Fees won't force out any child
The Straits Times | Nov 6, 1989
By: Koh Buck Song


1DPM reassures parents on independent schools' fees

THE Government will ensure that no child will be denied a place in an independent school just because he cannot afford the fees, Mr Goh Chok Tong reiterated yesterday.

Asked to comment on last Thursday's announcement of the fee increases in independent schools from next year the First Deputy Prime Minister said needy students could apply for bursaries, textbook loans and other financial assistance schemes presently offered by independent schools.

Mr Goh said that even if they failed to secure such help, they could turn to foundations outside the schools. He said the People's Action Party's Community Foundation, which he chairs, had set aside several hundred thousand dollars for this purpose, and students were welcome to apply for financial aid.

Mr Goh, who is also Defence Minister, was speaking to reporters after marking the Tree Planting Day at his Marine Parade constituency.

Although the Government has given many similar assurances in the past, last week's fee hike announcement has stirred some misgivings among parents.

From January next year Anglo-Chinese School, Chinese High School and Raffles Institution will charge their students $100 a month, while Methodist Girls' School, Singapore Chinese Girls' School and St Joseph's Institution will
charge $50.

Students at the present five independent schools now pay $25 a month, while RI, which will become independent next year, still charges the government-school rate of $10.50 a month.

The fee increases came in for some sharp criticism from Mr Peh Chin Hua, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, who said on Saturday that they imposed a heavy burden on poor families.

Mr Peh also called on a new generation of philanthropists to offer financial aid to needy students.

Mr Goh told reporters that independent schools had to balance the aim of providing the best education for their students and ensuring that needy students would not be denied places.

He stressed that schools themselves, which were familiar with their students' profile and ability to pay, were in the best position to decide on this balance and the level of fees.

Once autonomy had been given to these schools, they were responsible for setting the "appropriate" level of fees.

However, schools must also be mindful of their students' financial burden, he added.

"I would be very disappointed if schools began to choose students on the basis of whether they could afford to pay fees," he said.

"If that happened, I would ask the Ministry of Education to exercise moral influence on the schools to get them to select students based on academic performance."

Mr Goh said that in selecting their students, independent schools should aim for a range of go od students reflecting a cross-section of society.

This would not be achieved if ability to pay became a criterion for admission.

He added that the trend towards greater decentralisation of school management would continue, and more schools would go independent, including, possibly, junior colleges.

But he reiterated that a good principal was the key factor in a school's success and so the Government would watch the progress of independent schools before extending greater autonomy to government-school principals.

This step, which would be taken "cautiously", would give principals more freedom to decide on matters affecting their schools.

He also suggested that independent schools could serve as a model for other schools to improve the quality of education.

Their "formula for success" should be studied by the Education Ministry and all government schools, which should then adopt these "techniques" to improve educational services without increasing fees.

In this way, government schools would benefit from the experience of independent schools, he said.