Singapore Government Media Release
Media Division, Ministry of Information and The Arts,
140 Hill Street #02-02 MITA Building, Singapore 179369.
Tel: 837 9666
15 Aug 2000
ALINE WONG COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS COMPULSORY PRIMARY EDUCATION
The Committee on Compulsory Education chaired by Dr Aline Wong, Senior Minister of State for Education, has recommended that compulsory education be introduced up to Primary 6 in national schools for Singapore citizens residing in Singapore, subject to the exemption of certain categories of children, including those with special needs and children attending madrasahs.
The Committee was set up in December 1999 to study whether Compulsory Education (CE) should be introduced in Singapore, and if so, what form and duration it should take. Chaired by Dr Aline Wong, the Committee comprised political leaders, educationists, community leaders and MOE officials.
In drawing up the recommendations, the Committee examined past trends and future educational needs of Singapore. It also took into consideration feedback and views from the different groups and communities who would be affected by CE, through a series of closed-door discussion sessions with community leaders, interest groups, and members of the public. The CE Committee has completed its study and submitted its report to the Government in July 2000.
The Government has accepted all the recommendations of the Committee. RAdm (NS) Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Education, in his letter to Dr Wong, said that the recommendations "which accommodate the aspirations and views of the different communities in Singapore, re-affirm the important role that our education system plays in preparing our young to meet future challenges and to grow up to be useful and responsible citizens."
The Committee recommends that CE should be introduced, and that it should be defined as education in national schools for Singapore citizens residing in Singapore, subject to the exemption of certain categories, to reinforce the two key objectives of:
a. giving our children a common core of knowledge which will provide a strong foundation for further education and training to prepare them for a knowledge-based economy; and
b. giving our children a common educational experience which will help to build national identity and cohesion.
CE should be introduced up to Primary 6. The duration of CE defines the minimum period of education for all Singaporean children rather than the ideal duration from an education perspective. This is in recognition of the wishes and aspirations of the different communities which make up Singapore society.
Only the following categories of children should be exempted from CE:
a. those attending "designated institutions", viz., the six madrasahs currently offering full-time religious education for children of primary school-going age and the San Yu Adventist School - these children will be required to sit for the PSLE at Primary 6. The madrasahs and San Yu Adventist School will also need to meet a certain minimum PSLE benchmark in order to be given the "designated institution" status, which allows them to admit children exempted from CE at Primary 1.
For the madrasahs, this benchmark should be pegged at the average PSLE aggregate score (rounded up to the nearest whole number) of EM1 and EM2 Malay pupils in the six lowest-performing national schools, ranked based on the performance of their EM1 and EM2 Malay pupils in the PSLE of the same year. For San Yu, the benchmark should be pegged at the 33rd percentile aggregate score (rounded up to the nearest whole number) of all EM1 and EM2 pupils in the PSLE of the same year. The above benchmarks will apply only when the new Primary 1 pupils admitted into these institutions, after CE is introduced, have gone through six years of primary education.
The total annual Primary 1 intake of Singapore citizens into the madrasahs and San Yu should be capped at 400 and 10 respectively;
b. those receiving home-schooling – These children will only be granted exemption from CE to be home-schooled, provided parents are able to satisfy MOE that the two key objectives of CE can be achieved. Parents should be required to furnish information on the curriculum and educational outcomes of the home-schooling programme. These children will be required to sit for the PSLE, and meet the same PSLE benchmark as children attending the San Yu Adventist School, as well as pass the National Education quiz before the PSLE;
c. those with special needs – special needs children, who are not able to go to national schools because of physical and other disabilities, will automatically be exempted from CE in national schools;
Parents of children who fall under paras a) and b) above will have to apply for exemption from CE for their child. Parents of children with special needs will not be required to do so.
Even with the introduction of CE, the responsibility for sending children to school and ensuring that they attend school, should still lie with the parents. However, the State should be empowered to compel them to do so, and penalise them if they do not. A range of penalties should be provided in the law to deal with cases of non-compliance, including fines and, in the extreme case, a jail term. These penalties will be imposed only on the parents and not the child. However, several levels of counselling and mediation procedures should be put in place to ensure that legal enforcement is taken only as a last resort.
A Board for CE, comprising representatives from the community such as the Community Development Councils, grassroots leaders, Self-Help Groups, Community and Parents in Support of Schools (COMPASS) and Voluntary Welfare Organisations, should be set up by MOE to, where necessary, refer cases to the Director-General of Education, who can then raise a complaint to the Subordinate Courts for legal action. The Board should have investigative powers for specific cases to require parents to produce information and turn up for counselling.
Avenues must be available to enforce the exclusion and expulsion of pupils from school if they are found unsuitable for school. These include serious cases of disruptive behaviour in class and breach of school rules.
CE should be introduced only from the age cohort entering Primary 1 in 2003. This will allow two full years for the madrasahs and the San Yu Adventist School to review their curriculum and train their teachers, before CE is implemented.
The Government will legislate the recommendations of the CE Committee before the end of this year by introducing a bill in Parliament that will eventually be known as the Compulsory Education Act.
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
For further queries, please contact:
Mr Philip Ong
Deputy Director, Planning
Secretariat, Committee on Compulsory Education
Tel : 4709270
Mrs Lilian Cheong
Media Relations Officer
Tel ; 4709105
Pager : 95970503