SINGAPORE — The decision to withhold the original copy of a student's Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results slip due to unpaid school fees was not motivated by the aim of "recovering the money", said the Ministry of Education (MOE) late on Tuesday (26 November).
In reply to queries from Yahoo News Singapore, the MOE said the withholding of results slips for non-fee payment has been a “long-standing practice”. While education is almost fully publicly funded with financial assistance readily available to lower-income families, everyone should still strive to pay “a small fee”, it added.
The ministry was responding to Facebook posts by activist Gilbert Goh and former presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian who had both written about an unnamed student whose original PSLE results slip was withheld as her parents had incurred accumulated $156 in unpaid school fees.
Goh’s post on Monday said the student received only a photocopy of her PSLE results slip, an act he described as “rubbing salt in the wound of poverty”. He also said that the student would need the original results slip to apply for admission to a secondary school – a misconception that the MOE dispelled it its response.
“We spent tens of millions annually on scholarship and bursaries for foreigner students but yet there is apparent neglect to care for our own! Shame on you MOE!” Goh added in his post, which included photos of the photocopied results slip and a document showing the amount owed by the student’s parents.
Goh, who is president of the Transitioning – Unemployment Support Service non-profit group, also wrote that a Good Samaritan had later helped to pay the student’s outstanding fees. As of 1am on Wednesday, the post had received nearly 3,000 shares.
In separate posts on his Facebook page, Goh also shared at least four other alleged cases of students who were unable to receive their PSLE and N-Level results due to unpaid school fees along with the news of other Good Samaritans pitching in to help.
Meanwhile, Tan replicated Goh’s lamentations in his own post, adding his view that “most schools are run by principals from elite backgrounds who are too focused on the KPIs from MOE”. Tan’s post received 75 shares.
Student can still apply for secondary schools
In its response, the MOE noted that the ministry funds up to $12,000 per year for each primary school student and that each student co-pays “only $13 of miscellaneous fees per month”.
“Further, students from lower-income families can apply for financial assistance that covers their miscellaneous fees, uniforms, textbooks, transport, and school meals. If it is about money then the easier solution would be to reduce subsidies and financial assistance,” said the ministry.
It noted that the withholding of PSLE original results slip is about the need for everyone to play a part in “paying a small fee, and it is not right to ignore that obligation, however small it is”.
“We hope parents support us in reinforcing this message,” the MOE added.
With regard to the case raised by Goh and Tan, the ministry said that the student’s parents had not paid the miscellaneous fees for two years despite several reminders and had also not applied for the MOE or school-based financial assistance, which “would have covered all the costs”.
“The child will still receive a copy of the results, just not the original results slip, and she can still apply for secondary schools and will progress like all students,” said the MOE.
The ministry also accused Tan and Goh of “trying to call into question the intention and values of the MOE” with their posts.
“Our educators, parents and members of public will have to decide whether the MOE’s action is fair and educationally sound, and what the lesson of this teachable moment for our children is,” said the ministry.
The MOE did not respond to Yahoo News Singapore’s query on how many students each year are unable to receive their original PSLE results slips due to financial reasons.
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