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Jump in school fees for non-S’poreans from next year

SINGAPORE— For the second year in a row, fees for non-citizens at government and government-aided schools will go up next year in a continued effort to “differentiate fees by citizenship”.

TODAY file photo

TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE— For the second year in a row, fees for non-citizens at government and government-aided schools will go up next year in a continued effort to “differentiate fees by citizenship”.

From January, the fees will increase by between S$20 and S$60 a month for students who are PRs, and by between S$20 and S$150 a month for international students in primary and secondary schools, and pre-university institutions, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Tuesday (Oct 11).

For example, permanent residents attending primary school will pay S$130 a month, an increase of S$20. International students will pay S$600, an increase of S$50. The ministry, which announced similar increases in late September last year, said it reviews the fees annually and will make adjustments “when necessary”. 

“The fee increase sharpens the differentiation between Singapore citizens, PRs and foreigners, to reflect the privileges of citizenship,” said an MOE spokesperson. 

School fees for non-citizens have been increased substantially over the past seven years. The latest round of hikes would see PR students in primary school, for example, forking out in a month almost the same amount in school fees that their counterparts had to pay for the whole year back in 2009, when the Government first announced the need to raise fees to ensure that foreigners bear a “fair share” of rising education costs. Primary school fees for PRs were S$174 a year in 2009 and S$396 a year in 2011. 

PRs and international students make up about 9 and 5 per cent, respectively, of the current student enrolment in government and government-aided schools. In 2009, TODAY reported that PRs and foreign students made up 8 and 4 per cent of the enrolment, respectively.

Some foreigners with children enrolled in government schools were upset with the news and described the move as “unfair”.

Permanent resident Leong YC, who has two sons in Sembawang Primary School, said the jump was “too extreme”, given that the previous hike was just a year ago.

The 42-year-old Malaysian felt the move is “part of a response to unhappiness that citizens have voiced” over the years, but that it “penalises” non-Singaporeans who plan to settle down here.

“I hope the Government can also think of people like us, who are sincere and want to build their livelihoods here,” said Ms Leong, who works in the semiconductor industry.

Ms Kim Thuy, whose two daughters hold Canadian and Vietnamese dual-citizenships, said it is “not fair for the kids who have a right to education”. 

“I don’t know how it can be called a government school if you have to pay so much,” said the 43-year-old, whose eldest is a Primary 4 student at Bukit View Primary School.

Ms Thuy, who moved here with her Canadian husband and daughters in 2013, said she still hopes to enrol her youngest daughter, aged five, in a local school. 

“International schools are too expensive, but it’s now tougher to get into a local one. I know a lot of foreigners who had to go back to their home countries because they could not afford even local schools here, even before this jump,” she added.

Others, such as Ms Sunitra Burton, are taking the hikes in their stride. 

“For us foreigners, fees for government schools are still acceptable, compared with international schools. But we don’t wish for further increments so soon,” said Ms Burton, whose family moved here from Britain six years ago.

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