The decision to merge eight junior colleges (JC) was “painful but necessary”, said Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng on Thursday (27 April), in the first comments by a minister on the issue.
“We do not take school mergers lightly. We only proceeded with these mergers as we are sure it is for the better for our students to come,” said Ng in a Facebook note. He added that he had “personally agonised” over the decision and understood the strong sentiments that the move had aroused.
Last Thursday (20 April), the Ministry Of Education announced that four pairs of JCs would be merged in 2019, in the wake of falling birth rates over the past two decades and the corresponding lower enrolment numbers. This is the first time that junior colleges are being merged.
Ng noted that if the ministry did not act, several JCs would only be able to fill less than half of its JC1 desired intake. Some might struggle to fill even 200 places, given the sharp drop in the JC1 cohort for the coming years. “This will limit our students’ educational and CCA experiences. My educators and I think this cannot be good for our students.”
The minister acknowledged the “heartfelt feedback” that he had received on the issue, some of whom expressed uncertainty over the transition process. A visually-impaired friend of the minister expressed hopes that MOE and the JCs would preserve the heritage and culture of her JC, which had done much for her and helped her succeed.
“It is not an easy transition, but let us – students, alumni, parents and teachers – all work at it together, to honour the identities of our schools even as we make the necessary adjustments for the future. We will go through this journey together.”