Changes to P1 registration: Are you likely to face balloting at the school of your choice?

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Singapore

Publishing organisation: The Straits Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-06-29

Language: English

Authors: Charlene Chua (Digital graphics journalist)
Lee Pei Jie (Digital graphics designer)
Ng Wei Kai (Journalist, Education desk)
Rebecca Pazos (Data visualisation editor)
Tin May Linn (Data visualisation developer)


The Straits Times digital graphics team is a multi-disciplinary team focused on creating high-quality data-driven and visuals projects for editorial. Our audience are mostly Singaporeans from all walks of life, so we balance innovation and functionality for all of our projects.

Project description:

In Singapore, the application for a spot in your preferred primary school is a competitve one. It depends on how popular your selected school is and how many spots there are available in that year. This process is refered to as the p1 registration system.

This project is a visual explainer of the recent changes to the p1 registration system. It aims to help readers understand how that might affect their chances of ballotting, and to simulate what are the chances of the selected primary school going to a ballot in that year.

Impact reached:

The P1 registration system is not only competitve, but it is also complex. With the new changes to the system, another layer of complexity is added. Using a scrollytelling format, we break down the process step-by-step, to help readers understand how the changes affect their chances of ballotting. This information would be useful for parents to decide which school to pick for their child.

Techniques/technologies used:

We used a scrolly format as it was suitable to explain the changes in the p1 registration system in a progressive, step by step, manner. To highlight certain points, we added simple transitions such as highlights and animations to make it more dynamic. We also inserted mini bar charts to show the number of applicants versus number of vacancies in the scrolly cards, to aid our visual explanation of how the system works.

Context about the project:

The hardest part was structuring the scrolly, to explain how a particular school would have been oversubscribed in the old system versus the new system. We also needed to find a way to condense the infomation as much as possible in order not to make the scrolly too long.

Another part we had to look into was making sure the simulation segment was up to date with the new rules to the system. For the simulation, we repurposed the code from a similar project we did the previous year, where we built a machine learning model that predicts the number of applicants by school and by phase, given the number of vacancies in that phase.

However, this model was based off data from 16 years of P1 registration exercises in the past, which were all using rules of the old system. We had a discussion amongst ourselves on whether to keep the segment, and decided that it still provides value to the readers, and having the historical numbers were also helpful. Hence, instead of giving precise numbers like “”There is a 68% chance it will go into balloting.””, we re-worded it to something more generic like “”There is slight/high chance it will go into balloting.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

The P1 registration exercise is usually covered quite a bit in a typical text/print story, but I think we really added value for readers with our interactive. With our scrolly explainer and simulation model, we were able to go beyond what could be told, shown, and experienced with just a text story. I think we should continue exploring more ways of storytelling especially for topics like these.

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