SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Education (MOE) will complete a review of the practice of withholding original results slips for students with unpaid school fees at all levels by the end of this year.
The review will be completed before this year’s PSLE results are released. The results are typically released in November.
In a written reply to several parliamentary questions, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung said on Monday (6 January), “Every year, about 2 per cent of cohort who are still accumulating arrears, and did not apply for MOE financial assistance, are affected.” For 2019, the number of affected students was 645.
For primary schools, the minister pointed out that the monthly cash payment is $6.50 for miscellaneous fees and another $6.50 which is payable by Edusave. Hence, out of pocket expenses on fees is $6.50.
Said Ong, “The amount is low because school education is highly subsidised. But a small payment is still required, to demonstrate that as parents and families, we have a part to play.
“In fact, most families take this payment very seriously, and it inculcates in children the value of commitment and playing our part, however small,” he added.
Ong was responding to MPs Teo Ho Pin and Lim Biow Chuan, who asked if MOE would review its practice of withholding original results slips.
The issue came into the public spotlight in November last year, after activist Gilbert Goh and former presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian took to Facebook to write about an unnamed student, whose original PSLE results slip was withheld as her parents had accumulated $156 in unpaid school fees.
In his written reply to the two MPs, Ong said schools and teachers often reach out to students from vulnerable families by paying them home visits and bringing the children to schools. Parents too can ask for help if they need financial aid, he said.
“There is a view that it is difficult to apply for financial assistance in school. However, the application process is not difficult. When families need assistance, teachers and staff would help in filling up the forms,” said Ong.
MOE’s Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) extends beyond school and miscellaneous fees to include meals, uniforms, textbooks and transport, Ong noted.
“Further, if parents produce a ComCare approval letter, MOE FAS will be automatically granted without the need for any further supporting documents. If one child is granted the MOE FAS, the child’s siblings in our schools will automatically benefit from FAS too,” he added.
On the review of the practice of withholding original results slips, Ong said, “I accept the feedback that the child who receives a copy of his results slip instead of the original may feel awkward or embarrassed, through no fault of his. We do not want the children to bear responsibility for the arrears accumulated by their parents.”
Referring to the case of the student which triggered public attention on the issue last year, Ong said the school had given the child’s parents the FAS application form and brochure, but they did not apply.
“On the day of the PSLE results, she had received her results in the same way as everyone else, except hers was a copy. Teachers did not observe her to feel embarrassed or emotionally affected. She has since been successfully placed in a secondary school of her choice near her home. The parents have submitted the FAS form, and she is receiving assistance,” Ong wrote.
Other Singapore stories: