Founder of Transitioning.org and social activist Gilbert Goh said that the ultimate goal for Singapore should be free education, and to move away from the withholding of PSLE results slips altogether.
In an exclusive with TISG, he commented on how the Education Ministry plans to complete a review this year, of its practice to withhold result slips when school fees are not paid by November when the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results are released.
He said that Singapore’s existing practice of co-payment of school fees, “however small to inculcate responsibility is a myth, especially if parents are caught in unforeseen circumstances such as a layoff or sickness to the breadwinner”.
Agreeing with Education Minister Ong Ye Kung who acknowledged that his ministry’s current practice “may not be fully effective in urging all parents to pay miscellaneous fees”, Mr Goh said that “the only consolation is as the minister mentioned, only two per cent of the PSLE cohort has this problem of not being able to pay their school fees, amounting to about 650 kids for last year alone”.
As a suggestion for unpaid school fees, Mr Goh said that the Ministry of Education might want to consider sending legal letters “like many other ministries have already done to chase for various unpaid fees or try to waive them totally if the reasons are valid”. However, he added that doing so would mean a lot more legwork done by the social welfare departments.
Adding that he and his team target students or families who fall through the cracks – meaning those who do not quite qualify for the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), yet still find it difficult to afford the school fees, Mr Goh said, “We are concerned that each year 650 PSLE school-leaving kids have issues with their certificate collection and if you multiply that by ten years you have a total of 6500 of our kids having only a photocopy of the PSLE result certificate”.
He added: “We are not even talking about GCE N/O level kids which we foresee have a higher default rate due to the hike in school fee from $13 in primary school to $25 in secondary school per month”.
Mr Goh also raised the issue of foreign students having unpaid school fees. Having been approached by a number who were unable to pay their school fees, he asked, “How will the ministry treat them? We received quite a few from the foreigners who have children studying here without any subsidy…Will they be treated the same? Their fees forgiven?” /TISG