SINGAPORE: The practice of withholding original Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results slips over unpaid school fees should be reviewed, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung in response to a recent online petition.
Mr Ong's comments were made public on Wednesday (Dec 18) after Mr Terence Tan, who started the petition, uploaded the minister's e-mail response on his Facebook page.
Mr Tan has since changed the privacy setting of the post to his Facebook friends only.
Responding to queries from CNA, Mr Tan said he changed the privacy setting of the post after noticing a confidentiality clause in the email he received from Mr Ong.
Mr Tan started the petition, which calls for the Ministry of Education to review the practice, after a Facebook post by activist Gilbert Goh went viral.
In the Facebook post on Nov 25, 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.
READ: MOE clarifies why student's original PSLE results slip was withheld after Facebook posts claimed she needed it for admissions
Responding to media queries at the time, MOE had said that for the case in question, the student’s parents did not pay miscellaneous fees for two years despite several reminders and did not put in an application for MOE or school-based financial assistance, which would have covered all the costs.
In a media statement, the ministry had said that the issue was “not about recovering the money”.
Adding that funding for each primary school student comes up to about S$12,000 each year and that each student co-pays S$13 of miscellaneous fees per month, the ministry said: "MOE’s consideration 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.”
Citing Mr Ong's email response to Mr Tan, TODAY reported that Mr Ong had acknowledged the petition.
"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, adding that he would provide a response on the matter in Parliament next year.
Mr Ong also said that after speaking to various people, he did not sense that children who did not get the original results slip were being humiliated.
“The schools were sensitive about it. The students would receive their results like everyone, and apply for secondary school and progress like everyone else,” he said in his email.
According to MOE, students can use the photocopy of the results slip to apply for admission into secondary schools.
Addressing other comments made by the signatories, Mr Ong said that he disagreed with those who called schools and teachers here “uncaring and unfeeling”.
“On the contrary, schools and teachers are on the frontline doing their utmost and often going out of their way to help students from vulnerable backgrounds,” he wrote.
He also responded to comments that said applying for financial assistance could be difficult and demeaning, noting that 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," said Mr Ong.
In his response to CNA, Mr Tan said that he had put up Mr Ong's email to "share with our petitioners that some positive news might be on the way in the coming parliament sessions".
"I believe the minister was weighing his thoughts on the matter. His email doesn't specify if our petition was a factor, as his points weren't based on the contents of our petition per se," said Mr Tan.
"The key takeaway for me is that he is thinking whether the practice works when it comes to parents' arrears."