Another Singaporean who was once in a dire financial situation has come forward to share how his exam results slip was withheld from him due to unpaid school fees, in the wake of the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) explanation that withholding original exam result slips from students with fee arrears is “a long-standing practice”.
MOE’s defense of this practice came in response to a viral Facebook post describing the plight of a needy student who was not able to collect her PSLE result slip due to unpaid school fees. The student had only been given a photocopy of her PSLE results slip since she had a backlog of unpaid school fees amounting to S$156 due to her family’s financial situation.
Defending the practice of withholding original results slips due to fee arrears, MOE revealed on Tuesday (26 Nov) that the student’s family did not pay miscellaneous fees for two years despite several reminders and did not apply for MOE or school-based financial assistance which would have covered all the costs.
MOE explained that the student can still progress to secondary school using the photocopy of the results slip and asserted that the issue was “not about recovering the money”.
Pointing out that the funding for each primary school student amounts to about S$12,000 each year and that students are expected to co-pay S$13 of miscellaneous fees every month, MOE said that it would be easier to reduce subsidies and financial assistance if the issue was about money.
Instead, it said: “MOE’s consideration stems from the underlying principle that notwithstanding the fact that the cost of education is almost entirely publicly funded, we should still play our 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 ministry added: “Our educators, parents and members of (the) public will have to decide whether MOE’s action is fair and educationally sound, and what the lesson of this teachable moment for our children is.”
While some netizens asserted that children should not be penalised and humiliated for their parents’ financial circumstances, others sided with MOE and blamed the student’s parents for falling behind on school payments.
In response to the netizens who blamed needy parents for being irresponsible and not looking for help, Facebook user Alhidir Syah Akim shared his own experience and revealed that his N or O level results slip was also withheld from him due to fee arrears.
Alhidir shared that his now-deceased mother had been diagnosed with cancer about a year or so before the exams. Alhidir’s father, who had to take time off work to take his wife for constant treatments and hospital visits, was eventually laid off from his job.
Revealing that his school did not inform his parents directly of the accumulating backlog of fees, Alhidir said that his form teacher reminded him of the unpaid fees but the teenager “didn’t have the heart to let my parents know about it” with everything that was going on with his parents.
Alhidir recounted: “I figured that my parents, especially my dad was trying to take things 1 day at a time. I only knew of the practice, when my form teacher told me to head to the general office to collect my cert/results and only then was I informed that they wouldn’t release till the fees are paid up.”
The netizen, who is now a parent himself, added: “I cant remember how exactly I felt, but I can only imagine what some of the children had to go through now. To those who commented about how some parents are irresponsible and didn’t look for help, I hope you take a step back and give some thought about it first.”