MOE reviewing free school parking

Farrer Park Primary School compound.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Teachers at national schools and junior colleges face the prospect of having to pay car parking fees at their institutions, a move that could take place as early as this year.

The Ministry of Education yesterday said it was reviewing carpark charges for schools "in accordance to civil service guidelines", and schools would be told of the changes, if any.

Should it be implemented, teachers at more than 360 schools and colleges will be affected.

Teachers contacted said they had, for several years, heard talk of parking fees being imposed, and the catalyst for the prospective move is the Auditor-General's (AG) disapproval last year of some educational institutions allowing their staff to park for free or charging fees below the market rate.

Such practices "are tantamount to providing hidden subsidies for vehicle parking", the AG had said in an annual report of financial lapses at public sector bodies.

Reactions were mixed among teachers interviewed yesterday, all of whom declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Most said they would continue to drive to work even when they have to pay for parking.

The reason: Their work day is typically longer than eight hours, many said, and taking public transport would add to their long day.

Said a primary school teacher in his late 30s, who has been driving to school for 10 years: "I am in school by 6.30am and work about 10 to 12 hours each day, and sometimes more if there are school events. So, I will drive to work."

A 26-year-old teacher working in a junior college said: "If there is season parking and it is affordable, I will drive. But I will still be deeply unhappy to be made to pay."

Some are circumspect about the move, noting that schools and colleges are public institutions and should be governed by the same rules as any other.

Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported yesterday that the ministry has been discussing the issue since the start of last year.

Almost all public service organisations, including the ministry, charge for parking at their offices.

Parking remains free at most primary and secondary schools and junior colleges. The carparks are invariably meant for school staff.

But at the School of the Arts in Zubir Said Drive next to The Cathay cinema, the carpark is open to the public as well as school staff, with fees set at market prices.

The three institutions pinpointed by the AG last year were the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), where parking is free, and Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic, which charge parking fees below the market rate.

A check by The Straits Times found that the parking situation at all three institutions remains unchanged. Both polytechnics are still working with the relevant authorities on how much to charge, they told this newspaper.

At the ITE, eateries on the grounds of its colleges, like First Culinary Restaurant at its Ang Mo Kio college, said parking is still free for diners.


This article was first published on January 8, 2016.
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