Help for all, not just some ( http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/news/story ... 38,00.html? )
February 12, 2009
THE safety net is about to spread wider so that no child will fall through the cracks, the Minister of Education, MrNg Eng Hen, said in Parliament yesterday.
His challenge was best personified in school principals interviewed by The New Paper.
At East Spring Secondary, for example, the Opportunity Fund - a $150,000 grant given by MOE to each neighbourhood secondary school - is being used to benefit all its pupils.
Those under the MOE's Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) are being fully subsidised for most of its programmes which draws from the Opportunity Fund.
The current eligibility criteria for the FAS state that students must meet the monthly income limit of $1,500 or below for families with one or two children, and $1,800 or below for families with three or more children.
With an additional $10,000 in the kitty, East Spring Secondary's principal, Madam Ong Teck Hui, said she can do even more for more pupils.
'Needy is relative,' said Madam Ong, 'and we should widen our definition of it. There are students who do not qualify for the FAS but whom we need to support too, and ensure that they are not left behind.'
With about 60 per cent of its students living in four-room flats or smaller, the school holds level-wide programmes supported by the fund.
These include the Cyber wellness programmes for Secondary 1, a residential camp to foster team-building skills for Sec 2, the Learning Style Workshop for Sec 3 and the Personal Effectiveness Workshop for Sec 4.
'It is all about levelling up the learning opportunities for each and every child,' said Madam Ong. 'We must look beyond the income brackets and see every child as equal. I want to be able to reach out to all my students.'
Agreeing with her, the Townsville Primary School principal, Madam Constance Wong Hian Hwee, said no student should be deprived of the chance to participate in various curricular and co-curricular activities.
'With our funds, we are able to provide needy students who have not even sat on an aeroplane before with the chance to travel and experience a different culture and interact with students in another country,' she said.
Both schools have tapped into the Opportunity Fund to help students under the FAS as well as those who do not qualify for it. With the additional $10,000 grant this year, some schools like Jurong Junior College (JJC) are considering extending their help to foreign students.
Said Mr Chua Lek Hong, vice-principal of JJC: 'We want to widen our support to help the foreign and PR students since they are not eligible for the MOE financial assistance scheme.'We do not want them to not be able to study here. Everyone should be given equal opportunities.'-
Bernice Huang, newsroom intern
As the recession is expected to deepen, should more help be given to foreign and PR students? Or should the additional resources be used to extend more help to needy Singaporean students? Your view, please