By Leong Sze Hian

Further to my article “More subsidies for lower-income students?” (theonlinecitizen, Oct 23), I was puzzled by the additional statistics which the editors of theonlinecitizen had added to my article – that the percentage of students on subsidies was only about 7.8 per cent of the estimated total student population in the independent schools (2,700 divided by 34,769).

34% of households meet the subsidy criteria?

According to the Department of Statistics, the average monthly household income from work in 2012 was $6,183 at the 31st to 40th percentage.

Since the subsidy qualification criteria is up to household income of $6,000, does it mean that the percentage in the resident households population that may qualify for the subsidy is around the 34th percentile – that is about 34 per cent of all resident households.

Even adjust for foreigners, can’t be so low?

Even if we make an adjustment for foreign and PR students, how can the percentage that qualified for the subsidies be so low – at 7.8 per cent?

Mostly richer students?

Could it be that the proportion of richer students from households with income above $6,000 are much more in the independent schools, relative to the total household income population?

Or could it be that the proportion of foreign and PR students may be very high?

Low academics – high subsidy student population?

I would also like to thank professor Paul Tambyah for his posting asking as to what are the number of students on subsidies in independent schools like Northlight and the Sports School?

I volunteered to teach a money programme at Northlight and was given the understanding that about 70 per cent of the students are on financial assistance. When I accompanied the students to the canteen during the breaks – there were 2 queues – one for those paying with cash and one for those with coupons (financial assistance).

If indeed there is such a high proportion of students who are subsidised at schools which generally enrol students with relatively lower academic achievement – then, does it mean that those schools with relatively high academic achievement students may have a disproportionately high number of students from richer families?

Elitist or not,  let the numbers do the talking

Perhaps if we are given the above statistics of the independent schools for,

  • Proportion of richer students from households with income above $6,000.
  • Proportion of foreign and PR students.
  • Number of students on subsidies in independent schools like Northlight and the Sports School.

May we may be able to settle the question as to whether our education system has become more elitist, once and for all?

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