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School fees for independent schools to be lowered up to 50% for students from low- and middle-income families starting April 2019

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Singapore – At a principal’s appointment ceremony on Thursday (December 27), Education Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that starting April next year, children belonging to families of low to middle-income earners will be given bigger subsidies by independent schools. In some cases, the subsidy can reach up to half of the school fees.

The background

In his opening address, Mr. Ong has launched the movement called “Learn for Life” which has two main initiatives: education as an enabling force and education as an uplifting force. It is the goal of this movement to develop the next generation’s passions, talents, and strengths through an effective education system and to prepare them for a rapidly evolving future.

Under the first initiative, there will be a major shift in how academic performances are assessed and more focus will be placed on inquiry-based or transformative learning.

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The second thrust aims to address the problem of inequality in the country. A way to ensure the country’s social adaptability and mobility are to create equal opportunities for all. According to Mr. Ong, 7.5% of students living in one- to three-room Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats are in the top 20% of the Primary School Leaving Examination. But because of financial capacity, these students cannot enter independent schools even if they wanted to.

Therefore, starting April next year, there will be further reductions to be implemented on school fees for those in the low- and middle-income families.

The computation

School fees for students with a gross household income of less than or equal to S$2,750 will continue to receive a 100% subsidy. Those with a per capita income ranging from S$2,751-S$4,000 will have a subsidy increase of 4%, in other words, they will pay the equivalent of government and government-aided school fees. Students from the next tier of per capita income, S$4,001-S$6,900, will benefit from a 21% increase in school fees subsidy or pay 1.5x the government and government-aided school fees. There will be no change from the current 33% subsidy for those who earn higher.

According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), the current school fees for Government and Government-aided schools cost between S$300 to S$396. So, a student that comes from a middle-income family and paid a yearly S$1,000 in school fees before, will now pay around S$450.

The schools

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The following independent schools will be implementing the reduction in school fees: Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), Hwa Chong Institution, Methodist Girls’ School, Nanyang Girls’ High School, Raffles Girls’ School, Raffles Institution, Singapore Chinese Girls’ School and St Joseph’s Institution. Two specialised independent schools, NUS High School and the School of Science and Technology will also be adopting the changes.

The add-ons

MOE also recently launched the UPLIFT (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce) program which consists of an inter-agency group dedicated in boosting students’ motivation levels and addressing absenteeism and drop-out rates of those coming from disadvantaged households in hopes of giving them better leverage.

There will also be a new UPLIFT Scholarship for Independent Schools which is a cash award amounting to S$800 per year to help with out-of-pocket expenses for those coming from lower income families.

The comments

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The online community is currently showing mixed reactions regarding the announcement of the MOE. Others, such as Zaliha Rashid, are optimistic and hopes that these benefits will not be wasted while a lot are incorporating political and social issues to the initiatives.

Photo: Facebook screengrab

Jolene Yeo makes an in-depth comment on the issue of inequality and how self-worth is not solely taught in the classroom.

Photo: Facebook screengrab

The full opening address can be found here:

https://www.moe.gov.sg/news/speeches/opening-address-by-mr-ong-ye-kung–minister-for-education–at-the-appointment-and-appreciation-ceremony-for-principals

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