“Schools record their withdrawal of funds from pupils’ Edusave accounts through an MOE computerised system. MOE audits schools on their financial management and use of funds … including Edusave funds” (Parents See Red Over Edusave Use, Mr. Low Wei Xiang).
I read with considerable surprise the report, “Parents See Red Over Edusave Use” (August 27, 2010) by Mr. Low Wei Xiang, especially since the ongoing controversy revolved around the technicalities of the Edusave Scheme. While reviewing the specifics of the scheme from the current incident, it would be constructive for the Ministry of Education (MOE) to simultaneously review the other aspects of the programmes to provide for more comprehensive opportunities to students and institutions.
The Edusave Scheme was implemented in 1993 to widen the assortment of programmes and activities available for Singaporean children; more specifically, it provides financial incentives in the form of scholarships and bursaries to individuals from less well-to-do households, so that they would not be deprived from academic or enrichment exercises because of fiscal constraints. In adherence to the principles of meritocracy, respective students are rewarded for their excellence in schoolwork, sports, other co-curricular activities et cetera, and hence remain a linchpin of our education system.
Beyond the excuse of miscommunication, it seems obvious to observers that the furore at Yio Chu Kang Secondary School (YCKSS) can be attributed to the lack of proper documentation and explanation over the valid usages of funds from individual Edusave accounts. This lack of transparency is further compounded by the sketchy information provided on-line by MOE, which does not specify what the Edusave funds can or cannot be used for. Parents and students from the school might be justified in their unhappiness because the fifty dollars stipulated would be going into a fund to finance general infrastructure and manpower costs. Productively, Edusave funds should be dedicated to usages for the personal development of the individual student through programmes beyond the classroom. If a school struggles to chalk up enough budgets, it should consider raising funds through ticket or product sales, or even down-sizing the events.
Besides providing more clear information for parents and schools, it seems imperative for the MOE to also re-look the amount of money that is dispensed through the Edusave scheme. Given that the country has just emerged from a significant financial crisis, coupled with the fact that many are still struggling with the relentless rise in the cost of living, the administration should consider increasing the amount of money made available for the kids. If possible, children from lower income families should be given more in terms of bursaries: in quantity and in quality.
Education cannot be compromised; and given that the Edusave scheme plays a pivotal role in the equation, immediate action has to be undertaken to reduce the confusion, and to empower students with much more financially.
A version of this article was published in My Paper.