A member of the public Mr K Ramakrishnan wrote to ST Forum today (30 Nov) condemning the Ministry of Education (MOE) for being cruel to kids for withholding back their PSLE results.
The incident came to light after social activist Gilbert Goh brought it up on his Facebook page, highlighting how MOE withheld the original PSLE result slip after a student failed to pay the outstanding school fees owed to her primary school. Apparently, her parents had incurred $156 in unpaid school fees over 2 years. Eventually, a kind member of the public paid the school fees for the student so that she can get her original copy of PSLE result slip.
MOE in its defence, said that it is their “long-standing practice” of withholding the original copy of a student’s PSLE result slip if school fees are not paid. It said 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”.
“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,” it added. MOE added that the student “will still receive a copy of the results”, and “can still apply for secondary schools and will progress like all students”.
Instead of thanking Mr Goh of bringing to their attention of a low income family who has fallen through the crack of the system, MOE accused him of “trying to call into question the intention and values of the MOE” with his Facebook post.
MOE said, “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.”
MOE misses the forest for the trees
In his forum letter, Mr Ramakrishnan opined that MOE has really “missed the forest for the trees” in its attempt to defend itself publicly.
“Holding back the original Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results slip and handing the child a photocopy instead due to unpaid school fees is cruel,” said Mr Ramakrishnan.
“For these young pupils, the PSLE results day is momentous.”
Mr Ramakrishnan wondered if there were other ways to persuade the parents to pay up.
“Because of the parents’ tardiness, the affected children are left holding a photocopy of their results slip in the presence of their classmates, and feeling embarrassed,” he added.
“Many Singaporeans look to MOE as the bastion of principles, and the teacher and imparter of positive values. It has fallen short this time.
MOE wrong in many ways to penalize kids
Another member of public, Steve Yong Kui Sen, also wrote to the media to condemn MOE’s actions. Mr Yong wrote to TodayOnline on Thu (28 Nov) saying that he was appalled to read MOE’s official explanation.
“MOE said that the policy was not about recovering money, but about the principle of Singaporeans fulfilling their obligation to pay a small fee for heavily subsidised education,” Mr Yong wrote. “This smacks of a transactional approach with little consideration for the possible immediate and long-term impact on the children involved.”
He then asked a series of questions:
“Why is MOE punishing an innocent child for his or her parent’s inability to pay fees?”
“Has MOE considered the emotions and sense of loss that the child has to face in receiving a different results slip from his or her schoolmates’?”
“Is that not akin to shaming the innocent child in front of his or her schoolmates over a matter beyond his or her control?”
“Is this the kind of education system and values that we want our young children to grow up with and believe in?”
“And how does withholding the original results slip help in making parents pay overdue fees when it is not necessary for admission into secondary school?”
Mr Yong opined that while MOE has the right to go after parents who do not pay their children’s school fees, it should not penalise innocent children, especially in front of his other classmates.
It is wrong in many ways, Mr Yong concluded.