Push for more diversity in top schools
Fee subsidies to be enhanced to make independent schools more affordable for less well-off students: Ong Ye Kung
In a move to increase diversity in top schools here, a new fee scheme will help children from low- to middle-income families study in these schools.
From April, more enhancements will be made to the Ministry of Education's Independent School Bursary (ISB) scheme, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.
Noting the need to make it more affordable for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to enrol in independent schools, he stressed that education is a vital driver of social mobility.
"These are significant steps we are taking to enhance the diversity of independent schools, while preserving their meritorious culture," Mr Ong said at the Appointment and Appreciation Ceremony for Principals at Shangri-La Hotel.
Citing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's "frank" comments on this issue during the debate on the President's Address to Parliament, Mr Ong said 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," he added. "We cannot blame parents for wanting the best for their children, but we need to work hard against this trend."
Noting that 7.5 per cent of pupils living in one- to three-room Housing Board flats did well in the Primary School Leaving Examination, Mr Ong said: "These students are eligible for the popular secondary schools, even those with the most stringent entry criteria."
He added that the Government should ensure that these students are not held back from attending the school of their choice.
The ISB covers 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 - and two specialised independent schools - NUS High School and the School of Science and Technology.
Annual school fees for these schools range $3,600 to $4,620 at secondary level and $4,020 to $6,600 at junior college (JC) level.
Students from families with a monthly gross household income (GHI) of $2,751 to $4,000 currently get a subsidy of 90 per cent of the school fees. Under the new scheme, they will pay the equivalent of government and government-aided school fees (GGAS) - $300 at secondary level and $396 at JC level - which is about 90 to 94 per cent subsidised.
Students from families with a monthly GHI of $4,001 to $6,900, who now receive 70 per cent subsidy, will pay an equivalent of 1.5 times of GGAS fees - about $450 - under the new scheme, Mr Ong said.
This will help to alleviate some of the financial burden on families who do not get a full subsidy, as school fees for a student from a middle-income family can go up to over $1,000 a year, said Mr Ong.
There is no change in the subsidies for children from households with a monthly GHI of up to $2,750 and between $6,901 and $9,000, who get a full subsidy and a 33 per cent subsidy, respectively.
Mr Ong also announced a new Uplift (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce) scholarship for independent school students.
The scholarship of $800 a year is open to students from low-income families who are academically strong or qualified through the Direct School Admission programme.