First, a correction.
Four, not six, independent schools have got their funding cut. We still don’t know which four, but it appears that Raffles Institution and Hwa Chong Institution are among them.
According to the Education ministry, “three schools will see an increase in funding of about 5 per cent this year compared to last year, three schools will get between 1 per cent and 3 per cent more, and four schools will experience a reduction of no more than 3 per cent’’.
On balance, it means that six out of 10 schools are getting MORE money, not LESS. So yesterday’s ST story is wrong to say that there were Funding cuts for top independent schools in Singapore. Unless ST considers that the non-RI, non-HCI schools aren’t “top’’.
It seems that ST relied on the schools which got the Integrated Programme portion of their funding programme cut to come up with six schools. I can only guess that is apparently part of some kind of overhaul in the budgeting process and there were other factors which ST did not know about.
Anyway, the MOE wrote in to “clarify’’ the ST page 1 story. Let’s see if it answered the queries in yesterday’s post.
1. No clue about how MOE decides on its grants for schools, whether independent or not.
The MOE shed some light (only some light) on the funding process. Seems like there was a big change in the way it disburses funds.
According to MOE:
Previously, every independent school was given the same amount of grant per student, not taking into account the economies of scale. It resulted in schools with large enrolments receiving disproportionately high funding relative to schools with lower enrolments. The new funding formula, which has both a fixed and a variable component, seeks to provide more equitable funding to the schools.
So a good guess is that HCI and RI had a lot more students than the rest. As for what was the previous per capita grant per student, it didn’t say. ST said yesterday that the cost of educating a secondary school student crossed $10,000 last year. Whether this also applied to independent school students or can be assumed to be the grant amount, dunno.
As for these fixed and variable components are, MOE didn’t say what the proportion is either. I can only surmise that it is a state secret.
2. No clue on how much grant any school gets, because it’s a state secret or perhaps, it doesn’t want schools to get jealous.
Definitely not answered. All we have is a minus 3 per cent to plus 5 per cent range. It’s yet another state secret. What if parents in the independent schools ask the schools directly? Would they get an answer? Seems to me parents are entitled to one, even if the MOE thinks it’s not anybody else’s business. Not even taxpayers’ business.
Actually, the MOE doesn’t even answer MPs’ questions in Parliament, like on the number of principals in certain grades as an ST columnist lamented a couple of weeks ago. Guess that means queries from parents and media won’t work either…
3. No clue on what constitutes infrastructure MOE builds and what would be at the school’s own fund-raising expense.
ST shed some light in this regard. Swimming pools and tennis courts are considered “non-standard’’ which probably means the schools would have to raise their own money for them. So it is not “taxpayers money’’ as one parent quoted in ST thought.
4. No clue as to what higher independent school fees really mean for the parents – schools can pay its teachers more?
The RI principal said he would consider carefully before hiring more teaching or support staff. Both HCI and RI said they would review the cost of running enrichment programmes. Wonder if this means the schools will want to raise fees so parents have to pay more to keep up the “standard’’?
All in, it was a real botch-up in communications. MOE should have given more information in the first place and ST should have been more thorough in its reporting.
As for today’s recovery job, I would still give ST and MOE an F.
MOE is still holding on to supposed state secrets and ST should have highlighted the “clarification’’ on four, not six, schools which got funding cuts to alert readers who were confused by yesterday’s story.
I suppose ST is cocking a snook at MOE for not telling all right at the beginning but, hey, put the readers first please.