MOE will continue to encourage independent schools

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Education told The Straits Times that it will continue to encourage and support the development of independent schools, which play a vital role in the more diversified education landscape here.

It emphasised this even as it confirmed that it had cut per-student funding this year at six top independent schools, including Raffles Institution (RI), Hwa Chong Institution, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and NUS High School of Mathematics and Science.

Along with mission schools such as the other Anglo-Chinese schools, the six schools have also been told to moderate fund-raising for campus upgrading.

This has raised concerns among parents whose children attend these schools, as well as alumni members.

Asked for the reasons behind these moves, MOE stressed that funds for all schools, including the independent ones, are reviewed regularly and holistically.

While agreeing that the recent review for independent schools meant less funding for some, it has also resulted in more money for others.

After taking everything into account, independent schools saw changes in "total resourcing" ranging from cuts of 3 per cent to increases of 5 per cent.

It also said that the per capita operating cost of educating a secondary school student had almost doubled in the past decade, going from $5,700 in 2004 to $10,800 last year.

MOE added that it will continue to invest more into schools here.

As for the curbs on fund-raising, MOE stressed that this applied to all schools. It explained that there was less need for such funds to be raised since the Government has already ensured that each school has what it needs in terms of hardware.

"MOE already invests significantly in the infrastructure of each school to ensure that each has an adequate set of facilities that caters sufficiently to the holistic education of its students."

But it was ready to be flexible and will continue to approve fund-raising requests on a case-by-case basis, based on their "educational merits".

The ministry is also targeting the use of air-conditioning in classrooms, advising independent schools to install fans where practicable.

This will allow such classrooms to rely on natural ventilation, as is the case in all other schools here.

Most parents interviewed by The Straits Times said MOE was on the right track.

One even suggested that facilities such as swimming pools and tennis courts should not be built by schools individually, but in a central location for all schools within a cluster to share.

Others, such as businesswoman Anthea Goh, 40, who has two children attending independent institutions, said these schools should be allowed to provide extras as students are charged much higher fees.

At independent schools, fees average $300 a month, while those for mainstream secondary schools are around $22.

Another parent who has a son in RI was against the curb on air-conditioning.

Said the former primary school teacher: "I used to teach and it can get really hot about 3pm. I really do think it is a lot more conducive to have air-con."

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