Thursday 24 October 2013

Independent school subsidies enhanced from 2014

By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 23 Oct 2013

INDEPENDENT school students from lower- and middle-income families will get more subsidies from next year.

The bursary scheme has also been expanded to include subsidies for miscellaneous fees, the Education Ministry revealed yesterday as it detailed the changes announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in August's National Day Rally, where he stressed the importance of keeping doors to top institutions open for all.

That means ensuring low-income students are not put off from applying to these schools.

Independent schools such as Raffles Institution (RI) charge Singaporean students between $200 and $300 in school fees a month - compared with $5 for a government-run secondary school.

They also charge a supplementary fee - in RI's case it is $35 a month - to cover the operating costs of facilities such as the swimming complex and gymnasium.

Students from families earning $2,500 a month or less are already eligible for a 100 per cent subsidy under MOE's financial assistance scheme, regardless of the school.

In 2008, the Independent School Bursary (ISB) scheme was introduced to include students from families earning between $2,500 and $7,200 a month to help with the higher fees charged by these schools, which also have financial-assist schemes.

About 2,700 students benefited from the ISB this year, said MOE. At RI, for instance, about 15 per cent of Singaporean students are under the scheme, while at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), the figure is 10 per cent.

The latest enhancements increase the amount of subsidy each eligible student gets.

For instance, a student whose gross monthly household income is below $4,000 a month, or has a monthly per capita income of below $1,000, now receives a 75 per cent subsidy only on school fees. This will increase to 90 per cent from next year, and the subsidy will also cover miscellaneous fees.

Hwa Chong Institution student Arturo Neo, 18, who lives with his mother, a childcare teacher, and two older siblings in a three-room Housing Board flat, has been receiving a 100 per cent subsidy.

Said Arturo: "There is the possibility I would have chosen another school without such a scheme."

Enhancements to Independent School Bursary from 2014

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