Why are good Singaporean families losing their freedoms?

This article was originally published on The Ong Family Homeschool. Article is published with permission.


Tonight my mind was opened that much more just by spending time with families who have been adversely affected by the Compulsory Education Act.


The CE Act is meant for the good of our Singapore society. In the late 90s, probably earlier, it was found that many children in Singapore were denied an education and many were neglected, or exploited for cheap labour (as the case may be) and kept from school for one reason or another. Our Government steps in to help these children ensure that they have a good education from which they can change the course of their lives and make something better for themselves. Understandably, Singapore is a small country and our people resource is a very limited and precious one. Singapore cannot afford “wastage” of her people resource.

The CE Act came into law in 2000. If this was a fairy tale ending, all our Singaporean children will be happily going to school, free from shackles of their evil parents who are denying them a good education in Primary School. Yet, up to 2 years ago, Singapore still has up to as many as 1000 primary school age children who are not in school. These are rough statistics from community organizations who have to track down the locations of these children, find out why they are not in school, whether they are abused or neglected. How over ONE THOUSAND children can go off our radar on our tiny island is nothing short of baffling.

Yet there is another group of families that the CE unit in the MOE is chasing after to enroll their children in the public school. These are families who want to homeschool their children but do not meet the ministry’s so called “requisite qualifications”. Of late, responsible, law abiding parents who inform the MOE their intention to homeschool their children are asked what their highest level of education attained was and if they do not have a degree (degree in what field is not important, as long as it is a “degree”) they are told straight up that their application is not likely to be approved on that basis.

A small handful of these families actually challenge the government and for the sake of their children, refuse to send their children to school and homeschool them. They face call after call from the CE unit, letter after letter and finally, a threat of being served a court order for disobeying the law.

That’s crazy, one might say. Why go through all that pain and trouble just to keep your child at home? Why all the fuss?

Look deeper. These are good, intact families. These are strong, robust families who have strong parenting values, both father and mother who are passionate about raising their children to be successful adults and useful citizens. One would be hard pressed not to find such families in the homeschooling community- by virtue of the fact these are families who are already totally committed to educating their own children, committed to pouring in time, energy and resources to nurture their children and grow them to be intellectually, socially, emotionally, spiritually healthy adults of tomorrow.

Why should the State deny such families??? Can there ever be a good enough reason?

No parent needs to have a degree to do lovingly bring up and even “educate” their child. In fact, studies have shown that there is NO CORRELATION between  parent qualifications and their homeschooled children’s qualifications. In other words, a parent who is a school dropout can produce homeschooled children who go on to attain degrees and PhDs.


Why is this so? Because, in cutting edge “education”, we move away from a Master and Disciple/ Apprentice relationship to one that is Guide and Learner. The homeschool parent is not the “know-it-all” encyclopedia of ALL knowledge, of ALL subjects that need to be covered for the exams. She is only to be a Guide for the child, to point the way to the means to answer the child’s questions (the library, the internet, other experts…. these days the resources available are infinitesimal.) Most importantly, the best thing a wise homeschool parent can do for her child is to fire up her child’s Passion for Learning. A person with a passion for learning knows no bounds for progress or cessation to enquiry. Is this not one of our MOE’s desired outcomes of education?

Where then is the case for “requisite qualifications”?

Or is it just an over-simplistic way to sieve out families who are actually able to  teach their children to pass exams? It is a poor interpretation of what education is. Using the PSLE to benchmark whether or not a child has been “educated” is over-simplistic and really, quite “old school”. Surely, in an organization holding so many highly educated, highly qualified Thinkers of Education will know that people are created with multiple talents, differing in intelligences. If the whole society were made up of people who excelled in only English, Maths, Science and Mother Tongue, where would the architects be? Or the computer programmers? Or the graphic designers? Or the musicians? Or the Taxi Drivers? (Or are they not important to society?)

Why then does our MOE resort to this basal way of sifting the true educators from the child neglectors or child exploiters?  Dare I suggest, out of convenience?

The Compulsory “Education” Act has been, in Singapore, interpreted as the Compulsory “Schooling” Act and therefore it has created a big problem for the Government.

Is the Government therefore saying that other means of attaining education is inferior to their own “Singapore brand” public school system?

Is the Government saying that non-graduates are incapable of teaching primary schoolers?

Is the Government saying that their public school system will do a better job than all others and guarantee that ALL children who pass through their school system will learn and will be “educated”?

Why can’t the MOE think of homeschoolers as partners and allies? The fact is- all the MOE initiatives “Teach less, Learn More”, Individualized learning paths, “Child-centric, Values-driven” etc. etc. etc. are all actualized in a homeschool,with much greater efficiency! If a homeschooled child shows a talent and interest in sports, or science or drawing, or music or maths or baking or what have you…. The parent will nurture that talent and act on it as soon as he or she can. They do not have to wait upon the system to provide for that. This is by virtue of the fact that the concerned parent has a vested interest in their child’s future and is constantly looking out for their child’s individual strengths and talents, to nurture them and for their weaknesses, to strengthen them. This is the beauty of homeschooling- one of the many beauties of homeschooling.

“Flexibility and Diversity” http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/desired-outcomes/

Sorry, MOE, try as you might (and none can fault that indeed, you try hard) you cannot beat the flexibility and diversity (plus efficiency of execution) of a homeschool.

So, to deny a homeschool a chance to actualize MOE’s desired incomes of education is, again saying that the MOE brand of schooling is the only way to carry out their rhetoric and other ways are inferior. In fact, any meaningful exchange or informal feedback to the CE unit staffers will tend to be met with  the line, “Oh, then you should put your child back into the school. We have a lot of helps available for your child in the school.”

The actual penal enforcement of the CE law on truly errant families has proved to be tricky and the number of good Singaporean families that are actually being persecuted in the process is, simply put, a travesty of justice.

To date (according to common knowledge), no family has been prosecuted for not sending their neglected child to school. Because the social impact on these families, already weak and problematic, cannot survive the punishments meted out by the law (hefty fines? children forcibly taken and institutionalized?) In reality, the penal enforcement of the CE Act is detrimental to such families who actually need more help and more support. Honestly, it doesn’t make the Government look good either.

As for those families with the determined passion to home educate their own children, and yet prevented because they don’t have the “requisite qualifications” (but these parents write in perfect English, even better than many degree holders, than many MOE teachers): the MOE enforces the CE Act on them, threatening to serve court orders on the parents in order to force the children into the public schools where even the MOE themselves cannotguarantee that the children will not be preyed upon by sexual predators who masquerade as teachers. This is a travesty of justice- and an overly inflated view of the education system they have created.

I ask, why have our elected government leaders been so slow to listen to the people and hear their feedback on such important matters as the education of their precious children?  Is it so hard to hold a dialogue session to hear the feedback of homeschoolers, stakeholders in this CE law they have created, to see if things are working as they should (for the good of the populace, idealistically speaking) or do things need tweaking? The last “interest-group” meeting the MOE had with the homeschooling community was in the late 1990s during Mr. Teo Chee Hean’s administration (ONE DECADE and a half ago), before the CE Act was imposed as law. Since then, no less than 6 batches of homeschoolers have undergone the PSLE exercise. Many issues have arisen since then. When will the elected Government bend their ear (as promised during the last elections when they were desperate to convince the voters that indeed, they are serving The People), when will they bend their ear to listen to this community of good, faithful Singaporeans?

It is high time! It is long overdue!

Why are good Singaporean families losing their freedoms to do as their consciences dictate for their own flesh and blood? Or do they have to relocate from their homes to other countries, as several homeschooling families have done?







  1. Agreed with you.I was a full time homemaker wanted to home schooling my son when he was P2 but because I have Advance Diploma in Business only so I was rejected and the lady who answer the call was so rude.
    As long as our children are able to cope and passed Psle ,I don’t see why MOE stop us from home schooling. The School curriculum were terrible.No English text book, basic Math and Science text book and how do they expect our little ones to revise.Everyone has to pay for tuition fees and add up is same as Internatiobal school fee.But again MOE doesn’t allowed local to study Int’ school.Primary children have no childhood no life ,school from 7:30am-1:30pm then con’t supplementary lesson or CCA till 4+pm.
    Gov emphasis on Education ,streaming at P5 ,O levels ,A levels but local University most local can’t get in and Polytechnic graduate have no place to go for Uni must take private or overseas degree.Why is our Gov emphasis on education half way.They should build more Universities so those who can’t get in Top 4 Unis still have other choices.
    Force the Primary to study hard and streaming for Psle but half way thru dun bother (bo chap) if can’t get in Local Uni how.Then why not let young ones study without stress, why need streaming and parent have to force and stress to put the children for tuition.2 Foundation subjects = EM3 ,and has to take easy PSLE and go to Normal Technical ,then why said no EM3?
    I dislike S’pore education so muc that I hope to migrate for the sake of my children and future.
    I will send my children overseas and ask them apply PR for the sake of thy children in future.
    If S’pore education system can change it will be a nice country to live.But right now is stressful to all the children by judging them now as some are late bloomers.Why can’t S’pore be just like normal countries and streaming in O level not at P5.I don’t see tuition center in Australia but S’pore tuition center are sucking parents money.
    Who is the minister who set all these rules.
    Last X my time was P7 and P8 if Psle no good or failed ,has to stay back retake which I feel is good.Atleast children get a chance to improve, take Psle and go Normal stream.Why have simple Psle and Normal Technical??

  2. Ya also the children health issue, my son wakes up at 5:45am, breakfast at 6am, recess at 9:20am and lunch at 2:30pm.12pm has 5-10mins little bites.But lunch at 2:30pm is so u healthy and some take sch bus 3pm then lunch.Sch time 7:20-1:30pm and 2pm on 1 of weekday.
    CCA starts 45 mins after dismissal, queue eat ,15mins how to digest food? Ye has to go for sports CCA.
    For Secondary, 7:30am to 11 pm recess and dismissal at 2:30pm.So 6am breakfast till 5hrs then break time and very late lunch after that has supplementary lessons. Ministers dun have young children ,Suka Suka set this that rules.By the time back home already dinner time and do homework.So sleep less than 8hrs/day.Children lack of sleep too ,how are they going to focus in class! Singapore education are terrible.So envy those parent can home schooling thy children.

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