Got schools… No students

A few days ago, students going to Secondary One found out which school they were posted to. Some would certainly have rejoiced in the school they would be spending the next few years in, while others may not have been as happy. For seven schools, they learnt that they will not be getting any new Secondary One students when school starts next year. The seven schools are Balestier Hill Secondary, Henderson Secondary, MacPherson Secondary, North View Secondary, Pioneer Secondary, Siglap Secondary and Si Ling Secondary. MOE attributed this to the trend of falling cohort sizes. This also resulted in there being less students posted to some secondary schools this year.

In case you don’t know how the posting system for secondary schools work, let me briefly explain. If my memory is correct, the way the system works is like this: Each student chooses six secondary schools. He ranks them in order of his preference. MOE then ranks all the students that need to be posted to secondary schools according to their PSLE results. The top scorer gets his first choice. The second highest score student will get his first choice. But the top 400th scorer may not get his first choice. Because there is a possibility that the first choice school of the top 400th scorer is already full. In that case, then the system checks to see if the second choice school of that student still has vacancy. If there still is vacancy in that school, then the student gets posted to that school. And the process repeats with the system going down the list of students and going down the preferences as stated by each student. This happens until all students are posted into a secondary school. If all the six schools you chose are already full by the time it’s your turn to get posted? Then MOE will post you to a school that’s nearest to your residential address that still has a vacancy.

I think this is the first time that there are this many secondary schools that don’t didn’t get any secondary one students posted to them. I wonder if any students actually chose any of the seven schools. If there were, how many were then posted to schools that weren’t any of their choices? How did MOE decide which schools to post those students to? Unlike being posted to a school that isn’t your choice because you didn’t do well in PSLE, it’s not entirely the students’ fault that there weren’t enough students choosing to go to the school that you actually didn’t mind attending. Do those students get to choose again?

At least one person was quite livid about this situation. Local (former?) celebrity Patricia Mok said this on her Facebook page:

Screenshot from Patricia Mok's Facebook Page

Screenshot from Patricia Mok’s Facebook Page

Don’t know why she was “send (sic) straight away to a newly (sic) YJC”. But she is definitely wrong in attributing her posting to “Sg educators”. No teachers nor principals are involved in deciding the posting of any students in Singapore. The posting of students is done by a computer system. Any manual adjustments (which are very very few) are done by staff of MOE who most likely have never taught in any schools in their lives.

The only MOE personnel that have any experience as teachers involved in the whole posting process probably comes at the stage of crafting/changing the policies that get fed to the computer system that posts students. At that stage, those personnel look at the system as a whole. They look at changes in cohort sizes, desired teacher-to-student ratio, available infrastructure, etc. They try to balance resource constraints and demand by students to achieve the best outcome for all the students in our educational system. In doing so, some students might appear to lose out. But as a whole, I think the system works, and the benefits outweigh the costs.

What is curious though, is that MOE didn’t foresee to merge those seven schools earlier. Could MOE have decided to stop some of those seven schools from taking part in the Secondary One Posting Exercise this year in preparation for them to be merged with other schools in 2016? That would have avoided situations where students chose one of the seven schools and had to be posted to a school that they didn’t choose.

In any case, the students will survive. After all, all schools in Singapore are good schools, right?

[Featured image: TODAY file photo]

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