In his two years as a property agent, Mr Sylvester Lee was asked by at least half a dozen parents if they could pay to use a false address to enrol their children in a school of their choice during Primary 1 registration.
He told them “no” every time.
“Their intention is to lease a place for the school to check. They were willing to pay a lot of money just for the address,” Mr Lee, 39, told The New Paper on Jan 29, 2018.
He added that some unreasonable parents were surprised and upset by his rejections.
“But I am not the one who sets the rules or looking to break them.”
The mother, 36, was fined the maximum $5,000 for giving false information to a public servant. Her 39-year-old husband was fined $4,000 for giving a false contact address.
The couple cannot be named to protect the identity of their child.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Shahla Iqbal said that on May 1, 2014, the couple lied to a registration officer at Serangoon Gardens Neighbourhood Police Post that their residential address was in Bishan when they were living in Serangoon Gardens.
The officer proceeded to change their address to Bishan.
On July 30, 2015, the couple registered their child in the school, using a copy of their identity cards with the false address, which was within 1km of the school.
The address gave the child priority for admission under Phase 2C, which is for children with no links to the school.
The child, who secured a place in the school, is still studying there pending the outcome of the case.
In 2015, MOE set a new rule requiring those gaining admission under the home-school distance priority scheme to live at the address for at least 30 months from the start of the registration exercise. Previously there was no specific length of time set.
Of the dozen property agents contacted by TNP, only Mr Lee and another said they were approached by parents wanting to use fake addresses.
The other agent, who declined to be named, said his encounter was about two to three years ago. “Generally people know the rules now, so they don’t call,” he said.
Parents contacted by TNP have condemned those willing to break the rules to get their children into top schools.
One of them, who wanted to be known only as Mr Vincent, said he was not surprised that some parents were resorting to such drastic measures but felt that they were making a grave mistake.
The 49-year-old, whose only daughter started Primary One this year, said of the convicted couple: “If they have to pay only $9,000 for a place in the school and their child isn’t affected, that would be considered cheap.
“They should have to pay the consequences. It was not like they didn’t know the risk they were taking.”
Another parent, Madam Ang Ching Fern, 42, said: “It is not right if you are teaching your children to lie. When they grow up, there could be a lack of trust between them and the parents.”
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said that it views the use of false addresses during the Primary One Registration exercise as a serious matter.
“Where there is reason to believe that a false address may have been used, MOE will refer the case to the police for investigation,” its spokesman said.
MOE said there have been fewer than 10 reported cases in the last 10 years.
“In the meantime, the school will continue to care for and ensure the well-being of the student.”
The child’s mother could have been jailed for up to a year and/or fined up to $5,000, while her husband could have been fined up to $5,000 and jailed up to five years under the National Registration Act.