Parent volunteers doing ridiculous things for Phase 2B registration

From ‘Parents slam MOE scheme’, 25 Feb 2012, article in insing.com

Parents feel that the volunteer scheme in the primary one registration process should go. In a radio survey carried out by Lianhe Wanbao on radio FM100.3, most listeners feel that the government should scrap the parent volunteer scheme.

…The scheme has so far drawn a multitude of complaints, with parents criticising that those with connections to the school get too much priority. According to The Straits Times, many also complained that there are often more applicants than available places in later stages of the registration.

…According to the (MOE) website, those who put in at least 40 hours of voluntary work for the school in the Parent Volunteer Scheme can join phase 2B of the registration, a phase with priority over those with no connections. However, there is no guarantee that the child of the parent volunteer will get a place in the school after putting in the hours of voluntary work.

…Some (parent volunteers) have been asked to direct traffic or to be ushers at school events. They will also be asked to take part in the school’s fund raising activities by manning booths, helping to sell items, or to sponsor items and food for these activities. If parent volunteers have special skills, such as in performing arts or sports, they may also be asked to take on student groups to coach them in these skills.

According to Frontier Primary School’s application form for parents to join their Parent Volunteer Scheme:

Selection of parent volunteers is not on a first come first served basis. The school reserves the rights to short-list applicants whom it deems fit to meet the need of the school and our pupils. In view of the 5-day work week, voluntary services that could be performed during weekdays and would be most beneficial to the school and our pupils will be considered first. Only successful applicants will be notified to commence their services.

Maris Stella High will even subject parents to an INTERVIEW if required.

The number of applications received usually exceeds the number of parent volunteers the school wishes to engage. As such, an interview will be held for shortlisted applicants only.

This isn’t a ‘volunteer’ scheme; it’s a second job, one that may be harder to get than a real job even with impressive paper qualifications, a job that requires the skills that you don’t usually apply in your actual profession. Hell, you may even hate doing some of these things but don’t have a choice. It also doesn’t guarantee placement if the school you want to enroll your kid in is just at your doorstep, or even if you exceed the 40 hours doing the janitor’s work unchoking the toilet in the principal’s office. If you’re someone without a specific skill set related to children or school facilities, you’re unlikely to be shortlisted. Even if you have a musical talent like being a master recorder player, you would have to compete with other parents with similar skills. If it’s any consolation to parents who think they’ve been outdone by people with ‘connections’, Zoe Tay herself was snubbed by Nanyang Primary School despite clocking over 80 hours of ‘voluntary work’. You probably won’t see her playing a teacher on TV soon.

If you have the means to pull strings or your child is a prodigy, you can bypass the volunteer scheme altogether by attaching recommendation letters from your MP, or a report from a psychologist declaring your child a genius. You may even do the dirty work indirectly by serving your RC, who’ll reward your service with the MP’s letter above, along with a given that you would vote in the same MP in the next GE out of gratitude. It would also help if you belong to an affiliated church if you’re targetting a Presbyterian school, a member of the Singapore Buddhist Federation for Maha Bodhi, or if you’re a grassroots leader. Even MM Lee has acknowledged that the selection basis is unfair, that it’s not ‘meritocratic’ and based on the social class of parents, yet this epidemic paper chase and its side effect of parent ‘volunteerism’ can’t be helped.

Here’s a sample of the kind of odd-jobs, some rather embarrassing ones, that company directors, atheists, celebrities, scientists, doctors and lawyers may have to swallow (on WEEKDAYS) for the sake of their children. As far as my grasp of the definition of ‘volunteer’ is concerned, one doesn’t go about doing it with a moody sulk on his/her face. Unless you’ve always wanted to be a teacher all your life, these volunteer roles are utterly joyless, and possibly futile endeavours.

A cock and bull story

 If you’ve ever for the dear life of me resorted to acting as a cock in a school skit just to clock 40 hours of voluntary work, remember to film the entire episode and show it to your child just before PSLE exam, using your harrowing sacrifice as motivation, maybe guilt, to do well. Some parents may find such mind-numbing tasks a pleasant break from their terminally boring jobs, until they release they need to ballot with other disgruntled parents when it comes to the crunch. The grouchy father who tells the kids to shut up on the excursion bus may still end up victorious over the bubbly, patient mother who teaches kids enriching activities like wrapping bazhang during the Dragon Boat Festival.

It would be interesting to have some data of what skills or tasks  are correlated to registration success, but I’m guessing you need to be good with kids, have excellent communication and coaching skills, good project management and event organising i.e a teacher. Anyone else will just have to try their luck  with blowing balloons,  stacking books on shelves, pointing cars in the right direction or pulling weeds.

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4 Responses

  1. […] Educate Our Youth – The Yale Herald: The cost of NUS: An in-depth look at the school’s financial aid plan – Everything Also Complain: Parent volunteers doing ridiculous things for Phase 2B registration […]

  2. Cronyism. Another form of the Ugly Singaporean.
    Cronyism exists in all societies, it is just more apparent in Singapore school entry system and the bitter part is: no one is making an effort to stem this out.

  3. You know, this scenario is always played for laughs in comedic situations on TV when parents do nonsensical acts like these to enrol their children in a private school. I remember a Desperate Housewives episode like this.
    Makes you wonder the comedic value in reality when ‘kiasu’ parents are fighting tooth and nail to gain entry to government-aided schools. Speaks volumes about our system, culture and priorities here.

  4. This bloody scheme is a disgrace to the nation.
    Clear cut favoritism. cronyism. unfair. Children admission, look at parent ability.

    regardless of race, language or religion
    but look at parents and dollars.

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