In a flurry of decisions made, teachers now have to pay for their own parking in order to uphold “the value of self-discipline”, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.
He also added in a Facebook post that, “Charging for parking, therefore, is primarily a decision borne out of duty. But this duty does not diminish our appreciation of teachers and educators”.
Similarly, in response to media queries, the Ministry of Education also added that it has “become increasingly clear that the current treatment of allowing school staff to park for free constitutes a taxable benefit”.
However, Marine Parade GRC Member of Parliament Seah Kian Peng spoke out for teachers and said that the use of the clean wage argument to justify imposing parking charges at all schools is “laughable and an insult” to teachers.
MP Seah also said that, while there might be a need to regulate the responsible use of funds, fiscal prudence and good procurement, “equally, we ought to be having a conversation about reciprocity, trust and relationships”.
Needless to say, most people were incensed.
Many felt that the value that teachers bring to the jobs and to the education of students more than outweighs a trivial issue such as paying for parking, and more so within the compound of the school itself.
Mdm Vivian Loh, a former teacher at Anderson Junior College spoke up about the issue and said, “I guess they will never grasp that it isn’t so much about charging for parking as it is an affront to our humanity. The real currency teachers want are good grades and gratitude. This quibbling about money has sullied that ethos”.
Mr Matt MQ also said, “As an educator and having worked with MOE for 15 years, I must say I am very disappointed with this latest stipulation”.
He continued, “Is this the kind of money driven and materialistic society we want our children to be brought up in?
The QUESTION remains: WHAT MESSAGE ARE WE SENDING TO OUR PUBLIC SERVANTS AND THE NEXT GENERATION when it is all about money, costs, revenue at the people’s expense?”
The issue in general also brought about a debate as to which jobs were more noble or requiring more dedication and effort than others, and therefore more deserving.
Netizen Mr Kross Seah said, “MP and PA should not be given free parking as it is also a “hidden perk” which most of the time we are unable to determine if they are really performing duty or enjoying free parking for their self interest”.
Another, Mr Desmond Cheng said, “Feel sorry for the Teachers. If they want to implement this it should be across all Govt bodies including army camps, ministers, MP etc. Why is RC members allowed free parking then??”
A possible solution to this issue could be to leave parking charges up to each school to decide, instead of the Ministry of Education stepping in to standardise it across the board. This would be in line with how parking charges for most workplaces differ from company to company. Have it be an internal issue (or non-issue), instead of an external one.