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     FrontPage Edition: Mon 27 Feb 2006

More financial help for students from lower-income families


More Financial Help for Children from Low Income Families

The Government will invest more to help children from low income families. It aims to ensure that education remains affordable and no child will be denied an education due to a lack of financial support.
As announced by the Prime Minister in his Budget Speech on 17 Feb 06, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will be implementing the following:

a.       Enhancing the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme;

b.       Raising the qualifying household income criterion for the Edusave Merit  Bursary; and

c.       Setting up ¡°Opportunity Funds¡± in all schools.

At a visit to Fuhua Secondary School on 22 Feb 06, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Education, announced the revisions to the Financial Assistance Scheme, which will take effect on 1 March 2006.
Enhanced Financial Assistance
MOE will enhance its Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) in order to reach more low income families, and reduce their burden in meeting essential school expenses.
The changes are two-fold.
First, the income ceiling will be raised so as to allow the lowest 20% of households to qualify. The income limits under the FAS for Government and Government-Aided Schools will be increased from the current $900 (Gross Monthly Household Income) to $1,500 for families with 1 or 2 children; and from $1,050 to $1,800 for families with 3 or more children.
Second, the benefits granted to FAS recipients will also be expanded. They will receive a full waiver of the standard miscellaneous fees, compared to the 50% waiver under the current FAS. FAS recipients will also get a 75% subsidy on national examination fees.[1]
The enhanced FAS will come into effect from 1 March 2006. The current and revised criteria and benefits of the FAS for Government and Government-Aided Schools are shown in Annex A.
MOE will also be enhancing the Financial Assistance Scheme for Singapore citizen students attending Independent Schools.
This is a three-tier scheme under which recipients will have 100%, 75% or 50% of their fees subsidised, depending on their household income.
MOE has revised the income limits and benefits for the 100% fee subsidy category to align them with that for FAS for Government and Government-Aided Schools. (See Annex B.)
Details on the schools fees, miscellaneous fees and examination fees payable by FAS recipients are in Annex C.
The enhancements to the FAS will increase the number of recipients, from about 15,000 last year to an estimated 33,500.
Parents should approach their child¡¯s school directly if they require financial assistance. Schools will process their applications for FAS based on the revised criteria.
If the students are not eligible or need additional financial assistance, schools will help to source for support from other avenues, e.g. financial assistance schemes administered by the School Advisory/Management Committees and community organisations such as the Community Development Councils, Citizens¡¯ Consultative Committees and voluntary welfare organisations.
Enhanced Edusave Merit Bursary
The Edusave Merit Bursary (EMB) was started in 1995 to encourage good performance by students from lower-middle and low-income families.
The EMB is given out[2] annually to about 40,000 students, who are in the top 25% of their level and stream in their schools, and who come from households with monthly income of less than $3,000.
As announced by PM in his Budget Speech, the Government will raise the monthly household income limit of the EMB from $3,000 to $4,000.
This move is expected to benefit an additional 17,000 students, or a total of about 57,000 students. The enhanced EMB will be implemented for the bursary awards selection exercise later this year.
Setting up ¡°Opportunity Fund¡± in Every School
As part of the PROGRESS (Providing Opportunities through Growth, Remaking Singapore for Success) Package, the Government has decided to provide grants amounting to $48m to government and government-aided schools, junior colleges/centralised institute, independent schools, the Institute of Technical Education and special education schools.
This grant will be used to set up ¡°Opportunity Funds¡± to level up enrichment opportunities for Singapore citizen students from lower income households.
As announced by PM in his Budget Speech, all schools will receive the grant, with neighbourhood schools getting double the per capita rate compared to independent and autonomous schools.
A typical primary school will receive a grant of $118,000 while a typical neighbourhood secondary school will receive a grant of $150,000.
The funds will be directed towards providing needy students with opportunities to enrich their learning and build firm foundations for learning.
Some examples of how schools may use the funds include assisting needy pupils to own personal computers so as to widen their learning and provide more opportunities to use IT in their project work; programmes to develop stronger problem solving and communication skills; and a ¡°good books¡± pack for needy primary school students aimed at encouraging an early appreciation of reading.
Schools may also use the funds to subsidise needy students¡¯ participation in study trips to the region. Feedback from schools indicates that the exposure to the region has tremendous educational value, and strengthens personal resilience among our students.
Schools will design their own schemes for drawing on their Opportunity Funds, in line with MOE¡¯s efforts to encourage school-based innovations in education.
To target the additional resources at meeting the needs of their students, schools will have the flexibility to decide how to use the additional resources within broad guidelines from MOE.

[1]  Students whose families are under the Public Assistance scheme will continue to receive a full waiver of €examination fees.

[2] Eligible students are selected by their schools based on the bursary criteria.


Source: Press Release 22 Feb 2006

Related Article:
- Prime Minister's Budget 2006 Speech

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