Clan's schools end parent volunteer scheme

SINGAPORE - To raise the chances of admitting their child to a school of their choice, parents typically put in at least 40 hours of volunteer work with the school.

But this will no longer be an option for some, come the annual Primary 1 registration exercise next month.

Since last year, the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan has stopped accepting parent volunteers from members of the public at four of its affiliated primary schools - Ai Tong School, Nan Chiau Primary, Tao Nan School and Kong Hwa School.

"Based on past years' experiences, most of these schools are popular among parents and have very limited vacancies during Phase 2B," said Adrian Peh, chairman of the Education Committee at the clan association.

"So we've stopped accepting parent volunteers instead of having to disappoint them, especially as they have to put in so much time and effort volunteering at our schools."

Last year, Ai Tong School was left with less than 5 per cent of the Primary 1 cohort vacancies during Phase 2B.

Phase 2B is for children whose parents have no links to the primary school of their choice, including those who have joined the school as a parent volunteer.

In addition, Mr Peh pointed out that roles in the parent volunteer scheme, which serves to meet the needs of school operations, are being filled by the schools' respective parent support groups as well as clan association members.

Chongfu School remains the clan association's only primary school affiliate that is open to parent volunteers who are non-clan members.

Mr Peh said that the clan association will keep an eye on demand at the primary school before looking at the need to stop accepting parent volunteers there.

In recent years, other highly coveted schools, such as Rosyth School, Maha Bodhi School and CHIJ Primary (Toa Payoh), have similarly stopped accepting parent volunteers.

The move by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan comes amid calls to review the rule giving priority to volunteers or those with school connections.

But such calls have been rejected by the Education Ministry, saying that key stakeholders, such as parent volunteers, are important as they help strengthen the schools' tradition and ethos.

For a mother-of-two in her 30s, who wanted to be known only as Lynn, Phase 2B is "a useful route", especially for those who have no links to the school of their choice.

"It works even better when you have parents who can contribute meaningfully to the school, like mothers who help out with reading sessions in the library," said the lawyer, who is a parent volunteer at her seven-year-old daughter's primary school in Bukit Timah.

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