SINGAPORE: The annual bursary amount for pre-university students from lower-income families will be increased from S$900 to S$1,000, part of enhancements to the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Financial Assistance Scheme.
Announcing the enhancements during his Budget speech on Tuesday (Feb 18), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said transport subsidies for all students and school meals subsidies for secondary school students will also be increased.
With these enhancements, MOE’s Financial Assistance Scheme will cost an additional S$9 million per year, increasing the yearly total to S$52 million.
Noting that primary school is free for all Singaporeans and secondary school fees are S$5 a month, Mr Heng said that education in the primary to pre-university school years is “already heavily subsidised”.
“Students pay a few dollars of miscellaneous fees,” he added.
ENHANCED BURSARIES FOR DIPLOMA AND DEGREE HOLDERS
Bursaries for full-time Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students will also be enhanced from the 2020 academic year, Mr Heng announced. Students from households who qualify under the lowest income tier for the bursaries will now receive 100 per cent fee subsidies on top of the cash bursary, he said.
The cash bursary for students from low- and middle-income households will also increase by up to S$200 a year, he added.
This is on top of the enhanced bursaries for diploma and degree holders announced by Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung in August 2019.
More than 33,000 diploma students and 21,000 undergraduates will benefit from the Government’s enhanced bursary scheme announced last year, including students enrolled in ITE, the National Institute of Early Childhood Development, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and LASALLE College of the Arts.
About 30,000 of these students come from families with incomes at the 30th percentile and below. The bursaries would be “heavily weighed towards benefiting” families from the 30th percentile and below, Mr Ong had said in August.
This means that families from the lowest income bracket could pay fees as low as S$150 a year for polytechnics, down from the current S$550. University undergraduates in this bracket would only need to pay S$2,000 a year, compared to the current S$4,200.
The enhanced bursaries will be rolled out from the 2020 academic year. Mr Heng said the cost of bursaries for higher education will increase to S$198 million per year, up from S$148 million per year.
DOUBLING PRE-SCHOOL SPENDING
Mr Heng also noted that pre-school subsidies were significantly enhanced and made available to more families from this year.
In August 2019, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced higher pre-school subsidies and a raised income ceiling of S$12,000, extending the subsidies to more than 60 per cent of households in Singapore.
These measures took effect in January. Families with a gross monthly income of S$3,000 now pay S$3 a month per child at anchor operator pre-schools, as the maximum additional subsidy was increased from S$400 to S$467. This is on top of the S$300 basic subsidy.
“Good education provides a strong foundation for children to grow, realise their aspirations, and continue a journey of lifelong learning,” said Mr Heng.
“We have committed to decisive shifts in the Government’s support for early childhood development. We are determined to give every child, regardless of circumstances, a good start in life.”
He also said that the share of Government-supported pre-school places will also be increased to 80 per cent by around 2025, up from just 50 per cent today.
Adding that the Government is “doubling” its support for children in their pre-school years, Mr Heng said government spending on the early childhood sector will double to over S$2 billion per year within the next few years.
“A good education lays a strong foundation for a better future. This is why this Government has been providing significant education subsidies for each child,” he said.
A Singaporean child will receive more than S$180,000 of education subsidies by the time they turn 16, added Mr Heng, including S$50,000 in government subsidies over five years when they enrol in a full-day childcare programme with an anchor operator.
“This substantial investment is how we maximise every child’s potential, regardless of family circumstances,” he said.
“This is a promise that I, as former education minister and now finance minister, am committed to keep.”