Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Paul Tambyah has weighed in on MOE’s “long-standing” practice of withholding examination results slips from students over fee arrears after the practice drew backlash this week.
MOE’s defense of the practice of withholding results slips from pupils came in response to socio-political activist Gilbert Goh’s 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.
Revealing that 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, Mr Goh said on Monday (25 Nov) that the student would need the PSLE “certificate” to apply for secondary school admission.
Asserting that some students “fall through the cracks” despite MOE doing its “level best to assist all needy students,” Mr Goh said that withholding the original PSLE results slips rubs “salt into the wound of poverty” and added that the “shame” in getting a photocopy of the results slip “weighed heavily on the shoulders of those who are poor and needy.”
Defending the practice of withholding original results slips due to fee arrears, MOE said on Tuesday (26 Nov) that the student can still progress to secondary school using the photocopy of the results slip.
Revealing 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 asserted that the issue was “not about recovering the money”.
Explaining 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 that its priority is to “ensure that students grow and can fulfil their potential” and that it believes financial circumstances should not be allowed to “become an impediment” to a student’s progress.
Asserting that “the authors of the viral posts are trying to call into question the intention and values of MOE,” the ministry concluded: “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.”
Following the release of MOE’s statement, Mr Goh continued to highlight more cases of students who were unable to receive their original results slips due to their family’s financial situations and helped raise funds to pay off the fee arrears that the needy children had incurred.
Amid the heightening backlash against MOE’s “long-standing practice,” SDP chairman Dr Paul Tambyah has come out to criticise the practice and has asked whether MOE really believes its fair to humiliate children for their parents’ problems.
In a Facebook post published on Thursday (28 Nov), Dr Tambyah wrote: “Does MOE really believe that it is right to punish or humiliate children for the failings of their parents? This is the same ministry which provides $238 million a year in scholarships and tuition grants for foreigners in Singapore.”
Referring to MOE’s words that “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,” Dr Tambyah asked:
“Yes indeed. Do we want a system where children are penalized for their parents’ problems or one where every child has an equal opportunity to get an original certificate and by extension a chance to succeed?”
He added that Singapore really needs the SDP in Parliament so party members can “ask the hard questions and help build a democratic society based on justice and equality.”