Planning for Primary School

This is getting ridiculous.

Before Babe was born, Hubby and me had a discussion+agreement of "we should let Babe enjoy her childhood/ explore her own potential/ cut the paper chase" etc.

However, after some not-so-satisfying visits to nearby preschools, we end up registering her at one of the more popular kindergarten 2 years in advance. (See the post here) Talking about being Kiasu. >.<

And we thought we are set for next 6 years, until Babe needs to go into primary school. So wrong we are!

It all started when we go around looking for houses. We are one of the rare breed in Singapore where we don't own a house before getting married and have a kid (!). It is a result of circumstances + being picky. Anyway, we end up tolling Babe going around house viewing.

During our viewing, we were frequently told "This house is very close to XYZ (popular) primary school". As a naive parent, we brush them away as sales pitch. Until it came up so many times that one day, we decided to investigate how primary school registration works.

To those who is as clueless as we were, you may visit MOE website. Basically, whoever has siblings has first priority (Phase 1); followed by parents who are alumni or clan/ church members (Phase 2A); followed by parents did volunteering (Phase 2B); followed by "child without association with the school" (Phase 2C).

So far it sounds reasonable. However, for popular schools like Ai Tong or Catholic High, just siblings and alumni alone might take up 80% of the available slots (Alumni parents from Yishun or Punggol are sending their kids all the way to Bishan to ensure their kids, their kids' kids, and their kids' kids' kids - have a good start).

Primary school take up rate (TUR), take note how Ai Tong and Catholic High's Phase I (Siblings) and Phase II (Alumni) already take up >80% of the seats. Data from
So what will happened when there is more applicants than vacancies? Well, one ballots. And the ballot chance depends on the proximity of your home address to the school.

For example, if there is 70 seats available and there is 50 SC (Singapore Citizen) stay <1 km, 30 SC stay 1-2km, and 20 SC stay > 2km applying:

50 SC <1km will all get in;
30 SC 1-2km will need to ballot for 20 vacancies;
20 SC >2km will be rejected.  

This is where proximity of the house to school becomes a huge factor. The closer you are to the school, the higher chance to secure a place. And for popular school (see Ai Tong and Catholic High as example below), you might not even eligible for a ballot if staying more than 1km away. 

Balloting rounds involved for primary school in Bishan. Take note Ai Tong and Catholic High conducted balloting for SC <1km. Source: Kiasuparent.

Then again, do we want to send Babe to a popular school? What happened to all the "let her have a relax childhood where she can explore"?

Hubby and I have a heart-to-heart discussion. We've been through popular schools before - although that didn't land us any priority entry for any popular primary school. We find that popular school generally has better peers; and they also tend to have better CCA, as they have more access to monetary and parent volunteering resources. So it is not just blind paper chase. It is a combination of culture and environment and the social circle the child exposed to.

The conclusion is: Yes. We would like to send Babe to a good school. And despite what the government claim "Every school is a good school", we know that not all school has the same standard of access to peers, alumni and resources. And without knowing further, all we can do is to fall back to the typical benchmark of popularity.

So we are back to the drawing board for house selection. On top of the original must haves: Close to MRT, unblocked view, spacious layout), now it also be close, ie at least less than 2km, to a good school. I really wonder when will we ever get a house.


Useful resources:

1. To find out whether your house land within 1km or 1-2km of a particular school, you can go to OneMap, and use their SchoolQuery under Services.

2. For a comprehensive primary school balloting history, you can go to's Singapore Primary 1 Registration School Balloting History . You will need to sign up as a Kiasuparent (rightly so) to read them.


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