The Compulsory Education Act to make primary school education compulsory for all children in Singapore was passed by Parliament on 9 October 2000 and came into effect on 1 January 2003.
The idea to introduce compulsory education was brought up in October 1999 by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong following concerns raised in Parliament over children who had missed out on school and were thus not privy to the same head start in life as their peers. At the time, it was reported that 1,500 children, or about 3 percent of the age cohort, were not enrolled in national primary schools.
A Committee on Compulsory Education (CCE), headed by then Senior Minister of State for Education, Aline Wong, was formed in December to consider whether compulsory education should be introduced and what form it should take.
In its report, the CCE recommended the introduction of compulsory education (CE), which it defined as education in national schools to prepare children for the knowledge-based economy and nurture a sense of national identity. It proposed that the 6-year primary school education should be made mandatory for all children and that parents would be subjected to penalties, ranging from a fine to imprisonment, should they fail to comply even after a period of counselling and mediation. Exemptions would be made for children attending special needs schools, the six madrasahs, San Yu Adventist School, or those on a home-schooling programme.
The recommendations were accepted and incorporated into the Compulsory Education Act 2000. Under the Act, a child who is a Singapore citizen born after 1 January 1996 was required to attend a national primary school regularly unless they fell into the above exempted categories. Anyone found guilty of non-compliance could be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for a maximum period of 12 months, or both.
1. Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Acts Supplement. (2000, October 27). The Compulsory Education Act 2000 (Act 27 of 2000). Singapore: Government Printers. Call no.: RSING 348.5957 SGGAS; Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Subsidiary Legislation Supplement. (2002, June 15). The Compulsory Education Act (Commencement) Notification, 2002. (S 329/2002, p. 2668). Singapore: Government Printers. Call no.: RSING 348.5957 SGGSLS
2. Government may make schooling compulsory. (1999, October 14). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. The Straits Times, 14 Oct 1999, p. 1.
4. Aline Wong to head new panel. (1999, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Ministry of Education. (2000). Report of the Committee on Compulsory Education in Singapore (p. 23). Singapore: Ministry of Education. Call no.: RSING q370.95957 SIN
6. Ministry of Education, 2000, pp. 23–24.
7. Ministry of Education, 2000, pp. 23–24.
8. Government gazette. Acts Supplement, 27 Oct 2000, p. 532.
9. Government gazette. Acts Supplement, 27 Oct 2000, p. 535.
The information in this article is valid as at Feb 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.