We spoke to some teachers about MOE’s policy of holding back actual results slips

By December 1, 2019Current, Perspectives

TL;DR – The child will never be shamed publicly.

Remember MOE’s response to theFacebook post by career counsellor and activist Gilbert Goh?

The one where Goh had highlighted a case of a parent whose daughter had received a photocopy of her PSLE results but not the original slip due to outstanding school fees ($156).

MOE responds to allegation, explains why the student had her original PSLE results slip held back

Here’s a recap of MOE’s reply,

  1. The parents did not pay miscellaneous fees for two years despite several reminders, and did not put in any application for MOE or school-based financial assistance which would have covered all the costs.
  2. The child can still apply for secondary schools with the photocopy, and will progress like all students.
  3. MOE said the issue is “not about recovering the money”.
  4. The ministry’s funding for each primary school pupil comes up to $12,000 a year, and each pupil pays only $13 in miscellaneous fees per month.
  5. Those from lower-income families can apply for financial assistance which covers miscellaneous fees, uniforms, textbooks, transport and school meals.
  6. MOE’s consideration stems from “the underlying principle that notwithstanding the fact that the cost of education is almost entirely publicly funded, we should still play our part in paying a small fee, and it is not right to ignore that obligation, however small it is.”
  7. It added: “The priority of our educators and our institutions is to ensure that students grow and can fulfil their potential, and we should not allow financial circumstances to become an impediment to their progress and development.”
  8. The MOE said the authors of the “viral posts are trying to call into question the intention and values of MOE”.
  9. MOE said, “Our educators, parents and members of public will have to decide whether MOE’s action is fair and educationally sound, and what the lesson of this teachable moment for our children is.”

We decided to speak with some teachers for their views on this longstanding practice of holding back the original results slips if there are outstanding school fees.

We reached out to four, and three agreed to speak with us under anonymity. One declined to comment, citing that they are actually disallowed to share their views publicly on such matters.

Primary school teacher, V

Me: Could you share your views about the issue with me?

V: I don’t agree with MOE’s explanation. It said that it believes educators will understand its position. Well, I can say for a fact that my colleagues and I don’t understand this.

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There are many other ways to recover payment from the parents.

Withholding the original results slips only serves to cause distress and shame to the pupils who did not have any control over this situation.

Me: Do you think this incident has been politicised?

V: Do I believe Gilbert Goh politicised this issue? Yes. But I’m glad he did and that we are having a conversation on this shameful practice.

Me: MOE’s stand is to ensure parents are as committed and involved in the kids’ education… And school fees are hugely subsidised, and there’s a lot of help on other things like books, lunches and there are also bursaries. You don’t think parents should have this at least level of commitment? I believe we’re talking about $13 per month? And in this case, outstanding for 2 yrs, and I read that the parents didn’t apply for aid.

V: I believe MOE has missed the point and anyone peddling that same line of argument is missing the point also.

Firstly, parents can pay their fees on time and still not be committed to their child’s education. Paying of fees or not is not a yardstick of commitment.

Secondly, why are the children being punished for what the parents are doing? If you need to be relentless, go after the parents. Deduct it from their GST vouchers. Or any other means. Be ruthless and hold parents accountable.

Why take it up against the children?

Former primary school teacher, L

Me: Could you share your views about the issue with me?

L: I saw the post, and I saw it as an one sided story.

I came from a school environment, and my own experience is that our school counsellors work closely with all students on Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS). For anyone with a real issue, the bill can be written off.

The process is such that when it comes to final exams, we hold back the result slips as this is the last touch point to make them pay. And it is at this point we recover the most from people who are just lazy to pay.

Like what MOE has said, this practice of holding back exam slips or report books has been age-old. If it really was an issue of punishing the poor or student, it would have been flagged out more than 10 years ago.

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Me: Do you think this incident has been politicised?

I can’t decide if I think he’s politicising or if he’s just ignorant and lazy.

Gilbert Goh’s post just shows how ignorant he is of the community issues. There are 33,000 teachers in Singapore. it shouldn’t be hard to find one to check out the processes and reasons, before posting his criticism.

His post also contained false information that the student needed the original results slip to apply for secondary schools.

Primary school teacher, H

Me: Could you share your views about the issue with me?

H: We have a robust system of helping families with financial issues. Hence, it comes as a surprise that this family refuses to seek help for such a long period of time.

From my many years of experience, the admin side of a school would have contacted the family once overdue payments are detected. The personnel would also list all out the options for assistance. If the issue remains unresolved, the case will also be reflected to MOE.

Me: What about the child? Would he or she be shamed because he or she did not receive an original results slip?

H: It is not a matter of shaming a child.

I believe the school would have handled it sensitively during results announcement day, i.e. giving out the envelopes as per normal without singling out the child. Instead it is only at the end of the ceremony that the parents and child are invited to the office to explain the situation.

Me: Is the practice of giving out results slips in envelopes done at all schools?

H: At least that’s how it’s done in the schools that I have taught at. As educators, we do not set out to embarrass kids, especially on the biggest day of their Primary School life.

This policy has been around for the longest time. I have handled a few previously. We will give out the A4 envelopes to all students. It is only at the end of the ceremony that we get the student and parents concerned to head to the general office.

Gilbert Goh did not find out the actual process. He was just keen in politicising.

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Me: So you’re supportive of the stance about getting parents to take responsibility?

H: Yes, I am all for getting the parents to.understand the importance of taking personal responsibility. How else can you make the parents pay? Any alternative penalties will continue to be politicised by people like Gilbert Goh and Lim Tean.

I just strongly believe that all schools will handle this sensitively.

I have been thinking for a long time on the possible penalties for parents who refuse to pay up. Deduct from their GST rebates? Highlight their names to the credit bureau?

Me: Can you share the typical process with me?

H: Actually, when they first start owing money, the form teacher will usually speak to the pupil involved to remind them to get parents to pay. Most of time in our school, this settles it. Child brings message home and parents give child cash to pay at the General Office (GO).

But when the arrears accumulate, GO may call the parents up. The reminder note will still go to the form teacher, who should pull child aside to ask. But many a times for such cases, the child is not aware of what is going on at home. So the form teacher calls the family and do a check if they are facing financial problems.

But as in the case for our school, a number of them may not wish to appear as families with financial issues so may not apply for Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS).  So in the mean time, GO will continue tracking.

The child will never be shamed publicly.

In fact, in our school, existing FAS kids are monitored in a way that at end of the year, a reminder is sent to the parents to reapply for next year’s FAS.

For new cases, it’s usually flagged out by fees in arrears, but the form teachers usually call parents up and speak to them.

That is why I say schools have a very robust policy of helping families with financial difficulties.

 

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Qiqi

Author Qiqi

Hello, I'm probably your most socially awkward cave-woman this part of town. In the day, I work to put cai-png on the table and chocolate ice-cream in the fridge. At night, I read a lot and write a little.

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