Monday, January 24, 2011

Helping Or Exploiting The Kids?

A friend's daughter was in a neighborhood school for a week, before being transferred to a "brand name" school. On querying one teacher of the neighborhood school about the textbooks and uniforms already purchased, he was told needy students would welcome the items. That particular school had 140 students who had yet to pay the school fees and similar numbers who could not afford a new school uniform.

The one-off $155 million top-up to the Edusave scheme was flaunted as a measure to insulate children from the impact of inflation, so goes the spin of Dr Ng Eng Hen. So will kids finally have pocket money for recess, cash to buy new books or replace the set of school uniform which has been washed once too often? None of the forementioned.

Firstly, only $54.8 million goes to the kids, and not into their eager hands, but into their Edusave accounts. The $330 (primary) and $370 (secondary) handouts can only be used for "school enrichment" programmes like local and overseas learning trips. Needless to say, 300 bucks won't fly you to Europe to sing along with the Vienna Boys' Choir or Shanghai to check out the Maglev train. Still, there are lots of travel agents out there sweet talking principals into such trips, with parents ending up having to top up the difference. For the poorer kids, the trip destinations will likely be Little India or Chinatown. The only people enriched here are the scheming travel agents targeting the school market.

The larger slice of the top-up pie, $100 million, is meant to be spent on IT equipment, so that schools "can use the gadgets to improve the education". Okay, now we know where he's getting the money for "keyboarding" - the proposed use of Pinyin on personal computers for Mandarin lessons.

One wonders if the minister is aware of the vacuity of his words: "In Singapore, nobody who has the ability, whether it's ITE, polytechnic or university, will be denied their education because their family cannot afford it. That is a guarantee." How can a starving child have the energy to stay awake in class, or struggle through tons of homework on a empty stomach? No wonder the rich kids, with maids in tow to carry the schoolbags, and chauffeured to school in limousines, walk off with all the scholarships. Did you read about how Lee Kuan Yew lamented his grandson rejecting a scholarship because papa had the money for his overseas education?

The altruism Education Minister Ng tries to impress on the public is torpedoed by his own slip up, ""You trust us for another 10 years, we will make the difference for you." With elections likely to be called in the 2nd quarter (according to George Yeo), couldn't he at least be more subtle about it?


  1. You are absolutely right. I teach in a neighbourhood secondary school. The situation is as what you have described, though our local media will never report on this. A lot of the money is wasted on so-called enrichment programmes, which are not beneficial to the students. The reason why it is done is for the school/principal to look good in terms of "using ICT" (even if it is not relevant).

    It is sad that many children are and will continue to be stuck in this vicious cycle, contrary to what the PAP would have you believe. Like the PAP, MOE officials would rather not do the real work of helping these students, but instead continue in their self-congratulatory mode.

    Really sad. I'm afraid this country's future is really bleak.

  2. By the way, the PM has stated that HE has not decided on when the GE will be held ! Poor G Yeo.
    Anyway, this Right Hand give a S$100 and Left hand take back S$99 must sound familar to those of us who can recall the Army song. Nowadays, even the "Ah Soh" after two GE will join in the chorus.....

  3. Quote "The one-off $155 million top-up to the Edusave scheme was flaunted as a measure to insulate children from the impact of inflation"

    Isn't school fees set by MOE? What inflation are we talking about? Government induced inflation?? Left pocket to right pocket, not children's pocket but their own pocket.

  4. I teach in a local polytechnic, which "encourages" every student to buy a laptop. I swear that this is a ploy to prop up the laptop industry.

  5. Schools have never been shy of getting parents to pay for a whole host of 'enrichment' activities, compulsory 'supplementary' books and so on. Gone were the days of excursions where we do not have to pay a single cent.
    Ya, sure. Nobody will be denied education due to affordability, just like there is no homeless people in Singapore.

  6. I'm glad that post like this points out social injustice shunned by MSM. This is probably the only first world country without any real social welfare, even for children!

  7. It is very sad that very clever, priviledged and highly paid individuals continuously come up with grand schemes to take advantage of their more disadvantaged fellow countrymen. I know this is happening everywhere in the world. In Singapore it is done with such finesse.

  8. has always been like this lah
    they dangle carrots, especially before GE, but if u bother to look carefully they aint exactly carrots but more future liabilities

    yet fools continue to vote them in

  9. I know of a primary school that stipulate that the students can only wear black shoes , not any normal brand but of of a particular brand that is more expensive.

    I also know of secondary schools requiring students to buy an Apple Macbook for e-learning.

    Some familes are not well off and struggle to provide these items to their children. Think education these days has lost its direction.

  10. Suddenly our mercenary PAP Ministers are active again dishing all sorts of Ang Baos for almost everyone.

    We take the bait this time but we are not that daft anymore to prove the old man wrong. We will still pin for the opposition to give them their due recognition.

  11. Well, here is an example of how parents do want their children get good quality education:

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