SINGAPORE - More students are getting a helping hand with their studies, following tweaks to financial aid schemes in recent years.
Last year, about 50 per cent more students - 1.5 times the number five years ago - were on the Ministry of Education's (MOE) Financial Assistance Scheme compared to five years ago, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday. This is around 65,000 students.
Similarly, more students were also awarded bursaries for post-secondary education last year, with 47,000 receiving MOE bursaries and Community Development Council and Citizens Consultative Committee bursaries - almost thrice (2.5 times) the number five years back.
Mr Heng was replying to Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC), who had asked about the number of students on financial aid.
Numbers have gone up largely owing to changes in the schemes' criteria, said Mr Heng. The income ceiling for MOE's Financial Assistance Scheme was raised in 2012 from $1,500 to $2,500 a month, and a new per capita income criterion of $625 or below a month introduced, widening the scheme's coverage.
School fees, uniforms and textbooks for students from primary to pre-university levels are fully subsidised under the scheme, while primary school pupils are also given free breakfast.
Meanwhile, bursaries for post-secondary students - such as those in publicly funded universities and arts schools like the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts - were extended in 2011 to the bottom two-thirds of households.
During this year's Budget debate in March, Mr Heng had announced that bursary amounts will go up and the income cut-off raised to benefit even more students from this academic year.
He gave the various figures in Parliament yesterday to assure Mr Yam that education will remain accessible to all Singaporeans.
"No Singaporean student will be left behind as a result of his or her family's financial circumstances," said Mr Heng.
This article was published on April 15 in The Straits Times.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.