single admissions process, the onus is all the more on students to choose well.

For Lee Wan Rong, 16, the choice is a matter of "what kind of environment you want to be in".

She said: "I don't really have a preference... polytechnic life appears to be less stressful, with more free time. For JC, I think there's more stress, because you have to cram for the A levels during the two years."

Students who choose the JC route would benefit from the broad-based education as it allows them to keep their university course options open, said Ms Amy Chiew, 34, head of student leadership development at NYJC.

See Yi Cheen, 16, who had deliberated between JC and polytechnic education before entering NYJC through the school's Direct Schools Admission exercise, was attracted by the message from polytechnics that "they are specialised, they groom you to the job".

She said: "But I haven't really confirmed what I want to do in the future... if I make the wrong choice in the polytechnic route, I may be stuck with it."

This article was first published in The New Paper.
Rennie Whang | The New Paper | Fri Jan 6 2012

Old school, new role

[Photo: BACK TO SCHOOL - Mrs Tan Wai Lan (far left) has been appointed principal of CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School, where her youngest daughter MinTing (left) is studying.]

THE first day of school on Tuesday will be a homecoming of sorts for Mrs Tan Wai Lan, 44.

The newly appointed principal of CHIJ StNicholas Girls' School is a former student there.

Mrs Tan was among the 52 principals appointed at the Ministry of Education (MOE) Appointment and Appreciation Ceremony on Dec 30.

As she took the helm only on Dec 15, she has yet to meet the estimated 3,000 students who make up the primary and secondary levels of the school.

Incidentally, one of these students is her youngest daughter, Tan Min Ting, 15, who will be in Secondary 4 when school reopens.

Said Mrs Tan: "She knows I'll be professional about it.

"There are other teachers who have kids in the school, and we all know that we're not to treat them differently from other students.

"If they stray, then they need to be guided back. Failing to do so would be a disservice to them."

She added that it was good she received news of her posting only in October, three months after Min Ting was elected by the students to be president of the student council.

Mrs Tan, who has two other daughters aged 16 and 18, said: "There would be no speculation of her getting that position just because she is my daughter."

Mrs Tan attended St Nicholas from 1980 to 1983. She was in the school's second batch of Special Assistance Plan (SAP) students.

SAP schools are known for producing students who are effectively bilingual.

During her time in St Nicholas, Mrs Tan was a school prefect and leader of the school band.

Although, as a student, Mrs Tan had worked closely with the teachers, she never dreamed that she would one day become the principal of her school.

She said she was too much in awe of her principal back then.

"We had a visionary principal, Mrs Hwang-Lee Poh See, who led the school for 29years," said Mrs Tan, who was previously principal at Anderson Secondary.

"She was such a dynamic leader that I never dared imagine that I would be comparable toher."

Her best memories of the school when it was located at Victoria Street was of the time she spent at "the gallery", a long sheltered corridor with tiered benches on both sides.

Fond memories

She practised marching there with the school band on rainy days and it was also a place where students would hang out.

Said Mrs Tan: "I've gone to see the current school premises in Ang Mo Kio, which is now undergoing upgrading, and there is a place where we may create something like that.

"But beyond the physical premises, what I remember and treasure is the camaraderie between students and the warmth from the teachers, the human connection."

Mrs Tan said that as she didn't request to be posted to St Nicholas, it was a pleasant surprise when she was notified.

"I was definitely excited when I found out. I feel honoured and privileged... I hope to be a role model for the students," she said.

"As an old girl who has gone through life and had a career, I want to connect with them so they can be inspired to be the best that they can be."

Min Ting thinks her mother will be a great role model.

She said: "I am very excited and also very proud of her. It's a great achievement."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

Teh Jen Lee | The New Paper | Mon Jan 2 2012

Sunday, January 1, 2012

MM Lee acknowledges admission to primary school is unfair

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has acknowledged that primary school admission is 'not meritocratic', but is 'inevitable in any society.'

He was speaking to reporters after a visit to Raffles Girls' Primary School (RGPS).

'At the primary stage, the choice is not made in a uniform way. You have a brother there or sister there, your father or mother is an alumnus, and so on,' he said.

'So it's not meritocratic; it's based on the social class of your parents, whether they went into better schools.'

In the primary 1 registration, priority is given to children with a sibling studying in their school of choice, or whose parents are former pupils of that school.

Next in line are those children whose parents are volunteers at the school, or who live near the school of choice.

But he argued that the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) levels the playing field, allowing disadvantaged students to attend good schools, reported the Straits Times.

'The important thing is that, at Primary 6, there should be a sorting out. And those who missed going to the good schools should get into better secondary schools.

'That's what we're aiming to do: Regardless of who your father or mother was or is, we go by your performance,' he told reporters.

He had visited a neighbourhood school, Punggol Primary School, the previous day, but said he had found 'no difference' in the quality of facilities in both schools.

'The difference really is in the quality of the students, their background,' he said.

MM Lee also sat in on a Primary 1 Chinese class, where he asked pupils what language they spoke at home.

Reflecting on the two students' answers where they said they spoke mostly English at home, MM Lee said that ideally, the curriculum time for students at the primary school level should be 70 per cent for English and 30 per cent for mother tongue.

'You must master one language well, through which you absorb knowledge, you read, you write, you listen,' he said. 'You cannot be equally good at both languages, not possible.'

Mr Lee said he will be visiting two schools next - a neighbourhood school and a popular school.

Edvantage | Sun Nov 14 2010

Some primary schools more than four times oversubscribed

SINGAPORE - Parents hoping to enrol their children at South View, Rosyth or Rulang primary schools will be facing an anxious wait.

The three were more than four times oversubscribed - the most among all the schools - at the end of Phase 2C of the Primary 1 registration process yesterday.

This phase is open to all Singaporeans and permanent residents.

Parents of schools that are oversubscribed will have to wait for the results of balloting sessions conducted by the schools, which will be known next Friday.

According to the Straits Times, South View in Choa Chu Kang, attracted 102 applications for just 21 places.

The school is highly popular as it school has produced two top Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scorers.

Its principal, Mrs Jenny Yeo, said she has had to restrict the number of parent volunteers.

Rosyth, in Serangoon, has 108 applicants vying for 24 places.

As for Rulang, in Jurong West, 92 applicants will compete for 21 vacancies. The school was awarded the School Excellence Award two years ago.

A total of 87 schools face similar situations with more applicants than vacancies.

Other popular schools over-subscribed by more than 21/2 times include Nan Chiau, Nan Hua and Northland primary schools.

Parent volunteers work 40 hours for nothing

THE rain poured, and for the parents of 30 children who left Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School empty-handed yesterday, it couldn't have summed up their feelings better.

The results of Phase 2B of this year's Primary 1 registration exercise had just been announced, and their children did not get a place in the school in Bukit Timah.

A total of 44 people were balloting for 14 places.

One parent volunteer was trying her best to put on a brave front as she got into her car.

The 35-year-old mother, who asked not to be named, said she had spent over 40 hours volunteering at the school so as to register her child under Phase 2B.

Under the Ministry of Education's (MOE) scheme, parents can raise their child's chances of getting into the primary school of their choice if they join the school as a parent volunteer at least a year before their child's registration.

They must also devote a minimum of 40 hours volunteering at the school.

They will then be able to register under Phase 2B, which is also for children whose parent is a grassroots leader or is endorsed by an affiliated church or clan.

"We did all these school events," she recalled sadly. "We helped out at Sports Day. We helped out at NAPFA (the physical fitness test).

"I even took leave so I could attend those events held on weekdays."

She is now on the school's waiting list. In the meantime, she is considering neighbourhood schools.

Despite her disappointment, she accepted that the process was "fair and square".

"I guess we've been mentally prepared from the start that this might happen," she said.

A spokesman for Pei Hwa said that there were a total of 70 children vying for 44 spots at Phase 2B, including those living within 2km of the school, who did not need to ballot.

This is the part of registration that takes place following Phase 1 (for children with siblings studying in the school), Phase 2A1 (for children of members of the school alumni association or the school advisory or management committee) and Phase 2A2 (for children whose sibling or parent had studied in the school or whose parent is a staff member).

It is followed by Phase 2C. This is for children who were ineligible for, or were unsuccessful in, previous phases.

When Phase 2B registration closed on Tuesday, the MOE website said that the number of children registering exceeded the number of vacancies at 29 primary schools.

The highest difference was at Ai Tong Primary, which saw 61 applicants vying for 20 places.

Mrs Saraswathy, 35, was another unlucky parent.

The housewife had spent over 40 hours helping the Tamil department at Rulang Primary School to type out documents for higher mother tongue classes - to no avail.

Her son was one of the six youngsters who walked away forlorn after the school held its Phase 2B balloting yesterday, with 25 applicants going for 19 spots.

"We were quite hopeful," said Mrs Saraswathy, who lives within 1km of Rulang. "We thought we had a good chance."

Fellow volunteer Erick Tan, 35, who works in corporate real estate, told The New Paper that of Rulang's 51 parent volunteers, those who live outside the 2km radius of the school did not even get a shot at the ballot.

Had the Tans not decided to move to within 1km of the school before registration, they would have been among those unlucky parents.

Instead, the move - plus the 40 hours or so Mr Tan put in for services such as fire audits - helped clinch their son a spot in Rulang.

His wife, Jean, 34, bank officer, was all smiles.

"All the stress has been worthwhile," she said.

The move-and-volunteer tactic also paid off for another couple, even though it cost them over 80 hours of their time.The couple, who are in their late 30s and wanted to be known as Mr and Mrs Tan, were gunning for Pei Hwa.

When their application received no response, they started volunteering at Bukit Panjang Primary School (BPPS) instead.

They had clocked the necessary 40 hours at BPPS by last December, when their acceptance to volunteer at Pei Hwa came through.


Because of the high number of volunteers at BPPS, they decided their odds would be better at the other school.

So they moved to within 1km of Pei Hwa for another 40 hours of putting make-up on cheerleaders and ferrying kids to and from co-curricular activities (CCA).

"I'm quite relieved we switched to Pei Hwa," said Mrs Tan, who escaped the ballot.

"At BPPS, I would definitely have had to ballot."

A total of 51 children were registered for the 41 places BPPS had in Phase 2B. This is the first time the school has had to hold balloting in this phase due to the higher take-up of places at earlier phases.

'Be prepared with Plan B'

NOT all parents who offer to volunteer are accepted. For instance, at Nanyang Primary School (NYPS), more than 300applicants apply each year, of which only 50 are shortlisted for interview.

"We try to cap the number of parent volunteers at 30 each year," said NYPS principal Mrs Lee Hui Feng.

"But we do take in a few more if the areas of service offered by parents meet the urgent needs of the school.

"For example, we may take in an additional parent who is able to offer his service as an interior designer for a building project, or a translator when the school is publishing a history book." Besides capping intake, schools must ensure parents know their child's place is not assured before they volunteer.

"It is the school's practice to conduct a briefing for parent remind (them) that...balloting will be conducted where demand exceeds supply in that phase," said Mr Ng Buck Chwee, vice-principal of Bukit Panjang Primary School (BPPS).

MOE's website stated that 51 children were registered for the 41 places BPPS had to offer in Phase 2B. Responding to allegations from an unnamed parent volunteer published in Lianhe Zaobao on Wednesday that the school kept mum about exactly how many parents were volunteering for the school, Mr Ng said: "The number of parent volunteers who have registered with the school is also shared during the briefing."

A spokesman for Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary said that the school tries to disappoint as few parent volunteers as possible.

"It's an emotional thing," said the spokesperson. "They become quite immersed in the school, they know the school better, they know the staff."

Mrs Lee agreed.

"We always advise the parents to be prepared with plan B, even before they commence their volunteer work," she said.

This article was first published in The New Paper.
Olivia Ho | The New Paper | Sat Jul 23 2011

Zoe Tay fails to get son enrolled in Nanyang Primary School

SINGAPORE - Fame and fortune can get you many things, but it is apparently not enough to help get your son into a brand-name primary school in Singapore.

According to the Lianhe Zaobao, MediaCorp actress Zoe Tay, 43, and her husband, Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) pilot Philip Chionh, 42, have failed to enrol their eldest son, Brayden, 6, into Nanyang Primary School (NYPS).

The results of Phase 2B of this year's Primary 1 registration exercise were made known last month.

This is despite the high-profile couple putting in some 80 hours of voluntary work at the school, under the Ministry of Education's (MOE) parent volunteer scheme for primary one registration.

Under the scheme, parents may volunteer a minimum of 40 hours at the primary school of their choice, in order to increase the chances of their child gaining admission into the school.

But some elite schools like Nanyang primary - whose alumni includes Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mandopop singer Stephanie Sun - have more stringent criteria.

Parents who wish to increase their child's chances of admission are required to volunteer a minimum of 80 hours at the school. And even then, the 'waiting list' to volunteer is a long one, with many parents vying for the opportunity, reported Zaobao.

The couple have two other boys - Ashton, 4, and Nathan, 10 months.

Madam Zhong, another parent volunteer at NYPS, said she has seen the couple volunteering at the school.

Madam Zhong told Zaobao she saw Zoe's husband helping to take pictures of guests and dignitaries at an art exhibition held at the school.

"It could be that Zoe was pregnant with Nathan at the time, that's why her husband helped out," said Madam Zhong.

The news that the veteran actress has failed in her bid to enrol her son at the school should take some netizens by surprise.

Speculation had been rife on some forums that celebrity parents such as Zoe, would definitely get priority when it comes to the primary school registration.

Insiders say many schools in Singapore are autonomous and have to hold fund-raising activities to run the school programmes.

Therefore they get is that a celebrity who endorses the fund-raising event will stand a greater chance of being a parent volunteer at the school.

But Zoe's failed bid also proves that the school is fair in treating all parents equally.

One parent, Madam Ke, told Zaobao that Zoe "lost out" on the opportunity, because she "did not do enough homework" and did not ensure that her home was within a one- or two-kilometre radius of the school.

This would have given her son another chance of getting a place at the school by being eligible for the balloting process, if there were vacancies.

She said the actress lives along Holland Road, which is more than two kilometres away from the Bukit Timah school.

Considering the couple's financial situation, moving to an Orchard Road apartment within one kilometre of the school should not have been a problem, said Madam Ke.

But as she did not do so, she forfeited her last chance of balloting for a place in the final phase of registration.

Henry Park Primary School for Brayden

When interviewed by Zaobao, Zoe admitted that she was not able to get her son into the school. She said she chose NYPS not just because its prestige and illustrious alumni, but also because of its focus on Mandarin.

Zoe had hoped that Brayden could get a good foundation in Mandarin and Chinese culture at the school.

But now, it seems the six-year-old may be enrolling in his father's alma mater - Henry Park Primary School, according to Zaobao.

The recently concluded Phase 2C of the primary one registration process - the last phase exclusively for Singapore citizens -saw many parents vying for the last few places at popular schools, some oversubscribed by more than four times.

South View primary school - one of the most popular this year - saw the hottest contest, with 93 applicants vying for 21 places.

A similar situation greeted anxious parents at Rosyth Primary, another top primary school, where 93 applicants awaited the result of the ballot for only 24 places.

Edvantage | Fri Aug 12 2011

Primary 1 Registration Phases and Procedures by MOE

Phase 2A(1)
a) For a child whose parent is a former student of the school and who has joined the alumni association as a member not later than 30 Jun 2010

Phase 2B
a) For a child whose parent has joined the school as a parent volunteer not later than 1 Jul 2010 and has given at least 40 hours of voluntary service to the school by 30 Jun 2011

Phase 2C
For a child who is ineligible for or unsuccessful in earlier phases

How did actress Zoe Tay REALLY get her son into Henry Park Primary School


For people familiar with the Singapore Primary 1 registration stages, her son ending up at a popular school such as Henry Park requires some explanation from someone..

Her oldest child will join the Primary 1 cohort in about one week's time, a milestone in a kid's life that usually gives parents the jitters.

Which school the local actress' son would study in has been the subject of speculation since 2009,when she volunteered to help out at Nanyang Primary School. It's something some Singapore parents do to secure places for their children in choice schools.

Tay lives in Holland Road, more than 2km from Nanyang Primary. That reduces the odds of Brayden getting in there.

Despite volunteering 80 hours at the popular school - Mr Chionh was spotted taking pictures of guests during the school's art exhibition - the couple couldn't get a slot for their boy.

Tay declined to talk to The New Paper about it.

But she let on that they applied for a spot in Henry Park Primary School, Mr Chionh's former school, where Brayden was accepted.