Saturday, 7 February 2009

MOE's Travel Subsidy goes to the well-to-do

In year 2006, my son had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go on a 18-day Chinese Immersion Trip to Fushun with his school mates. I went along to take care of him because of his medical condition.

When we were in Fushun, my son told me his best friend was left behind because he could not afford to come on this trip. The boy's father was a taxi-driver. Even though the subsidy from MOE was able to pay for most of his trip, his parents still could not afford the S$200 pocket money nor purchase a luggage bag and warm clothings.

Had my son told me earlier, I would have willingly sponsored the boy. Probably I could ask the PSG members to pool some money for him.

I believe there are many more such students are out there. How do we help them? Those who are living from hand to mouth will never get to enjoy this subsidy.

On the other hand, students from well-to-do families were able to go on these subsidized annual trips repeatedly. A friend's son and daughter, both studying in VJC, have gone on school organised trips to Switzerland, Japan, USA and Dubai. Their father is a billionaire and yet their overseas trips are subsidized by our government. Even foreign students studying in our government-funded schools get this subsidy.

Funding (VJC)
· All students who are Singapore citizens will be given a subsidy of $300 per student
per overseas trip per year. You do not need to apply for this subsidy.

· IP3 or IP4 students (any nationality) will be given an additional subsidy of $600 per
student. You do not need to apply for this subsidy.

· Use of Edusave Fund is allowed for Singapore citizens.

· Needy students (income per household member cannot exceed $750) who are
Singapore citizens can apply for Opportunity Fund.

· All students who are Singapore citizens can also apply for an Additional Subsidy
of $900 (estimate) per student.

Many of their classmates can only envy them. The trips are out of their reach even if they qualify for the travel subsidy.

Our Government has good intentions but usually the fund does not reach those who truly need it.


Sebastian said...

IS this an issue with the government, or is it an issue with the community (society)?

I am not in favor of large governments regulating every aspect of civilian life. I think this is a case where the school and its stakeholders (parents) need to step up and make sure that all kids enjoy a relatively level playing field. I am sure that a private fund raiser would have enabled even kids of lower income families to attend. Then they would still benefit from the subsidy.

happy new year, and enjoy your trip, ECL.

EastCoastLife said...

Thanks Sebastian.
This is for everyone to ponder. And this is a feedback to the Government.

There is help for the ordinary citizens but why is it that not many will benefit from it?

Where does the problem lie?

Our Government is also not in favour of regulating every aspect of civilian life.

So here lies the responsiblity of the schools and their stalkholders to make sure those students whom the Government is actually targeting to help, get the subsidy and have an eye-opening experience of another country's culture.

If the majority of those students are not able to enjoy such a benefit, then it is better to spend the money in our country where there are still lots of places to explore.

During such tough times, we can still have this subsidy going.

We can work with local hotels to give them an experience of staying in a hotel for a night.

We can ask SIA to allow the students to tour their facilities, sit in their Jumbo aircraft and enjoy food served by the air stewards or stewardesses.

My 2 cents.

Happy New Year Sebastian! :)

bisaja said...

Wow, I never thought this is the situation. It's really disheartening, especially to your son's bestfriend.

Thanks for sharing. I'm learning a lot about SG through your blog. =)

EastCoastLife said...

Hi bisaja,
Thanks for stopping by. You read about the good and bad things that are happening in Singapore. :)

Oswald Chong said...

The government scholarships should be stopped. If you run statistics since it started, the majority goes to those who can afford to pay for the tuitions and go overseas. The poorer kids in Singapore cannot afford to pay for private tuitions tend to perform not as good as those rich kids. The government needs to abolish the streaming system at Primary 3. I have personally seen later-developed talents that were forced through 2 more years of primary school... for what? For being more stupid while at Primary 3. The government thought that talents begin young, but that's not true. There's no money for the poorer kids, and I'm one of those, who made it to the top 10% but not good enough to get to the scholarships, cos I don't have any tuitions ever in my entire life.

I personally seen scholars protected all the way till they get to the top level without even being tested at all. They do this and that.... nothing permanent, and definitely, made no mistakes ever in their work. I've seen LTA gives the top position to a military man, but didn't give an engineer a chance to sit on the top. If this goes on... many Singaporeans will just leave, and let this country be ruled by the overpaid scholars who have not much of an experience to talk about before they begin their top jobs.

EastCoastLife said...

Hi Oswald,
It's inevitable that government scholarships go to the more well-to-do students.

Their parents could afford to pay for their tuition classes or even hire hourly paid qualified school teachers to tutor them.

For bright students of parents who cannot afford to pay for tuition, they can only struggle in their studies on their own.

Personally I feel these 9 year old kids are too young to be streamed.

I found this study by an Australian on Singapore's P3streaming system.

It found that there is an inequality of advantage of this form of streaming. The unnatural inequalities affect the performance of pupils in achievement tests and their desire to stay on in school. The analysis of the planning and management of the change shows that different reactions of principals, teachers and parents can have different effects on pupil motivation and learning, with grave social implications.

It is really difficult to understand the rational behind the policies of our government. They don't attempt to explain too.

With mostly ordinary citizens falling through the cracks, we are heading towards disaster with scholars who come from well-to-do background. They have not undergone hardship and cannot empathise with the common folks.

Back2Nature said...

Scores is not everything. Just like pay and income tax is not everything such that they started looking at the type of residential one lives in.

If among two students, one who studied 7 full days [plus tutors help] and one who live a normal schedule (e.g. watch TV, play PSP, help out house chores) before an exam, scored the same mark of 80%, I would suggest the first student to consider working hard for something else while the second student could be a genius in the subject.

Mean testing for students? :)

EastCoastLife said...

Mean testing for students!? Gosh.
It could be in their plans. :)

I have students who fit both your examples. We should not categorize people by their scores in school.

My son, he is like the second student. He enjoyed his childhood and teenage years. He doesn't do his boring school homework nor study for school tests. They placed him in Normal stream.

He did well in his N levels and couldn't wait to get away from the stifling education system.

He is a happier young adult doing what he enjoys most.

Life is short and unpredictable, we need to look beyond scores and money to lead a fulfilling and enriching life.

ourcrazylittleisland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ourcrazylittleisland said...

Thanks for letting us know, EastCoastLife, if not we wouldn't have known, being not in the education sector.