Choosing a primary school: Distance and school's reputation matter most to parents

When it comes to choosing a primary school for their children, Singapore parents are a pragmatic lot.

In a poll of 100 parents with kindergarten-age children, close to half of them, or 46, said distance was the most important consideration. But a fair number - 28 - said the reputation of the school and its pupils' performance in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) mattered most.

In fact, when asked to name the schools they are eyeing for their children, 11 out of the 100 parents listed Nanyang Primary as their top choice. These tended to be parents who held higher-paying jobs and live in the Bukit Timah, Holland or Orchard Road areas.

Pick the 'best' school for your child

Other popular schools included Nan Hua Primary, with eight parents placing it top, and Punggol View, with five votes.

Most parents who chose the latter lived within walking distance of the school.

Another important consideration for parents was having an elder child in the same school.

The Straits Times also asked the parents if they had moved or were considering moving to stand a better chance of landing a place for their child in their preferred school.

Only 10 parents said they had bought homes or were considering buying a home to gain priority.

Under the Primary 1 registration scheme, when applications exceed places, those living within 1km of the school are given priority, followed by those living within 2km.

More parents - 25 - said they had volunteered at the school to gain priority. Parents who have volunteered at least 40 hours at a primary school have priority under Phase 2B of the registration scheme but some schools have stopped recruiting parent volunteers as there are more applicants than volunteering opportunities.

The Ang Mo Kio housewife hopes to register her five-year-old son in Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary. She picked the school not only because it is only a five-minute drive away but also for religious reasons.

Some parents admitted, though, that they based their choice on the reputation of the school and the academic performance of its pupils.

Mrs Carrie Tan, 33, an accountant, said: "I am not a tiger mum. But my son is good in mathematics and I think he should go to a school which will stretch his talent."

She lives in Telok Kurau and is eyeing Nanyang Primary, her husband's alma mater.

Veteran principal Jenny Yeo, who is now lead associate of the partnerships and engagement unit at the Ministry of Education, advises parents to pick the "best" school for their child, and not go for a school that produces star pupils.

Said the former principal of popular South View Primary: "Not all children thrive in a competitive environment. Some feel stressed out and may even refuse to attend school. Parents should consider their child's strengths and weaknesses when picking a school."

Mr Richard Lim, former principal of popular schools Henry Park and Anglo-Chinese School (Primary), is heartened to learn that distance is an important consideration for many parents.

Despite having priority to enrol his two children at Henry Park years ago, Mr Lim sent them to Northland Primary, which was near the family home.

Mr Lim, who now heads Si Ling Primary School, said that when he was principal of Henry Park and ACS there were several pupils who had long travelling times to and from home.

"It really takes its toll on children and when they get to Primary 3 and 4 and they start doing CCAs, it gets worse," he said.

"Sleep deprivation affects the performance of children."

This article was first published on July 6, 2015.
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