More subsidies for lower-income students?

More subsidies for lower-income students?

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “More subsidies for lower-income students in independent schools” (Today, Oct 23).

It states that “During the NDR, Mr Lee had said that Singapore will continue to have top schools, but these schools must make sure students from low-income backgrounds “are not put off from applying to enter for fear that they cannot afford it”. “We have the schemes; we should enhance them substantially so that anybody who qualifies and wants to attend these top secondary schools can confidently do so,” he said.”

Only 2,700 students get subsidies?

The article reveals that 2,700 students have benefited from the Independent School Bursary (ISB) this year.

We have been told and given the impression that our education system is not elitist, and that lower-income students are not disadvantaged.

The fact now that as I believe – for the first time – the statistics for the number of students under the ISB has been disclosed – 2,700 – may be an indication of how few lower-income students are in the independent schools?

What percentage of students get subsidies?

How many students are there in total in all the independent schools, and what percentage do the 2,700 students represent?

As I understand that there are about 16 independent schools, the below are the estimated enrolment number of the schools.

Independent Schools Estimated enrolment
Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) 2900
Hwa Chong Institution (Secondary & JC) 4000
German European School Singapore 1500
Methodist Girls’ School 2500
Nanyang Girls’ High School 1600
Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary) 1800
Raffles Institution 4000
Raffles Institution (Junior College) 4600
The Chinese High School (Singapore) 4000
Northlight 859
SJI International School 710
St. Joseph’s Institution 1600
School of Science and Technology 800
School of the Arts 1000
Singapore Chinese Girls’ School 2400
Singapore Sports School 500
Total 34769

I believe these 2,700 may be only a rather small proportion of the estimated total student population of 34,769.

Breakdown of lower-income students?

How many of these 2,700 students come from families with household incomes below $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000?

Even with the increased subsidy of 90 per cent for families earning less than $4,000, it may be quite a stretch financially to pay the reduced monthly fees of up to $55 monthly plus other school going pocket expenses for say a family of 4 with a gross monthly income of just $2,000 (net $1,600 after the up to 20 per cent employee CPF contribution).

Retraction of “elitist” retraction?

When Mr Ngiam Tong Dow retracted his recent statement about Ministers being elitist – surely the subject statistics on lower-income students in the independent schools may be the best evidence to retract his retraction – how did our Government allow our education system to evolve to end up with such, arguably “elitist” student statistics?

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