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Surge of interest in Hokkien clan group July 14, 2006

Posted by kentneo in General.
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Sep 25, 2006
Surge of interest in Hokkien clan group
Big increase in membership partly because of popular clan-run schools

By Jane Ng
THE Hokkien Huay Kuan has seen a threefold increase in membership compared to about a decade ago, helped in part by parents seeking to enrol their children into popular clan-run schools.

In 1995, the clan association, with popular schools like Tao Nan and Ai Tong under its charge, had 103 new members. It went up to 226 in 2000 and last year, 383 joined its ranks.

Anecdotal accounts suggest many are professionals in their early 30s with at least one child about to enter Primary 1, although a spokesman for the association said they have done no research to find out why members join.

‘We do not discount the possibility that some parents might see membership of the Huay Kuan merely as a means to this end,’ she conceded.

In fact, in a popular online discussion forum – singaporemotherhood.com – mothers with children as young as one or two years old are looking for existing members to support their application.

The entrance fee to join the clan is $500.

Members of the clan are eligible for Phase 2B of Primary 1 registration in its affiliated schools if their application is approved by the clan.

This phase is also for children of parents who have volunteered at the school or affiliated church, or are endorsed as an active community leader.

As places in popular primary schools are often over-subscribed, parents see these volunteering opportunities in the clan as a way to improve their child’s chances of securing a place during registration.

The Hokkien Huay Kuan, however, sees the surge in membership as a positive trend, because ‘the real challenge for the Huay Kuan…is how we retain such members or convert such sleeping members into active ones’.

‘And the aim is to organise more diverse activities for our members to engage them and increase their participation,’ said the spokesman.

One such ‘convert’ is general practitioner Chua Thiam Eng, who joined the Hokkien Huay Kuan three years ago because he wanted to help his son gain priority for entry into the primary school of his choice, Tao Nan School.

Today, the 37-year-old father of three boys not only enjoys its activities but is also the clan’s youngest council member.

Dr Chua is an elected council member involved in the social service committee and heads the clan’s youth group.

On his conversion, he said: ‘I enjoy clan work because it’s a break from my routine clinic work. It’s also a good chance to know people from outside my social circle and do something meaningful.’

The surge in members may be unique to the Hokkien Huay Kuan, as checks with other clans and groups like the Singapore Buddhist Federation, and churches like the Presbyterian Church, show their membership figures have remained steady.

At the Anglican Church of Singapore, members must be baptised and have attended a church preparation course. Its affiliated schools include St Andrew’s Junior, St Hilda’s and St Margaret’s Primary.

It was a similar situation at the Methodist Church, which has six primary schools under its charge, including popular ones like Anglo-Chinese Primary and Methodist Girls’ School.

As the church’s education secretary, Mrs Tang Poh Kim, put it: ‘Membership of our church

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