Parliamentary Question

Resources and support available for private candidates and home-schoolers

11 May 2015

Professor Tan Tai Yong, Nominated Member of Parliament

To ask the Minister for Education (a) whether there are avenues for private "O" level candidates to interact with students and make use of the facilities such as laboratories and sports equipment in mainstream schools; (b) whether the Ministry can consider a structured programme for these private candidates to participate as CCA members outside of the formal curriculum; and (c) whether the same sort of integration can be done for primary school children who are home-schooled.

The profile of Singaporean private ‘O’ Level candidates is quite varied, but they may be broadly grouped  as: (i) those for whom enrolment in a mainstream school would not be educationally meaningful or age-appropriate; and (ii) those who voluntarily opt out of our mainstream school system.

The first group of private ‘O’ level candidates includes adult learners studying one or two subjects on a part-time basis. It also includes students who had completed their secondary school education, are more than four years above secondary school age, or are already eligible for progression to a post-secondary educational institution to further their education but nevertheless had chosen to repeat specific “O” Level subjects as private candidates.

Co-curricular activities (CCAs) are part of the school curriculum and the holistic education of students in mainstream schools, tailored to the students’ age profiles and conducted under the supervision of their teachers who exercise a duty of care towards them. For private candidates who are much older than the secondary school age, interaction with secondary school age students and participation in our schools’ CCAs would not be age-appropriate. It is also not easy to accommodate their other work or post-secondary education commitments. Instead, there are many community groups that these private candidates can join to interact with their community and to learn life skills, such as those in the community clubs.

Similarly, science laboratories contain potentially hazardous equipment and materials and are not suitable for unsupervised use. Students who take their ‘O’ Levels at the Institute of Technical Education under the General Education Programme will have supervised access to science laboratories in selected  schools, if they offer Science subjects.

Sports facilities in schools, which are more suitable for unsupervised shared use, are already shared with the community outside school hours under a partnership between MOE, Sports Singapore and People’s Association.

The second group of private ‘O’ level candidates include students in private schools. For this small number of students in private schools, their schools are expected to provide appropriate facilities and educational programmes for them.

As for primary school children who are home-schooled, these students have specifically applied to be exempted from enrolment in mainstream schools. If they wish to benefit from the facilities and programmes in our mainstream schools, the Ministry will facilitate their entry as a student into our mainstream schools. It remains the Government’s preference that all Singaporean children attend mainstream schools so that they grow up together with a common educational experience.