The “long-standing practice” of withholding the original copy of a student’s Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results slip is not based on the intention of “recovering the money”, said the Ministry of Education (MOE).
MOE told Yahoo! News Singapore on Tue evening (26 Nov) in response to queries that the real aim of doing so “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”.
The Ministry also told Yahoo! News Singapore that it subsidises nearly S$12,000 annually for each primary school student, and that each student co-pays “only S$13 of miscellaneous fees per month”.
“Further, students from lower-income families can apply for financial assistance that covers their miscellaneous fees, uniforms, textbooks, transport and school meals. If it is about money then the easier solution would be to reduce subsidies and financial assistance,” said the ministry.
MOE’s statement was made in response to a case brought up by political activist Gilbert Goh and former presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian on Facebook earlier this week about a student — whose identity was not revealed — whose original PSLE results slip was withheld, as her parents had incurred S$156 in unpaid school fees.
The ministry noted that the parents of the primary school student in question had not settled the miscellaneous school fees for two years in spite of several reminders. Additionally, her parents had not applied for any financial assistance either from MOE or the school, which the ministry said “would have covered all the costs”.
MOE added that the primary school student “will still receive a copy of the results”, and “can still apply for secondary schools and will progress like all students”, in response to Goh’s assertion that a student’s “actual” or original copy of their PSLE results will be required for admission into secondary school.
The ministry also accused Tan and Goh of “trying to call into question the intention and values of the MOE” with their posts, Yahoo! News Singapore reported.
“Our educators, parents and members of public will have to decide whether the MOE’s action is fair and educationally sound, and what the lesson of this teachable moment for our children is,” said the ministry.
Withdrawing original copy of PSLE results an act of “rubbing salt into the wound of poverty”: Political activist Gilbert Goh
Calling the denial of the original copy an act of “rubbing salt into the wound of poverty”, Goh in his Facebook post on Mon evening said that he wondered “how many poor Singaporean students could not get hold of their actual PSLE report card when they owed school fees due to their adverse family situation”.
“Moreover, it is also not alot of money owed but the shame in getting a photostated copy of the PSLE result slip must have weighed heavily on the shoulders of those who are poor and needy when most of their peers have the genuine ones,” he added.
“We spent tens of millions annually on scholarship and bursaries for foreigner students but yet there is apparent neglect to care for our own!” Goh alleged, adding: “Shame on you MOE!”
Commenting on the student’s situation, Goh said that “a Good Samaritan paid for her school fee”, and as a result, the student had “managed to acquire the actual PSLE certificate recently which she will need to produce when applying for admission into a secondary school”.
Quoting Goh’s post, Tan added that the situation “is very bad”, and that “most schools are run by principals from elite backgrounds who are too focused on the KPIs from MOE”.
Some commenters were appalled by the school’s withdrawing of needy primary school students’ original copies of their PSLE results:
Other commenters, however, suggested that MOE’s rationale was not completely unfounded, as public school fees are already highly subsidised, and that parents could always seek assistance if they struggle with financial difficulties instead of allowing the fees to accumulate:
One commenter highlighted that contrary to the common assertion that the family of the student in question is financially irresponsible, the family was “once a middle income family” that had “their business turned overnight” and faced other major setbacks, which led to their plight — and in spite of that, the family is keen on trying to settle the child’s school fees themselves despite offers from others to help them pay the outstanding fees:
Not every struggling family qualifies for financial assistance, some schools decide to allow needy students to receive original copy of PSLE results despite unpaid fees: Gilbert Goh shares account of parent struggling to pay children’s primary school fees
Following MOE’s response, Goh on Wed (27 Nov) shared the account of a parent of two primary school students — one in Primary One and the other in Primary Six — who said that her children’s school “didn’t say anything during the collection” of her son’s PSLE results.
The parent, who was identified as Hazellina, expressed her gratitude to the principal of Boon Lay Garden Primary School “for not sticking with MOE rules” and allowing a needy student like her son “to receive the true copy of his PSLE result” instead of just issuing a photocopy, despite the unpaid fees.
She also thanked “generous donors who came forward in great numbers to help out those who are needy” for paying her children’s school fees.
Noting that her application for the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) was not approved, Mdm Hazellina said that in contrast to the S$2,750 gross income threshold for FAS, she and her husband have basic nett incomes — before CPF deduction — of S$1,363 and S$1,400 to S$1,500 nett respectively.
“I stay in a 4-rm flat which I just bought about a year ago as my rental flat rent was $338 and we have no choice cos HDB says we have to buy as our CPF is enough to buy.
“Even after a year, our house is still without any bed or wardrobe and we sleep using mattress as our pay mostly goes to paying bills, living expenses and transportation and loans for our kitchen cabinet,” she added.