Increased primary school volunteer hours draws mixed reactions

While the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) guideline requires at least 40 hours of voluntary work, several primary schools have set their demands at 60 – 80 hours, sparking mixed reactions from the public.

Primary school volunteer hours Mixed reactions towards the new primary school volunteer hours

Singapore’s annual Primary 1 registration exercise is a regarded as one of the most stressful periods for parents in the education process. Many parents without any specified advantages often resort to the much-coveted Phase 2B of the exercise. In this case, volunteering a stipulated amount of hours allows these parents to register their children earlier and thus stand a higher chance of placing them in a desired school.

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A step-up in volunteering

MOE emphasizes a 40 hour guideline, but schools in high demand have begun to extend these hours. Raffles’ Girls Primary, St. Hilda’s and Poi Ching School reportedly increased their requirements to 60 hours, while Nanyang Primary pushed the contribution hours to 80, double the MOE guideline.

A spokesman from MOE responded that schools were free to ask for more volunteer hours “depending on individual schools’ needs” and either one parent could volunteer or both parents could split the work over two years.

Poi Ching School Principal, Mr Lawrence Chong reasoned that the increase in hours was due to high demand, where parents where even continuing to serve after completing the required hours.

According to the Sunday Times, popular schools can receive up to 200 volunteer applications, but can accept only 30.

Furthermore, while volunteer duty had mainly encompassed directing traffic, reading to children or helping out on excursions, schools were reportedly starting to look towards ‘value- added volunteer hours’.

For instance, Nayang Primary is looking for help in IT and robotics, Catholic High looks for long term projects, while South View looks for help in creating digital learning tools.

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Public response

Ms Ng, a primary school teacher, believed that an increase in hours would not deter determined parents. She said that parents “even sell their homes and move closer to the schools”. She stated that 30 more hours of volunteering is not that big a setback.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Nanthakumar voiced his unhappiness saying, “what next? Volunteer to teach remedial classes and coach the soccer team? Parents should have the option of not wanting their kids to participate in this madness.

However, housewife M. Lim was unfazed, telling reporters that the P1 registration system has become a “gambling game”. Eyeing two popular girls’ schools, she said, “If we volunteer at more than one, we can register at the school with more vacancies during Phase 2B".

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