Schools raise funds 'not just for campus upgrading'

Donations from parents and alumni who want to help schools are for more than just campus upgrading.

The donors support scholarships, bursaries and education programmes, several schools in Singapore said on Tuesday. Some even support their alma mater in non-financial ways.

They were responding to the Ministry of Education's call for schools to moderate fund raising for improved facilities, saying that the Government has given them the hardware they need.

Schools must get the ministry's approval to raise money for "non-standard" facilities such as swimming pools. The ministry said it will continue to approve fund-raising requests based on their "educational merits".

While the curbs apply to all schools, some independent and mission schools have bigger and better facilities than others, thanks to donations from their alumni.

For instance, the first school in Singapore to have a swimming pool - Anglo-Chinese School in Barker Road - opened its Olympic-size Shaw Pool in 1970, named after its benefactor, the Shaw Foundation, whose chairman, Dr Shaw Vee Meng, is an ACS old boy.

Independent schools like Raffles Institution, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and Hwa Chong Institution also have pools.

Alumni at Hwa Chong gave $200,000 towards setting up an undergraduate scholarship in 2012 to fund students going to local universities.

A school spokesman said former students also support the school in non-financial ways such as by giving career talks, acting as mentors or being judges for competitions.

A Raffles Girls' School (RGS) spokesman said the school has two major ongoing fund-raising initiatives.

One is for the new $50 million Braddell Road campus, which it plans to move into in 2018. This is still in the early planning stages but $4.2 million has been raised so far.The second initiative is the RGS Filiae Fund, set up to provide financial assistance and scholarships to deserving students.

Alumni support is a big factor for many local schools with proud traditions and long histories.

Mr Wee Kok Wah, an old boy of St Andrew's Secondary and president of Singapore-listed Stamford Tyres, said school building funds, scholarships and bursaries are "meaningful causes".

He donated to the building of the 20ha St Andrew's Village, which houses its kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, and junior college. It boasts a swimming pool and tennis courts. Mr Wee said alumni donations are "voluntary" and "based on the relationship the alumni member has with the school".

RGS alumni Jayne Leow, who is in her 40s and whose daughter is in Secondary 3 at RGS, said: "The school has never pressurised parents or my daughter to contribute to the school's fund raising."

One board member of an independent school, who declined to be named, said: "Being independent implies that old boys have some ownership and should have discretion in what makes a good school in terms of its hardware and software."

He added: "The school board should also not be too lavish and build facilities that are good to have but not essential to students' development. What is more important are the programmes and values of the school - those are what make students well-educated."

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