Education Minister Ong Ye Kung will talk about the PSLE certificate issue in Parliament next year. The minister said this in response to a petition that was sent to the Ministry of Education (MOE) urging the ministry to reconsider its policy on withholding original PSLE results slips from students whose parents have defaulted on paying school fees.
The petition to delink PSLE certificates from parental arrears garnered a total of 1236 signatories from people within and outside of Singapore as of 10 December 2019. It was prompted by a story that political activist Gilbert Goh shared on 25 November about a student whose original PSLE results slip was withheld because her parents hadn’t paid S$265 in school fees.
This sparked a conversation of this particular MOE policy which the ministry said was a “long-standing practice” that is not based on the intention of “recovering the money”. Mr Goh described it as “rubbing salt into the wound of poverty”, saying that “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”
Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Chairman Dr Paul Tambyah weighed in as well, asking if the MOE really believes that it is right to “punish or humiliate children for the failings of their parents”.
Following this, Mr Goh wrote a letter to the Minister of Education – published on his website Transitioning.org – saying that a change in approach is necessary when it comes to handing cases of students with unpaid school fees.
He said, “They need a gentle nudge, a loving compassionate touch to show that the school is also caring out than the current institutional trend of coldness and aloofness when it comes to handling families living in poverty.”
The petition which was first hosted on Change.org to collect signatures, was then sent to the Minister and various other MOE officials on 11 December, urged MOE to rethink this policy.
Today (18 December), local artist, Terence Tan shared on his page the Minister’s response to the petition.
Mr Ong said in his reply to the signatories of the petition that he “doesn’t agree with the views of some people that schools and teachers are uncaring and unfeeling”, adding that educational institutions and educators are “on the frontline doing their utmost” and often go out of their way to help students from vulnerable backgrounds.
He also noted that he holds a different view from people who think that applying for financial assistance is “difficult and demeaning”. He said, “All government schemes will need some form filling, which cannot be helped. It is not a difficult form to fill, and school staff often help to fill up the forms for parents.”
Finally, the minister said that he also does “not have the sense that children who did not get the original results slip were humiliated”. He added that the schools were sensitive about the situation and that the students received their results like everyone else and are able to apply for secondary school and progress with their peers.
“But I cannot rule out the odd cases, and we do have to question is this practice works at all in urging parents to do a small part in paying some miscellaneous fees”, he added.
“So the practice should be reviewed. I will provide my response in parliament in the new year,” concluded Mr Ong.