SINGAPORE: The practice of withholding original result slips over unpaid school fees will be reviewed for all levels, said Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung on Monday (Jan 6).
In a written response to several parliamentary questions on the matter, Mr Ong said that the education ministry will review the practice “while continuing to underscore the responsibilities of families to pay a small miscellaneous fee”.
The topic has been in the spotlight since November, after the case of a student receiving only a photocopy of her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results slip because of S$156 in unpaid fees was circulated on social media.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) later responded to media queries to say that this was a longstanding practice, and that the student's parents had failed to pay miscellaneous fees for two years despite several reminders.
In his written response to parliamentary questions on Monday, Mr Ong said that the current practice may not be “fully effective” in encouraging parents to pay miscellaneous fees.
The review will be completed before the release of this year’s PSLE results.
READ: MOE clarifies why student's original PSLE results slip was withheld after Facebook posts claimed she needed it for admissions
CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR PARENTS' ARREARS
Member of Parliament Dr Teo Ho Pin posed a question on the number of graduate certificates that have been withheld over the last three years.
In his written response, Mr Ong said that an average of 2 per cent of each Primary Six cohort who do not receive financial assistance from MOE have arrears, and are affected by the practice.
There were 645 such students in 2019, Mr Ong added.
Acknowledging feedback that children who receive only a photocopy of their results slip may feel awkward and embarrassed, Mr Ong said: “We do not want the children to bear responsibility for the arrears accumulated by their parents.”
However, he also stressed that most families take the payment of school fees seriously, and this would inculcate in children “the value of commitment and playing our part, however small”.
EDUCATION IS HIGHLY SUBSIDISED
“The amount is low because school education is highly subsidised. But a small payment is still required, to demonstrate that as parents and families, we have a part to play,” said Mr Ong.
The monthly cash payment for primary schools is S$6.50 for miscellaneous fees, with another S$6.50 that is payable by Edusave.
In December, Mr Ong had mentioned that the practice of withholding certificates should be reviewed in an email response to Mr Terence Tan, who had started an online petition for MOE to do so.
“We do have to question if this practice works at all in urging parents to do a small part in paying some miscellaneous fees. So the practice should be reviewed,” said Mr Ong in his email.
He also said that he did not sense that students who did not get their original result slips were humiliated, adding that schools “were sensitive about it”.
Mr Tan started the petition after a Facebook post by activist Gilbert Goh on Nov 25, 2019 went viral.
In his post, Mr Goh wrote about a student who could not collect the original copy of her PSLE results slip because she owed S$156 in school fees.
In his written reply on Monday, Mr Ong said that he has followed up with the student in the post.
The student's school had previously reached out to her parents and gave them an application form for MOE’s Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), but the parents did not apply, said Mr Ong.
Teachers also did not observe that she felt embarrassed or emotionally affected by receiving only a copy of her results slip on the day PSLE results were released, he added.
The student has since been placed in a secondary school of her choice near her home, said Mr Ong. Her parents have also submitted the FAS form, and the student is receiving assistance.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article reported Education Minister Ong Ye Kung's comments that the review will be completed before the release of next year’s PSLE results. MOE has clarified that the review will instead be completed before the release of the results this year.