How silly can an Education Minister get?

By Kok Ming Cheang

The Straits Times carried a headline on 19 December 2019, quoting the Education Minister as having said the “practice of withholding result slips over fees should be reviewed”

When this issue was first surfaced by activist Gilbert Goh, the MOE clung onto its “long standing practice” rationale. To a lay person, withholding the poor child's original PSLE result slip just because her parents didn't pay overdue school fees totalling $156 demonstrated near zero sense of empathy.

The MOE then subsequently issued a strongly worded statement, insisting that “its consideration stems from the underlying principle that notwithstanding the fact that the cost of education is almost entirely publicly funded, we should still play our part in paying a small fee, and it is not right to ignore that obligation, however small it is.”

Now that Minister Ong has indicated his intention to review things, might we thus conclude that this so-called “long standing practice” is wrong in principle from the onset?

Similarly, when the Minister defended the granting of $238 million in scholarships and tuition grants to foreign students, I have previously argued that such a decades-old practice of utilizing taxpayers’ monies to educate these folks is wrong in principle and should be terminated immediately. It appears rather clear that he didn’t concur with the above perspective when he ordered politician Mr Lim Tean to correct his posting via the POFMA directive to explicitly reflect that MOE has spent more than the $167m on grants and bursaries as far as Singaporean students are concerned.

Education Minister Ong asserted that Lim Tean’s posting contained falsehoods just because he failed to mention the $13b education budget allocated to local schools. Then again Lim Tean was merely making comparisons between the $167m spent on Singaporean students (in terms of grants and bursaries) and the $238m spent on foreign students (in terms of scholarships and grants). What's wrong with comparing apples to apples?

That a Minister could misinterpret such a straightforward state of affairs only serves to portray a shallow intellect on his part. If anything I humbly feel he should reconsider his high-handed decision. Should he fail to recognize that granting $238m worth of scholarships and grants to foreign students is wrong in principle, I reckon the Education Ministry is not in the right hands. For crying out loud, this sum is more than sufficient to fund the overseas university education of 100-odd exceptional 'A' Level students annually!

I therefore implore Singaporean parents to seriously ponder over how they should vote in the coming general election by asking themselves this single most pertinent question: are our million-dollar ministers genuinely devoted to bettering the lives of fellow Singaporeans?


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Foreign graduate from dubious university is being paid the same as I am

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