Saturday, September 26, 2009

11 new primary schools by 2013

Upgrading for 28 others in move to single session

ELEVEN new primary schools will be built and 28 existing ones upgraded by the end of 2013 as part of a plan to move all such schools to single-session ones by 2016.

The works will be carried out in phases: The first phase, to build five new schools and upgrade the 28, will begin later this year, the Education Ministry said yesterday.

The five new schools will open in January 2012, and will be in Jurong West, Punggol Place, Sembawang Drive, Sengkang East Way and Woodlands Crescent.

A ministry spokesman said the locations of the new schools had been chosen because of their proximity to existing and new housing developments.

The other six schools to be built will open a year later.

Of the 28 schools to be renovated, 21 will undergo major revamps, to build facilities such as new wings. For three - CHIJ Primary (Toa Payoh), De La Salle School and Kong Hwa School - these renovations will be so extensive that they will have to move to temporary premises.

The cost of building the 11 schools and upgrading the 28 is $560 million.

In all, the ministry plans to build 18 new schools and upgrade up to 80, at a total cost of about $1 billion. There are currently 177 primary schools in Singapore.

Moving all primary schools to single session was one of the main recommendations put forward earlier this year by the Primary Education Review and Implementation committee (Peri) - headed by Senior Minister of State for Education Grace Fu - and accepted by the Government.

The committee said a single-session model would free schools to organise enrichment classes for their pupils in the afternoons.

It would also give them the flexibility to start classes later, something for which parents have constantly lobbied, and create more opportunities for pupils and teachers across levels to learn and share with one another.

Other Peri recommendations accepted by the Education Ministry include recruiting only graduates as teachers by 2015 and doing away with semestral assessments for Primary 1 and 2 pupils.

When the recommendations were made known earlier this year, parents were most excited about the single-session plan.

However, they were also worried that it would mean that popular schools would have to cut their student intakes - single-session schools would need more classrooms to keep enrolment levels steady, but popular ones may not have the space to do so.

The upgrading programme is meant to solve that.

Principals of some popular schools earmarked for the first phase of upgrading, including De La Salle School, Mee Toh School and Nan Chiau Primary, said the works would allow them to keep current enrolment numbers when they switch to a single-session.

At Nan Chiau Primary in Sengkang, for instance, current enrolment is 2,200 - far higher than a typical single-session school's 1,200 to 1,400.

The school is popular with parents across the island because of its strong emphasis on Chinese language and tradition.

Principal Tan Chun Ming said yesterday that Nan Chiau is bursting at the seams, and that becoming a single-session school with its current facilities would be well-nigh impossible without a steep cut in enrolment.

But a new extension to be built under the upgrading programme will change all that.

Said Mr Tan: 'I am confident that with the new extension, we will be able to maintain our intake of 10 Primary1 classes each year.

'We already turn away about 200 children each year. I don't want to cut down intake and disappoint more parents.'

Mee Toh School principal, Ms Fong Bee Cheng said enrolment at her school will grow to about 2,000 next year. It turns away about 100 parents a year.

She said: 'In future, we hope to maintain 10 classes of P1 intake, so as to accommodate the young community in Punggol Estate, as well as children of our alumni and the Buddhist Community.'

Pharmacist Lee Moh Wah, 35, who would like her two sons, aged three and five, to study at Nan Chiau Primary, welcomed news of the upgrading.

She said: 'It's definitely good news to know that the school will not be cutting down on places and that we will have a chance at getting my sons enrolled there.'

Source: Straits Times, 26 Sep 2009

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