Merging Schools in 2019
Parents choose primary schools for their children based on many reasons – distance from home, parents’ alma mater or early Phase acceptance due to older siblings. Children then start developing autonomy as they reach the end of Primary 6 and play a role with their parents to select their secondary schools based on (besides the above reasons) – where their friends are going, CCAs offered by the secondary schools, and the best school depending on their PSLE aggregate score. Towards the end of their secondary school education, children aspire to go after their dreams and select their tertiary education route – the ITE, Polytechnic or Junior College route based on their ambitions and the desire to achieve their eventual career.
Last week, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced the merging of 14 primary schools, 6 secondary schools and 8 Junior Colleges in 2019. There will be obvious impact of the merging come 2019 and how will it impact you as parents and your children. Let us look at the possible scenarios.
Possible Impact on Parents
Additional Expenses in Purchase of New Uniforms and Resources
The first possible impact on parents would be the need to increase expenditure for the purchase of new uniforms, PE attire and shoes of the newly merged school. This will perhaps involve the current Primary 1 to Primary 3 students in the current schools. Normally schools provide a buffer period like 1 to 2 years for the cohort of students to be in the new full school uniform.
Adapt to New School Philosophy and Approach
A newly merged school will create its own identity – teaching and learning philosophy which includes its mission and vision to map the way forward. Parents will have to adjust their expectations and intended outcomes for their children as the direction of the school may not reflect that of the original schools. There will definitely be platforms where the school will engage the parents to ensure their smooth transition of understanding of the schools’ intentions.
Diminish Involvement of Parents as Volunteers in School
As schools merge, parents may feel more disconnected and their involvement diminishes. Parent Support Groups have been around for a long time to enhance and improve parents’ involvement in their children’s schools. With the mergers, parents’ involvement may diminish as a loss of identity as well as change in expectations from schools may affect parents’ decisions to be involved
Possible Impact on Students
Increase in Travelling Distance from Home to New School Site
Students especially at the primary school level would have been enrolled into the schools near their homes to reduce travelling time for these children so that they have more time to recover after a long day in school. With the expected mergers, such a consideration (travelling distance) may be affected and students may have to end up travelling further than before or they may have to move to another school nearby their homes.
Adapt to New Teachers
Students spend a good 160 hours a month in their schools (primary school). The amount of time is substantially greater as they move on to secondary and post-secondary levels. The influence and impact a teacher makes is undeniably huge and pivotal in any student’s life. Sometimes, the teacher is the ONLY point of influence on a student’s progress and performance in schools. With the mergers, students will have to accustom themselves to perhaps a new group of teachers, new types of teaching influences as well as new leaning experiences. These can be both positive and negative in nature and it will depend on the individual student’s receptiveness and willingness to the change.
Adapt to New Classmates & Friends
In addition to new teachers, students will have to face new classmates and adapt to create new friendships along the way. The students affected by the mergers may no longer be classmates with their current friends. This can again be a 2 edged sword as friendships can have an effect on students’ learning and performance levels.
Other Exciting Possibilities?
With the proposed mergers in 2019, it was reported that such mergers will also allow for the introduction of new Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) for students to experience in the schools as well as a more varied and tailored enrichment programmes to engage students. These two possibilities will surely enrich the students’ learning experiences.
I would also like to throw into the mix, my humble suggestions and questions of other possible outcomes of the mergers in 2019
- I am just wondering if the mergers of schools could lead to more teachers being available in each of the merged schools. If it does, can there then, be smaller class sizes (20 to 25 or even leaving it at 30 from Primary 3 onwards) so that students’ learning experience can be further individualised hence increasing the quality of education for our children. This would also provide more space and opportunity for our teachers to flourish and thrive in their passion of teaching and impacting the students in their classes.
- The merger of schools can lead to higher quality school leadership teams as there is the platform to select and operate with the best of the best to create the best foundation in each of the merged schools.
- Would the mergers lead to more funds available? Available to channel towards providing more resources in terms of infrastructure – more classrooms (smaller class size?); purchase of teaching aids; investment in technology to enhance effective learning as well as broadening enrichment programme experiences.
There will be impact of the mergers of the schools in 2019, to the different stakeholders, and as suggested the transition will be handled professionally by the respective schools. However, in my humble view, the mergers in 2019 can create possibilities in the education landscape beyond what was always thought possible. What we can look forward to is the myriad avenues of new learning experiences and growth where the children studying in these schools can encounter come 2019.
“We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”
“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
“Man’s mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr
“It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.”