As Singapore grapples with the problem of demographic shifts on both national and localised levels, Ministry of Education (MOE) cannot rule out the need for more school mergers in the next decade, said Senior Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary while replying to questions of MPs regarding merger of schools and junior colleges in Parliament.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) made an announcement in April this year regarding pairing and merger of about 14 primary schools, six secondary schools and eight junior colleges (JCs) in 2019. It cited reasons of small cohort sizes and changing demographics across housing estates regarding the mergers.
While answering the queries of Parliamentarians, Dr Puthucheary said, “The authorities wanted to give some time for things to settle down and monitor choice and enrollment patterns before making further decisions.”
He added, “Our priority for the next few years is to support our schools, staff and students as we adjust to these mergers. However, in the longer term, with the demographic shifts both at the national and localised levels, we cannot rule out the need for more mergers in the next decade, difficult though they may be.”
He also noted that the JC intake was projected to fall 20 per cent from 16,000 students in 2010 to around 12,800 students in 2019 - with the difference equal to the intake of four junior colleges.
“If MOE does not take any action, several JCs will find themselves with a JC intake of below 400, less than half of the typical 800, and some may even struggle to fill 200,” said Minister.
Giving reasons for mergers of JCs, Dr Puthucheary said, “The authorities settled on the JC merger pairs taking into consideration a few factors, including geographical location, student choice and the enrollment patterns of the JCs.”
Giving relief to the staff of the JCs, the Minister assured that there will be no retrenchment of both teaching and non-teaching staff due to the mergers.