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The SDP awarded the Mohd Isa Bursary Award worth $300 each to seven primary school students from needy families. Professor Paul Tambyah presented the awards to the pupils at the launch of the SDP’s education policy paper last Saturday.$CUT$
The Award is part of the SDP’s commitment to using education to reduce the wide wealth disparity in Singapore. There are many families who still find it difficult to afford the expenses associated with school such as transport, pocket-money, school uniforms, textbooks, etc.
Providing financial support for these families is our way of giving these students a leg up so that they can compete fairly with their peers.
The SDP believes that while individuals are imbued with different abilities and talents – which should be rewarded equitably – all citizens must be given the same opportunity to succeed. The analogy is that while competitors finish a race with different times, they must nevertheless begin the race at the same starting point.
It is a terrible blight on our society that there are so many children who have to depend on financial assistance for their school needs in an economy as rich as ours. The education system should ensure that every single child can get an education without having to apply for bursaries or depend on charitable programmes.
There were 56 applications for the Mohd Isa Bursary Award but because of our limited resources, we could only select seven children to receive them. We have, however, indicated to the families who have not been selected that we will try and look for other means to assist them.
Our paper Education for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda for Transformation spell out policies to assist students from lower-income families and make our education system less elitist and more egalitarian. The alternative measures are:
Nationalise pre-school. The government will take over the provision of pre-school education and ensure that children from poor families are not deprived of quality early childhood education.
Provide school lunch. The provision of lunch for all students will ensure that those from poorer families do not have to ask for pocket-money from charities and be deprived of nutrition needed for healthy development.
Lengthen school hours. Under the SDP plan, school hours will be extended to eight hours a day where time will be put aside for students to complete their assignments in school so that teachers can provide supervision and guidance, thereby ruling out the need for expensive private tuition.
Introduce interest-free student loans. Many students are unable to afford the tuition and fees of our universities. The SDP will provide interest-free student loans so that every one can afford tertiary education if they qualify.
Legislate minimum wage. Many low-income workers don’t earn enough despite have full-time jobs. Requiring a just wage for the working poor will ensure that they are able to afford school-related expenses for their children. (While this is not, per se, an education policy, it is one that addresses the needs of pupils from needy families.)
Our education policy is the sixth in the series of alternative policies that we have drawn up to improve the quality of life for Singaporeans. We will produce a final policy paper on the political economy.