Peh criticises fee increases by independent schools

The Straits Times | Nov 5, 1989
By: Mardiana Abu Bakar

A MEMBER of Parliament has criticised the fee increase by independent schools.

Mr Peh Chin Hua, MP for Jalan Besar GRC, calling the new rates a "heavy burden on poor families", appealed to a new generation of Tan Kah Kees and Lee Kong Chians to come forward and take on the financial load that would otherwise end up in the form of higher school fees.

The Ministry of Education and independent schools have given a reassurance that children of less well-off families will be given financial assistance. But Mr Peh said that the higher fees would "affect the future decision of children from these families from opting to study in independent schools".

Speaking at a Geylang West Community Centre kindergarten function yesterday, Mr Peh praised the philanthropists of the past who made massive contributions to educational institutions.

The late Mr Tan Kah Kee and Mr Lee Kong Chian have won "much respect and admiration from us". More of them are now needed, instead of having "school management personnel" advocating fee increases whenever there are insufficient funds, he said.

Mr Peh said that besides grants from the government, more generous support and financial aid should also be obtained from other school groups.

He added: "If the School Advisory Committees and School Management Committees are unable to play this philanthropic role in our education system, then these schools would have lost the meaning of independence."
If the trend of fee increases is left unchecked, then independent schools may become "private upper-class schools" in the long run, Mr Peh warned.

Details of the independent schools' fee increase, which will come into effect next year, were announced by the Education Ministry last week.

Anglo-Chinese School, Chinese High and Raffles Institution - which will go independent next year - will charge students $100 per month, while students from Methodist Girls' School, Singapore Chinese Girls' School and St Joseph's Institution will pay $50 a month.

At present, students at the five independent schools pay $25 a month. In his speech yesterday, Mr Peh said that the various reasons given for increases in fees "are too weak and difficult to accept".

Referring to the various financial schemes available to poor students, he said: "If we think that the various financial assistance schemes could erase the fears and worries of the lower income families, then we are deceiving ourselves indeed."

He said that he understood the concern of the many parents in Geylang West, who had average household monthly incomes ranging from about $597 to $1,238.

Mr Peh then urged the independent schools to reconsider some adjustments to their fees, "such as $50 across the board for all schools" instead of different rates for different schools.

He advised well-established schools like Raffles Girls', Crescent Girls' and River Valley High to obtain financial support from some educational philanthropists before even considering converting to independent schools.