It is the sort of news that strikes fear in every kiasu parent’s heart. In January 2018, a couple was fined $9,000 for lying about their residential address while registering their child in a popular school in the Bishan area. Although they lived in a bungalow in Serangoon Gardens, they changed their registered address to one in Bishan at a Police Post. The mother then successfully enrolled her child in an undisclosed school in Bishan under Phase 2C of the registration exercise, which gives priority to children living within 1km of the school. But when the child started school in January 2016, the vice-principal somehow found out, made a police report, and the parents were slapped with the fine.
Although the Ministry of Education rules that in such cases, the child will be transferred to another school with available vacancies, the child – who should be in Primary 3 this year – was still studying at the school at press time. The mother could have been jailed up to one year and/ or fined up to $5,000 for lying to the vice-principal, who is a public servant. For giving a false address under the National Registration Act, the father could have been jailed for up to five years and/or fined up to $5,000. In fact, in 2007, a former lawyer was jailed two months for doing the same thing, while another anxious dad was fined the maximum $5,000 in 2015. In the last decade, there have been fewer than 10 reported cases.
So what’s a kiasu but law-abiding parent to do if she wants to enrol her kid in a popular school? Here are four things to take note of.
1) BUY YOUR PROPERTY WITH YOUR IDEAL PRIMARY SCHOOL IN MIND
It sounds ridiculous to think about this when you are queueing for a Build-to-Order (BTO) flat, but it is a necessary discussion to have with your spouse. Do bear in mind that, while a BTO home in a non-mature estate is easier on the wallet, if you are planning to enrol your child in a popular school based on proximity, most of them are located in mature estates.
Even if you graduated from a popular primary school and should have no problem getting your child in during Phase 2A(1) (for alumni members) or Phase 2A(2) (for those whose parent or sibling had previously studied in the school), distance does play a big part. One family we know enrolled their children in their alma mater, the popular Nanyang Primary School, but were unable to buy a suitable home nearby. Their children ended up taking long bus rides at 6am every morning from their home in Jurong.
2) MAKE SURE YOUR HOME IS REALLY WITHIN 1KM
Do this before you buy your home. Just because a friend from the next block successfully enrolled their kids in the coveted school based on the 1km proximity rule, doesn’t mean your kid will make it in, too. Go to www.onemap.sg and type in your actual address, using the ‘School Query’ tab.
It will show you which schools are within 1km, and which are between 1km and 2km.
If the school has higher demand than places available, priority will be given to those within 1km. We did a quick search and while our block was within 1km of a primary school, our neighbours two blocks away were only within 2km of that same school. This means we will be given priority should our kids fight it out for the last spot.
3) RENT A HOME WITHIN 1KM
However, the child is required to have resided at the address used for registration for at least 30 months from the commencement of the Primary 1 registration exercise. A friend we know owns a roomy 4-bedder condo unit in the east, but squeezed his family of six into an overpriced rental two-bedder condo along Bukit Timah Road, so as to get his daughter a place in Singapore Chinese Girls School!
4) REGISTER YOUR CHILD USING A GRANDPARENT’S OR THE PARENT’S SIBLING’S ADDRESS WITHIN 2KM OF THE SCHOOL
But the grandparent/your sibling and one parent will need to make a statutory declaration. You must meet the eligibility criteria:
- Both parents work full- time at the time the statutory declaration was made; and
- The child is under the full-time care of a grandparent or a parent’s sibling; and
- The child’s grandparent or the parent’s sibling is not employed.
Similarly, the child has to continue with this childcare arrangement at the registered address for at least 30 months, from the commencement of the Primary 1 registration.
While you may not agree with the oft-ridiculed “every school is a good school” maxim, it really isn’t worth the fine or jail time over your dream school. At the end of the day, your child’s primary school will not determine how well he or she does in life. Make your property purchase or rental decisions prudently, instead of blindly following the “branded school” of thought!