MOE funds move 'not to level down'

SINGAPORE - Even though it made changes to independent schools' funding recently, the Ministry of Education's (MOE's) aim is "never to level down", but rather to ensure that excellence is pursued at all levels.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat also said his ministry's directive urging the "judicious use of air-conditioning" in top schools was done so that the schools' operations are "ecologically sustainable and cost-effective".

"We also want to encourage our schools to use resources prudently to achieve maximum impact," he said.

Mr Heng was responding to several questions from Members of Parliament about the recent changes to government funding of some independent schools here, as well as curbs on schools' fund-raising efforts and the use of air-con in classrooms.

This led some, such as the former PAP candidate for Punggol East, Dr Koh Poh Koon, to criticise MOE as "pulling down those at the top".

Yesterday Mr Heng said that as part of a resourcing review, the ministry had consulted the management of independent schools on the areas where "resources could be utilised more effectively" - such as with air-con - "to achieve good educational outcomes".

As for fund-raising, he said the ministry had spoken with schools about "focusing their fund-raising efforts on areas with strong educational merit".

"The ministry appreciates and welcomes the strong support of the alumni of these schools... At the same time, we should not put too heavy a burden on teachers, parents and students to raise funds."

He added: "That may deter some students, especially those from less well-off families, from applying to the school."

Mr Heng assured the House that independent schools will remain open to all students, and that school fees for these schools have not increased this year.

Overall, MOE has increased significantly its investment in education across all levels and schools in the past decade, Mr Heng said.

The per capita cost of educating a primary-school pupil more than doubled from $3,600 in 2004 to $8,700 last year, while the per capita cost of secondary education almost doubled during the same period, from about $5,700 to $10,800.

"Funding for the various schools is not a zero-sum game - we do not have to cut funding to one school to give to another," he said, adding that the Finance Ministry provides enough to fund every school to meet educational objectives.

Get MyPaper for more stories.