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‘Mergers will ensure schools have critical mass of students’

‘Mergers will ensure schools have critical mass of students’
Bendemeer Primary School. Photo: Screencap from Google Maps

‘Mergers will ensure schools have critical mass of students’

SINGAPORE — Half of the primary schools that will be merged in 2019, following yesterday’s announcement by the Ministry of Education (MOE), have undergone consolidation exercises previously — some, more than once.

Among the 14 primary schools involved in the latest merger exercise, schools such as Bendemeer Primary, Balestier Hill Primary, Cedar Primary, MacPherson Primary, Da Qiao Primary, Damai Primary and East Coast Primary had undergone at least one previous round of merger.

For instance, in 2002, MacPherson Primary School was merged with Woodsville Primary, while Bendemeer Primary School combined with Beng Wan Primary in 2004.

Meanwhile, Da Qiao Primary had previously merged with Chong Boon Primary in 2000, while East Coast Primary School took in students of Jaya Primary School when the latter closed in December 1998. East Coast Primary later underwent another merger with Bedok North Primary in 2000.

MOE cited falling birth rates as the main reason behind the consolidation of the schools. There is also higher demand for school places in newer housing estates, while schools in mature estates grapple with falling enrolment and surplus places. This is why more primary schools will be built in the newer estates even as others are being merged.

MOE said the consolidation would ensure that the schools have a critical mass of students, allowing them to provide a diverse range of educational programmes and co-curricular activities.

Last year, MOE announced that 22 secondary schools will be merged this year and next year. Prior to that, six pairs of secondary schools were merged — two pairs in 2011 and another four pairs in 2016.

Yesterday, it was announced that another three pairs of secondary schools will be merged in 2019.

MOE stressed that the mergers were based “on careful considerations”. Factors such as enrolment size, geographical proximity, suitability of merger partners and infrastructure capacity were taken into account.

The sites chosen for the merged schools are also based on accessibility and the quality of the infrastructure. The ministry said that in view of the “significant continued fall in cohort sizes”, more schools will need to be merged over the next two years.

“In deciding on merging or opening schools, MOE’s key consideration is to be responsive to changing demographics and community needs, whilst providing an optimal student experience at all times. A vibrant and fulfilling educational environment for our students will always be our top priority,” the ministry said.