SINGAPORE: More financial aid will be given to lower- and middle-income students in independent schools from April next year.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung announced higher fee subsidies and a new scholarship on Thursday (Dec 27) on the sidelines of the Appointment and Appreciation Ceremony for Principals.
The aim is to ensure students can pursue their aspirations regardless of financial background.
School fees at independent schools cost between S$3,600 and S$6,600 each year, while school fees at Government and Government-aided schools cost between S$300 and S$396, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE).
For about 2,400 students who received the Independent School Bursary this year, the school fees were heavily subsidised.
Come April 2019, the breakdown of the fee subsidies under the bursary scheme will be expanded:
Under this new scheme, students from households with a gross monthly income of more than S$2,750 or per capita income of more than S$690 will pay a multiple of fees for Government and Government-aided Schools, from zero to 1.5 times, depending on household income levels.
For example, a student from a middle-income family who used to pay more than S$1,000 per year, will now pay 1.5 times the fees of Government and Government-aided Schools. This comes up to about S$450 a year.
Previously, students had to pay a percentage of independent school fees.
There will be no change for independent school students in the lowest income tier as they already enjoy a 100 per cent subsidy for school fees.
Students in the highest income tier will also continue to receive a fee subsidy of 33 per cent.
The changes will apply to all eight independent schools: Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), Hwa Chong Institution, Methodist Girls’ School, Nanyang Girls’ High School, Raffles Girls’ School, Raffles Institution, Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, and St Joseph’s Institution.
Two specialised independent schools - NUS High School and the School of Science and Technology are also covered under the bursary.
The School of the Arts and Singapore Sports School are not covered because they offer their own financial assistance schemes.
The initiatives will also extend to eligible students already in the independent schools.
TACKLING PROBLEM OF INEQUALITY
Mr Ong said the initiatives are to help tackle the problem of inequality.
He highlighted the work of inter-agency task force UPLIFT (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Task force), which was set up two months ago to strengthen support for students.
One of the task force's initiative is to address the cost of attending independent schools.
He said some students opt out of popular schools despite being eligible for admission because students and parents from lower income families are worried about out-of-pocket expenses such as equipment for co-curricular activities or student-initiated projects.
“Popular schools, such as certain independent schools, are attracting a greater proportion of students from families with higher socio-economic status. So diversity in these schools has gone down over the years,” Mr Ong said.
“These are significant steps we are taking to enhance the diversity of independent schools, while preserving their meritorious culture," he added.
NEW UPLIFT SCHOLARSHIP
MOE will also introduce an UPLIFT scholarship for independent school students from low-income families.
Those with a gross household income of up to S$2,750 or per capita income of up to S$690 will be eligible for the scholarship.
The scholarship will provide a cash award of S$800 per year for two groups of students from low-income families: Academically strong students who are Edusave Scholarship recipients and students who are admitted to independent schools through the Direct School Admission.
The scholarship will be for the full duration of studies in the independent schools.
66 NEW PRINCIPALS APPOINTED
The event also saw the appointment of 66 principals, with 10 of them taking on the role for the first time.
Mr Kevin Ang, who assumed his first posting as principal of Bukit View Secondary School in October, said the past few months have been challenging and rewarding. His last posting was as vice-principal of Clementi Town Secondary School and before that he was the vice-principal of Anglo-Chinese Junior College.
“The first three months of being in Bukit View Secondary has both been challenging and rewarding. As you can imagine, being posted to a new school, where you don't know the school well and you don't know the people whom you are expected to lead, will present itself many challenges," Mr Ang said.
“So in the first few weeks, I spent a lot of time getting to know the school, its history, culture and programme," he added.
On the other hand, former Anderson Primary School Principal Ng Wie Pin will be moving to a new school – New Town Primary.
Mdm Ng wants to bring over some of her former school’s initiatives such as having an art gallery and a programme that uses art to teach other subjects.
"I hope to also encourage my teachers as well as students to look at the subjects that they learn, or anything that they learn, in a more flexible as well as open-minded manner, so that they are able to draw interesting connections," she said.
MOE said the process of appointing and rotating principals allows schools to benefit from new perspectives and sharing of best practices.