Parliament No:6
Session No:2
Volume No:49
Sitting No:6
Sitting Date:19-03-1987
Section Name:BUDGET
MPs Speaking:Dr Tay Eng Soon (Minister of State for Education); Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam (Minister for Education); Encik Sidek Bin Saniff (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade and Industry); Mr Wong Kan Seng (Leader of the House); Dr Aline K. Wong; Dr Arthur Beng Kian Lam; Dr Lau Teik Soon; Dr Ow Chin Hock; Dr Tan Cheng Bock; Encik Ibrahim Othman; Encik Othman Bin Haron Eusofe; Encik Wan Hussin Bin Hj Zoohri; Mr Chiam See Tong; Mr Goh Chee Wee; Mr Goh Choon Kang; Mr Jek Yeun Thong; Mr Ng Kah Ting; Mr S. Chandra Das; Mr Sia Khoon Seong; Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon; Mr Tan Soo Khoon (Mr Deputy Speaker);

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    Head L -

    Dr Tan Cheng Bock (Ayer Rajah): Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I have prepared a long speech. It would take 30 minutes to deliver. As you know, Education is such a big subject and you have only given me 10 minutes. So I have condensed what I want to say in these few pieces of paper. If I exceed by a few minutes, I hope you will forgive me. Will it be all right, Sir?

    The Chairman: Dr Tan, no matter how much you have to say, you have only 10 minutes.

    Dr Tan Cheng Bock: Even if I promise to pay it back from my other amendments?

    The Chairman: You will not get one second more. You have nine minutes left.

    Dr Tan Cheng Bock: I always thought you were a very sympathetic man. But I see that you have changed your position!

    The Chairman: Eight and a half minutes left.

    Dr Tan Cheng Bock: Mr Chairman, Sir, I have to speak very fast.

    There has been a great deal of discussion on Education recently and this was brought about by the Ministry of Education's new approach - that educational innovation should from now on come from the schools and not the Ministry. With this change in the focus of educational innovation came the 12 principals' report - a recommendation on how schools can achieve excellence.

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    Sir, I forgot to move the amendment.

    The Chairman: You can move it at the end of your speech.

    Dr Tan Cheng Bock: All right, I will move the amendment at the end of my speech.

    Since the release of the report, there have been wide-ranging dialogues between the Ministry, principals, teachers and parents. The Feedback Unit and the Government Parliamentary Committee on Education have also listened to the views of the professionals and grassroots leaders. I will present their impressions, their fears, their worries, their concerns, their expectations and the implications of this innovative change in Education.

    Basically, there are two issues here - excellence in schools and independent schools. The impression I get and shared by my committee is that many Singaporeans think that excellence in schools can only be achieved through independent schools. This is not true. You can have excellence in schools by not being independent like the Bronx High School of Science in New York. They have three Nobel Prize winners from that school.

    Singaporeans wonder if the principals' study tour was undertaken to secure anything more than an expensive endorsement of the Government's desire to push independent schools and shifting the burden of education to the public. Rightly or wrongly, it is a perception that the Ministry of Education must try to correct.

    How did this concept come about? This confusion has its origins in the way the subject of excellence in schools has been broached. It has coloured the discussion on excellence in schools. And because of this confusion, discussion on excellence in schools has centred primarily on the subject of independent schools. The First Deputy Prime Minister first broached the concept of independent schools in May 1985. And this was followed in July 1986 when the Minister for Education spoke of the need to foster creativity and innovation in the educational system. The Prime Minister in his National Day Rally speech in August 1986 stoked the idea further and hinted that better schools would become private schools. He added that the Govern-

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ment in providing education had moulded schools towards total uniformity. The underlying thrust of their messages showed that Singapore has reached the threshold to push for excellence in education through a new breed of strong, independent schools. Thus it is not surprising that even some professionals spoke up against the association of excellence only through independent schools.

    However, going through the report, Mr Chairman, I am convinced that the principals' concluding remarks in their final chapter, "Conclusions and Recommendations" were clear as to the focus of the report. I quote page 76 of the report, "Towards Excellence in Schools":

    'These recommendations have been made in the belief that, if implemented, they would pave the way for our schools to achieve excellence in education.'

The emphasis here is "our schools", ie, all schools in Singapore, not just the independent schools.

    The Ministry has been seen by some as trying to push independent schools, not excellence in schools. This must be corrected or there will be resistance to this innovation. And because of this association of excellence only through independent schools, many fears, worries and concerns were expressed at the dialogue sessions. The question of fees invariably cropped up because of the fear that fees of such schools would be beyond the reach of the majority. Then there is the question of admission criteria to such schools. Would not the less academically able children of the rich have an edge over the others? Because parents of such children are prepared to pay the substantial school fees required.

    Teachers are worried about the independence and authority given to the principal who can hire and fire them. Then as it is unlikely that independent schools will be able to shoulder the entire burden of financing their recurrent expenditure and capital development, they will need substantial assistance from the Government if they are to maintain high educational standards. Will the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Education allow them to be really independent when they hold the purse strings or at least a big portion of it?

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    Then what about the schools not going independent? They will watch how the Ministry allocates the funds. Will it be evenly distributed to all the schools or will more go to the independent schools? What is the implication of all these discussions and of the report?

    The Ministry of Education and the schools will be put to the test in the coming months. Why is this so? The reason, Mr Chairman, Sir, is very simple. As a result of this report and subsequent dialogues, we have raised expectations. We have raised expectations of parents, of teachers, of those in the Ministry of Education. Parents are now more aware of the shortcomings of our present school system, double session schools, overcrowded schools, high teacher-pupil ratio, etc. We highlighted all these. It is good that we are honest about these. So now they will be impatient to see that the schools their children are attending are better equipped, better staffed, smaller teacher-pupil ratio, better curriculum, pastoral care and career guidance programmes.

    Then teachers and principals expect more from the Ministry of Education. They want greater flexibility and autonomy, ancillary support and reducing class size. And how about the expectations of the Ministry of Education officials. They expect schools to be initiators rather than implementors. There is so much adverse accusation of the top-down approach system that they are now waiting to see how the bottom-up approach is going to be better.

    So, Mr Minister, Sir, with all raised expectations, the onus is now on you and the Ministry of Education to respond to the recommendations. What are the priority areas to start with? You must let us know.

    The school principals' recommendations are good. No one can dispute what they have recommended. In fact, there is nothing new in the report. It was what the teachers and principals were talking about for years but not recognized. But now it has official sanction. I support the report because it is towards the improvement of all schools and not for independent schools only. How the recommendations are going to be implemented will be watched by my committee and by many

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concerned parents. It must be across the board. If the Ministry of Education is seen to operate or subsidize more a fully independent school without allocating resources or less resources to the other schools as well, there will be unhappiness all round. And the Ministry of Education will be accused of favouritism. Many people, including teachers and principals at the dialogue sessions, believe that any school which is granted the resources and leeway that independent schools will have cannot but improve. The impression given is that the Ministry has decided that certain schools are going independent or should be independent. The First Deputy Prime Minister has listed independent schools as one of the Government's priority.

    What is it that we want of the end-product of our educational system? We want an all-rounded student good in studies as well as good in other fields. But is this the vision shared by all? Not from what we heard at the dialogue sessions. Alas, many Singaporeans say that this is not so in Singapore when opportunities with good jobs and positions are based purely on good grades. We must be clear in our minds what we want. What is excellence after all? If excellence is measured by the number of A's at examinations, then all this debate will be just an academic exercise.

    The Chairman: Order. Dr Tan, your time is up.

    Dr Tan Cheng Bock: I did it in ten minutes, Sir.

    The Chairman: So you are not so long-winded after all. You may move your amendment now.

    Dr Tan Cheng Bock: Yes, I forgot to move my amendment. Sir, I beg to move,

    That the sum to be allocated for Head L be reduced by $10 in respect of Subhead LA-01-1100 of the Main Estimates*.

    The Chairman: Dr Ow Chin Hock, you have 10 minutes.

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    Dr Ow Chin Hock (Leng Kee): Sir, in the Report "Towards Excellence in Schools", I find one sensible recommendation, and that is, providing "Pastoral care and career guidance". May I suggest that, to begin with, the Ministry of Education provide secondary school students with guidance and information on courses and careers. At present, many principals and teachers take the percentage of students entering junior colleges as an indicator of their success and achievement. The schools provide the Secondary II students, before they select their subject combinations, with information on the junior colleges and pre-university requirements and even course requirements of the NUS.

    There is nothing wrong in aiming high and to strive for academic excellence. However, at the same time, students should also be given a more realistic assessment of their own abilities and be informed of all the channels and opportunities open to them after the 'O' level. Students must realize that not everyone can be a 5-pointer, and only a small proportion of junior colleges and pre-university students make it into the universities.

    Should not the principals and the Ministry advise students and their parents to consider the polytechnics as a more market-orientated alternative? Is it not better for the 11-20-pointers, particularly those from the Science and sub-Science streams to go into the polytechnics and get a good technical training? Should not the principals and the Ministry inform the students of the good career prospects and employment opportunities of polytechnic graduates? Is it not true that the polytechnics provide training programmes which are more relevant to the technical manpower requirement of the economy?

    I was told that the cut-off point for entrance into the polytechnics has dropped in the last few years, as more and more students opted for junior colleges and pre-university centres. If this trend is not checked, then we may lose out to other Asian NICs which are producing highly competent technicians and technologists

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in large numbers. So we face a situation that on the one hand for every successive batch of new intakes into the polytechnics, the average grade, or mean grade, of students has declined. On the other hand, we are creating a potential pool of frustrated 'A' level students who cannot get into university and who may not be able to find suitable jobs. Is this not a waste of manpower?

    I remember in the 1984 Budget debate the Minister of State for Education had to defend and explain why 2,000 students who were eligible for junior colleges chose to go to the polytechnics. But two years later the polytechnics had vacancies. What went wrong, and what caused this reversal in the last two years? Was it because the Ministry tried to persuade 'O' level students with 17-points and below to go to pre-university? Or were there other reasons? What about this year? I hope the Minister of State will not quote me the 9,000-plus students who have applied for the two polytechnics. Partly, this was the result of the "Promote Poly" campaigns. In the last few months of 1986, the staff members of the two polytechnics were all over Singapore, talking to principals, teachers and students and urging them and begging them to apply. Moreover, the two polytechnics had open house exhibitions, with music thrown in, in order to attract students. But more important, many of these 9,000-plus students will not be admitted into the polytechnics because of the mis-match between demand and supply. Some popular courses such as electronics,engineering and business studies were "over-subscribed". On the other hand, courses such as civil engineering, building and mechanical and manufacturing courses have not got enough applicants.

    All these facts highlighted the importance of providing guidance and information on courses and careers. Otherwise the unhealthy competition for students between junior colleges, pre-university centres and polytechnics will grow. This will eventually undermine our manpower training programme and our economic growth. Has the Ministry given sufficient attention to this aspect of education, and what are the solutions?

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    The next point I would like to raise is the bilingual policy. It was announced in December 1983 that after 1987 the so-called national stream will be introduced. Except for four primary schools and nine SAP schools, all pupils would be taught EL as First Language and mother tongue as Second Language. While most parents have accepted this, many Chinese Singaporeans have expressed their doubts about the sincerity and commitment of the Ministry to the bilingual policy. They were also concerned with the decline of the CL standard.

    The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education was quoted to have said:

    'The bilingual policy is strongly supported and will be strongly implemented by the Government.'

That was in the Straits Times on 22nd December, 1983. How strong is the support and how strong is the implementation? I regret to inform the Minister that people are simply not convinced. We have a credibility gap here.

    With regard to the CL standard, the Parliamentary Secretary, in his reply to a question by the Member for Delta on 13th March last week, claimed that the CL standard has improved between 1981 and 1986. He quoted the increasing percentage of PSLE and 'O' level students who passed CL2 as evidence. Anyone who has commonsense knows that the passing rate does not necessarily reflect the standard of CL. The passing rate depends on many factors such as the difficulty of the examination questions, the expectation of the examiners, the way the examinations are marked and so on and so forth. Moreover, I was told that examination marks could be adjusted.

    In 1984, the Minister of State also claimed that a Secondary 4 student had to study a minimum of 3,000 Chinese characters and 200 idiomatic expressions. My question is, could they master and use these characters and expressions?

    In January this year I attended a workshop on Chinese literature. The participants were scholars, writers, teachers and journalists. Many of them were very pessimistic about the future of Chinese education and Chinese language in Singapore.

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They gave concrete examples on how poor our students' CL standard is. Many Secondary 4 students could not read the Chinese newspaper editorial with comprehension. The essays and articles they submitted to the newspaper were so poor - can bu ren du (    ) - that they cannot be published without rewriting and heavy editing by editors. May I find out from the Minister what concrete steps have been taken to maintain the CL standard? Another related question, how could we ensure that we have sufficient local CL teachers and journalists and editors in the near future? I dread the day when the Chief Editor of Lianhe Zaobao and the principals of the SAP schools have to be imported.

    Encik Wan Hussin bin Hj Zoohri (Kampong Ubi): Mr Chairman, Sir, I would like to echo the sentiments of the Member for Ayer Rajah in that we should re-focus the importance of this Report Towards Excellence in Schools to what it can contribute not solely to the independent schools but to all the other schools in Singapore. After all the focus of this Report is to seek the ingredients that go into the making of a good, effective and successful school, irrespective of what type it is.

    In this respect, Sir, it is my hope that the Ministry of Education would ensure that this initial interest and enthusiasm of this Report would not fade away. Of particular importance is that reference to and discussion on this Report should be sustained between the Ministry and all the schools. A systematic way could be worked out whereby all school principals would be given the guidance and the encouragement of extracting the relevant items from the Report so that they could translate this in their own schools. Perhaps the 12 principals could act as resource persons for these other principals in the other schools and follow-up discussions and workshops in their different zones could be held where the 12 principals would provide the additional inputs of identifying what I call "selected potential areas of educational growth". In this way, all the schools would be involved in the positive implementation of the Report and

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thus the philosophy of encouraging principals and teachers to be initiators of change and not merely implementers of policy would be realized.

    As an extension of this bottom-up approach, Sir, it would be a refreshing change if more school principals and teachers could be given greater opportunity of exposure to innovative projects done in schools in other countries. This, in fact, was one of the criteria mentioned by the Minister for Education at the NTI forum on 22nd July 1986, when he referred to the subject of fostering innovation and creativity in schools. Perhaps in this respect the Ministry could have some funds set aside where schools which have identified their potential areas of educational growth and want to seek additional knowledge and expertise in these areas could be assisted or subsidized to visit successful schools in other countries. Of course, procedures and criteria for selection and assessment of these areas of growth could be worked out systematically. What is important is to provide the right incentives for the growth of the right professional environment where initiative, ideas and success are duly recognized and rewarded.

    Sir, I have one other observation to make. Looking at the 13 schools visited by the 12 principals, all these schools cater for students up to the age of 18, or equivalent to our pre-university students, except that these schools have different levels of in-take ranging from 3 years to 13 years. I am just wondering if some thought has been given to the possibility of having one of our independent schools adapting this model where secondary and pre-university students are in the same school with all the necessary facilities catering for both groups of students. With this school one could study what are the comparative advantages in terms of cost and efficiency as compared with having separate schools for secondary and junior colleges. I see several educational advantages in this model. (1) A student spends longer years in this school and this helps to strengthen his loyalty to the school and upon leaving the school would keep his links with his alma mater. (2) There is a natural or a smoother transition from his secondary to his pre-university education in the same

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school without having to re-adjust himself to a new environment should he go to another pre-university institution. (3) Over this longer period his educational path and performance can be better monitored by his secondary and pre-university tutors in the same school. (4) There will be optimum utilization of educational facilities both by the secondary and the pre-university students. Lastly, the students having gone through this cycle of secondary and pre-university education in the same school will be that much confident and ready for his university education. I hope, Sir, this is one area that could be looked into by the prospective independent schools' boards and management.

    Mr Sia Khoon Seong (Moulmein): Sir, as the Member for Ayer Rajah said, the recommendations made in the 12 principals' Report are not new. They are what teachers have been clamouring for many years now. We are all aware of the ingredients that go into the making of a good school - smaller enrolments, lower teacher/pupil ratio, adequate ancillary staff, better physical facilities and so on. The problem is one of finance. We may do well to set our priorities in education and deal with them in a rational manner.

    The Principals' Report seems to support the view that the headmaster, if given the authority to select his teachers and appoint key personnel, everything is fine and excellence will be achieved. I think the problem is not as simple as that. To find a person of this calibre is no easy task and yet, according to the Report, it is crucial to the system. On the other hand, to choose someone of a lesser calibre is to let loose a bigot who will try to enforce his own brand of education which may be misguided and dangerous. Given such power and authority, he may so impose his will that he will brook no opposition to his ideas, even though these might be highly questionable. It is doubtful if he will then be able to foster team spirit, although he will probably get a semblance of cooperation from teachers afraid to speak their minds.

    To be truly effective, a principal needs to be an informed, mature and wise person who believes in a consultative style of management, who gives a willing ear to good counsel from his teachers and who

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has the courage to act knowing that his decisions are fully abetted by his staff. After all, the considered opinions of a good professional staff are not to be belittled since they can see aspects of a problem that he might not have perceived.

    It is also questionable whether it is indeed wise to allow the individual philosophy of the principal to be the educational philosophy of his school, even if his philosophy takes into the total development of the child. Surely it is our national philosophy that must take precedence over that of an individual.

    The Report tends to over-rate the importance of the principal and to overlook the importance of teachers in the quest for excellence. Doubtless, the principal is a key figure in this quest but it should be emphasized that, of his own accord, he can achieve little despite all his talents. He is the leader of the team but it is the quality and composition of the team that is all-important. Talented, dedicated, effective teachers are absolutely essential in bringing about the transformation of a school. It is the good classroom teacher, the salt of excellence, who can tease out the potential of every child, develop his skills, abilities and knowledge, mould and shape his character and impart the values we cherish in our society. It is the classroom teacher coming into daily contact with pupils who can achieve this most important task and not the principal ensconced in his office. It is the job of the principal to ensure that the best conditions exist for achieving this task and that the teacher is not hindered in his work with pupils by mountains of paper work and administrative chores that ancillary staff might well deal with. The best thing a good principal can do is to provide teachers with the necessary administrative support to assist teachers to fulfil their professional tasks effectively.

    To motivate such a staff to give of their best, a principal will need, in the first place, to learn to respect his staff and to listen to their views. He should be a skilful manager who sets the tone and provides the conducive environment in which teachers will be encouraged to be creative and innovative in their teaching. Such an atmosphere cannot be achieved by coercion or threat;

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indeed these tend to stifle creativity and initiative and to produce hostile feelings. Sometimes this hostility may not manifest itself overtly, but may find expression in indifference, lack of enthusiasm or interest and minimal contribution. The underlying cause may be deep-seated resentment of the authoritarian style of the principal conceited enough to think that everyone else besides himself is misguided and foolish. A principal who runs down his staff habitually could very often be the root cause of the problem.

    We believe that the Report provides a lopsided view of the agents of change. Much more emphasis should have been given to the role of good teachers and the effect they can have on the whole tone and tenor of the school.

    The Principals' Report also recommends that principals be "encouraged to exercise flexibility to decide curricula, subject to the requirements arising from national considerations as well as an understanding of the place of national examinations." It is hard to see how, in a rigidly examination-oriented system like ours, there can be more flexibility than already exists. Our society emphasizes the importance of achievement in examinations as an indication of capability and merit. It also regards certain school subjects as central and others as peripheral and thus good results in these subjects matter. Also flexibility may imply that beyond the core subjects a child may do any subject he or she chooses to do. Within our present constraints, are we in a position to provide for this? Even if we are, is this desirable in the context of the need for the right subject combinations as a set of criteria for admission to University?

    Generally, the pupils offer seven subjects for their 'O' levels. Brighter pupils may offer eight subjects. Of these, four are core subjects, namely English, Second Language, Mathematics D and a Science subject from five Science subjects, namely, Physics, Chemistry, Pure Physics, Pure Chemistry, Biology or Human Social Biology. They may then select three or four subjects, as the case may be, from a

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group of elective subjects. These include Additional Mathematics, Literature, History, Geography, Home Economics, Art, Music and certain technical subjects.

    It is required that Science students do a humanities subject and vice-versa. The problem is that for admission into pre-university, polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic certain subject combinations are necessary and others are not given due weightage (eg. Polytechnic does not recognize Human and Social Biology as a Science subject). So one or two years ago, the Ministry of Education came up with a list of more than 10 recommended subject combinations which the schools may follow. Generally, certain elective subjects like Literature, History and Geography are favoured by our pupils and rightly so. After all, these subjects have their intrinsic value. We must encourage in our pupils a sense of both our geographical and historical positions. In the light of all this, it is difficult to see how much more flexible the curriculum can be.

    In the area of extra-curricular activities, the emphasis of the Report seems to be on the raising of standards in art, music and drama and the encouragement of cultural activities. Such an emphasis may be justified in the United Kingdom and the United States because there are opportunities to satisfy those who are interested in such activities. But can the same be said of Singapore? Furthermore, can our society really support musicians and artists and afford them a decent standard of living if they are intent on such matters? Let us be realistic and practical and accept that for education to be meaningful it must prepare the young for the realities of their adult life. For one thing, they must be able to earn a living. Another important effect of this emphasis is that it seems to detract from the national pre-occupation of building rugged, self-reliant Singaporeans.

    While we fully support the suggestion that aesthetic education needs to be encouraged, we think that the curriculum proposed should be more carefully balanced so that it is in consonance with our national aspirations. The spirit of patriotism, for example, needs to be nurtured. Total defence is a theme very close to our hearts these days.

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    At present, we have a fairly well developed education system which maintains a healthy balance between meeting the individual needs of the child and preparing him to be a good person and a loyal citizen who is capable of earning a decent living and playing his part as a member of our society. We must be willing to admit that our education system is not perfect and we should make improvements where these are necessary and desirable. Even if we are, is this desirable in the context of the need for the right subject combinations as a set of criteria for admission into university?

    While some of the recommendations, like making all secondary schools single-session and reducing the present teacher/pupil ratio sound good on paper, the problem is implementing them. Three essential ingredients are absolutely essential before we can hope to achieve them, namely, billions of dollars extra, large numbers of job applicants of the right calibre for teaching jobs and time. I am not sure even in 10 years' time whether we are able to achieve anything near the targets we set.

    The Chairman: Mr Bernard Chen is not here. Dr Aline Wong.

    Dr Aline K. Wong (Changkat): Sir, I would like to join the debate on the independent schools. Few people would disagree with the rationale behind the independent schools. They will provide diversity in our educational system, promote creativity and help us attain excellence in education. However, the foremost question in the mind of the public is that of tuition fees. This has been repeatedly raised in various dialogue and feedback sessions, and although the Minister and various Ministry of Education officials have given us their assurance that needy students who are bright will be given Government assistance in the form of scholarships and bursaries, a question still remains in the minds of the public, ie, what further action is the Ministry likely to take in order to ensure that there is enough of a good mix of students from various economic or social backgrounds, so that students who go to independent schools will grow up and study in an environment

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which is much more representative of the cross-section of society?

    Although the raising of tuition fees is likely to affect only the small number of independent schools, I am sorry to report that amongst some members of the public they are already getting worried about the possibility of the raising of fees even in Government schools. As it stands now, education in our primary and secondary schools is heavily subsidized and is provided almost free to all Singaporeans. Unfortunately, the wrong message that the public seems to be getting from various recent Government policies is this. Excellence equals independence. Independence equals privatization. And privatization equals reduction of Government subsidies.

    One question raised by these concerned parents is whether the Government will be tempted in future to even reduce the subsidies for State schools such as by charging tuition fees which are pegged to those charged by the independent schools, thereby reducing the present high levels of educational subsidies. Personally, I do not see the possibility of this happening within the near future. The Government has always realized that education is not only a basic social service but that it is a very important part of investment in human resources. By comparison, there is the possibility of the Government increasing the amount of subsidies to the independent schools, at least initially, to enable them to take off. If so, we may be accentuating the elitist tendencies which are already present in our society in spite of our system of meritocracy.

    Related to this is the question that the public again has raised whether the independent schools would be creaming off the best students and the best teachers and, if so, what would happen to the quality of the other schools. I think there is need for the Minister to clarify the policy on the selection of students as well as the selection of teachers who would be going to these independent schools.

    As the Member for Moulmein has pointed out, the Report of the principals places a great deal of emphasis on autonomy to be given to the headmaster or headmistress. This is rightly so. But of

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equal importance for the Ministry's consideration is how to train good and dedicated teachers who share the vision of excellence in education and this applies not just to the independent schools but for all schools if we were to raise further the general quality of education. To tackle this problem, Sir, requires something more than improving the terms of service for the teachers. Social attitude towards teachers or the social status of teachers has somehow to be put right. In the old days, teachers had very poor terms of service but they were respected by society. In those days, society placed a great deal of emphasis on the intrinsic value of learning and on the concept of self-cultivation through education. Sad to say, the emphasis today is on the utilitarian value of education - the paper chase, paper qualifications as a passport for well-paid jobs and comfortable living. So year after year, we lament the detrimental effects of the extreme examination pressure on our students and the entire system. But are we not going to really take some practical steps to solve the situation?

    The Chairman: Order. It is 1.00 pm.

    Thereupon Mr Deputy Speaker left the Chair of the Committee and took the Chair of the House.

    Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. I suspend the Sitting and will take the Chair again at 2.30 pm.

Sitting accordingly suspended
at 1.00 pm until 2.30 pm.

Sitting resumed at 2.30 pm

[Mr Deputy Speaker in the Chair]

    Debate in Committee of Supply resumed.

[Mr Deputy Speaker in the Chair]

    Head L (cont.) -

    Dr Aline Wong: Before we broke off for lunch, I was on the subject of what kind of practical measures we can take to help reduce the examination pressure. Mr Chairman, I am aware this is a very complicated subject and in fact the Ministry has made a lot of effort in the past to help

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reduce the trend. In order to stay within the purview of the discussion of independent schools, let me just make one observation, that is, I feel that the independent schools, the principals and teachers must resist the pressure of social expectations for all or most of their students to excel only academically speaking. I think at the moment there is a tendency for students to take a large number of '0' level papers and 'A' level papers beyond what is really necessary for entry into JCs and universities. In this way, the schools, even including independent schools, may be stifling the creativity of the students, may be depriving the students of the time necessary in order to benefit from the broad-based curriculum and this is perhaps the kind of problem that the Member for Moulmein was talking about.

    My point is, I sincerely hope that the principals and teachers in the independent schools will resist this kind of social pressure or expectation that their students must be academic high-flyers. After all, the right educational principles must be put back in place. And I believe the independent schools would be a very good place for this kind of right philosophy on an all-rounded education to be put back and to spearhead this return to the right emphasis in education. And with this, I thank you, Mr Chairman, Sir.

    Mr Jek Yeun Thong (Queenstown): Mr Chairman, Sir, I would like to take the opportunity to bring up the matter of University tuition fees which I have touched on in my so-called long rambling speech during the Budget debate. I have given my support to the measure and I have also offered some suggestions. But unfortunately, this point has not been taken up by the media. In fact, I have brought up many good points about the Budget and about the Government which they have conveniently dropped under the pretext of constraint of space and preferred to highlight only the troublesome points such as consumption tax which formed a very small part of my speech. As a result, I have become a highly misunderstood person.

    It seems that they are in a conspiracy to build up an image of me to be a critic which a humble and harmless person like

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me does not deserve. One journalist even said that I was using different notes but singing the same tune as that of the Member for Potong Pasir, which I take it to be a great insult. But since they are not protected by parliamentary privilege, I reserve the right to sue for libel. It is not that I do not like the Member for Potong Pasir but I do not like his relationship with Tan Koon Swan, a crooked businessman and a Malaysian politician.

    The Chairman: Mr Jek, can I ask you what has all this got to do with the policy on Education?

    Mr Jek Yeun Thong: Well, it is about the misrepresentation and the distortion or missing of the part of my speech by the press.

    The Chairman: But I do not see how the distortion of the speech you made on financial matters has got to do with the Ministry of Education. Could you get back to Education, please?

    Mr Jek Yeun Thong: Yes, of course. I think the trouble with the press is that they missed my point on Education. The style they happened to like is what the Chinese call - wan shi bu gong (playful and not taking things seriously). So they really do not know what to do with me - I mean the press, not the Government. For a start, they do not know when I am serious and when I am not serious, and whether I have lost my head. And if they are not careful about reporting it, they may be in danger of losing their own heads.

    The Chairman: Mr Jek, the press reports on you have got nothing to do with Education. Can you confine yourself to the subject? Otherwise, I will rule you out of order.

    Mr Jek Yeun Thong: Okay. In that case, I better come back to this point. But this time I am serious. I support the measure and philosophy behind the increase in tuition fees. But while I appreciate the consideration and magnanimity of the Minister to set up a $100 million study loan for needy students, I would also urge him to peg the interest rate on the loan not to the prime rate of the Big Four banks but to the rate the Government borrows its funds from institutions such as the CPF. That is on the assumption that the CPF always

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lends its money to the Government at rates lower than prime. I feel that the Government should not make any profit out of the study loan from the poor students. Furthermore, prime rate fluctuates according to the demand and supply of capital. We are only lucky that the rate now stands at an all-time low of 5 1/2% and many can now afford it. But if the population is again mad on speculation on all sorts of things (gold, property, shares and so on), then the prime rate will skyrocket and 11%, 12%, and even 14% prime rates are not unheard of in recent years. So continued high prime rates for several years could mean disaster for the poor students. It could mean that their liabilities would be higher than their assets and they might be disqualified from signing the form of non-indebtedness when they join the Government Service. And as for the law students, who knows, in future there may be more Francis Seows among them.

    My second suggestion is that the Government should also extend the $100 million facility to students who go abroad to study in approved and recognized universities. The merits of doing so are obvious and I have mentioned them in my speech during the Budget debate and I do not want to repeat them. Also, there is no danger that the students having taken the loans would abscond or not come back since at the moment all the male students going overseas are providing bonds because of national service. And as for female students, if we are still having too many of them, we can easily arrange bonds for those who intend to take the loan. Since the students going overseas will eventually return to contribute to the good of the nation, it is only fair that they be given the same treatment as the students in the NUS. So I hope the Minister could give these suggestions his serious consideration. Thank you.

    Dr Arthur Beng Kian Lam (Fengshan): Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, thank you for allowing me to join the discussion on independent schools.

    I wish, first, to deal with the question of the authority to be vested in the principals. Sir, I support the comments of the Member for Moulmein in this area. The

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Report, Towards Excellence In Schools, was prepared by a group of 12 principals. I cannot but ask myself whether the Report would have taken a different form if the report had been made by senior teachers instead of principals.

    Sir, in Singapore, the trend is towards a more consultative form of government and in management of HDB new towns, there will be more consultation and also involvement of residents in the town councils. Thus, it is not surprising to me that some teachers and parents look upon with alarm at the role that is envisaged for principals. Some teachers have even stated that they would prefer not to teach in independent schools because of the perceived over-domineering role of the principal. This is understandable because, in the Report, extensive powers will be vested in the principals, including the power to choose their own teachers. This, by implication, means also that they will be vested with powers to terminate the service of a teacher. In the Report by the principals, it is stated that only the governing body can terminate service. But who will it be that will put the teacher's report to the governing body? The principal, of course. Under the heading of Authority of the Headmaster, the Report reads, I quote:

    'The headmaster might have been appointed by the governing body of the school and therefore accountable to it, but once appointed he carried its confidence and trust and was left to run the school as he saw fit.'

    In the same paragraph, it is stated:

    'It was more a question of the governing body, having selected a head, giving him the necessary support to do a good job and to get on with it, rather than place obstructions in his path and slow down the pace for him to operate.'

    Sir, I am concerned with the principals' perception of the role of the governing body, namely, only to appoint or select the principals. Further, I am sure much as principals want their schools to excel, so do members of the governing body or the Board of Governors. I see no reason why the Board of Governors of a school would want to obstruct or slow down the principal unless the Board has good reasons to do so. What may be regarded as obstruction by the principals may be regarded as

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checks on the system. If one is even more open-minded, one could regard this as consultative management. The closing sentence of this paragraph reads:

    'In such circumstances, the head could grow further in his role and give expression to his own brand of education.'

    While I agree that autonomy for schools and independent school is good, I am apprehensive regarding this reference to the headmaster being given the latitude to practise his own brand of education. To allay the fears of the teachers and parents, I hope that the Minister for Education will explain the role and authority that will be vested in principals as we move towards excellence in schools. I hope that in the future, parents and teachers will continue to select schools and not select the principals instead.

    Sir, if it is any comfort to us, the question of excellence in schools is not a new one. In a book entitled "Schooling for Individual Excellence" by an American author, Don H. Parker, printed in 1963, it discusses many of the problems that we as a nation are now addressing in our educational system. The problem is well described in this anecdote. The scene is set in a shoeshop:

    'First customer: I like to see a pair of shoes in size 7 for my son Adrian.

    Salesman: Size 7, I am sorry, Sir, we carry only size 5.

    Second customer: I like to see a pair of shoes in size 3 for my son Lawrence.

    Salesman: Size 3, I am sorry, Sir, we carry only size 5.'

The author comments, "Could clothing business survive misfitting two-thirds of its customers?" Can schools? Can our country survive giving two-thirds of its children a misfit education? Can any nation? Yet everyday in school rooms throughout our nation, we tell millions of children, "We are sorry. We only carry grade 5," when many an individual child actually wears only a grade 3. Just as bad is our response to another fifth grade child who needs a grade 7 when we try to cramp his superior learning ability into grade 5 with learning limitations.

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    In a chapter entitled "Change in the Making", the author states positively his belief that things can change for the better. He cites an example of change that took place in Long Island, New York. I present three quotes from the author:

    '1. Curriculum change can take place in a relatively short time when the people of the community want it.

    2. There are many controversial religious and political elements in each community which the school must deal. As each of us knows only too well, trying to satisfy all of them often leads to an impasse or even a stalemate to curriculum change.

    3. We are finding that when we talk with parents/taxpayers about better learning for their children each unto his own, religious and political differences give way to thinking together about how all can move towards the goal of improving learning in the daily ongoing classroom.'

    Sir, I believe that the Ministry of Education is on the right path and that Singaporeans have the will and the verve and want to see these changes implemented so that we can really achieve excellence in our schools and also have schooling for individual excellence.

    Mr Goh Chee Wee (Boon Lay): Mr Chairman, Sir, compared to the school leavers, say, 15 years ago, our 'O' and 'A' level school leavers have more opportunities and options to further their studies or undergo skills training. Our universities, polytechnics and vocational institutions now offer a wide range of courses to meet the different academic grades and academic interest of the students. The school leavers who wish to pursue further studies have to make a difficult choice of which institution to enrol in and which course of study to pursue. Much depends on the students' own interest, their parents' influence and their peer group influence. I agree with the point raised by the Member for Leng Kee that there is a need to give the students a proper guidance in choosing a course of study.

    Sir, with so many institutions offering different types of courses and all stepping up their public relations and marketing efforts to attract students and all promising good career prospects for taking up courses in their institutions, I think the students can be thoroughly confused. What I want to ask of the Minister for Education is whether the Ministry or the

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schools could provide proper counselling and guidance to help the students to make their choice. And I also wish to know whether the teachers and the principals are themselves knowledgeable enough to offer such guidance. I know of the instance when the students asked the teacher, "What is the difference between the courses offered by the VITB Training Institute and the ones offered by the EDB training centres? How does one compare the status of the Diploma or Certificate awarded by the Singapore Polytechnic and the EDB training centres?" Guess what is the answer? "Don't know."

    I think this is an honest answer. Many people do not know, not just the teachers. Sir, I believe that principals and the teachers themselves need adequate briefings too.

    What about the students who are leaving the school to seek employment in the job market? I think they need career guidance also. And I would like to suggest that the Ministry of Education as well as the schools organize more career talks and visits to the industrial and commercial establishments to enable the students to understand the nature of work and the working environment of different vocations. So when they apply for a job, they more or less have an idea of what the job entails, the prospect for advancement, what the physical environment is like. In this way, perhaps we can reduce the chances of the young people hopping from one place to another in search of a job of his preference. This will help to reduce job hopping among the young workers. And I would appreciate the Minister's response to this suggestion.

    The Minister for Education (Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam): Mr Chairman, Sir, first of all, may I thank hon. Members for their suggestions, views and comments on this very important topic of Education which is of interest and concern to all Singaporeans as it affects our children. Members have ranged over a wide variety of topics. With your permission, Sir, and with the permission of Members, what I would like to do now under this particular Head is to deal with broad policy issues and later on when there are more departmental matters, I will take them up and also my colleagues, the

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Minister of State and the Parliamentary Secretary will reply to them under the respective subheads.

    Sir, in December last year, I led a delegation of 12 principals to visit a number of acknowledged good schools in Britain and the United States. The purpose of the visit was to identify the factors which go to make a good and effective school and to consider how such factors could be developed in our schools in Singapore. As Members know, the principals have set out their conclusions and recommendations in a Report, "Towards Excellence in Schools". I see the Chairman of the GPC on Education has got a copy in the House. This Report has been widely publicized in the press and on SBC. Also, in a series of meetings last month, I discussed the principals' recommendations with parents, with principals and with teachers. The points that were raised at the meetings have been adequately covered in the press and I do not propose to repeat them today.

    What I intend to do is to respond, first of all, to the main point raised by the Member for Ayer Rajah, and that is, to identify what are the priority areas. What are the areas of concern that emerged from these meetings and how does the Government propose to respond to these areas of concern?

    Sir, there are four principal areas of concern which emerged from the meetings which I had and which can be seen from the comments of Members today. These four areas are:

    (1) Implementing the Single Session System in all schools, starting with the secondary schools.

    (2) Creating a more effective teaching environment by providing principals and teachers with adequate ancillary support and reducing class size.

    (3) Emphasizing pastoral care in our schools and particularly career guidance in our secondary schools and our junior colleges.

    (4) Allowing schools to operate with greater flexibility and greater autonomy.

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    Let me, Sir, deal with each of these areas in turn. First, the implementation of the Single Session System in all schools in Singapore. Thirty years ago, there was a shortage of places in our schools and many of the children in Singapore did not have the opportunity to go to school. In order to provide a place in school for every child of school-going age, our schools had to go double session.

    However, the double session system has many disadvantages. With two sessions of pupils sharing the same facilities, principals and teachers face real handicaps and constraints in devising appropriate education programmes for the children under their charge. There are time-tabling difficulties and it is difficult to arrange either remedial or enrichment classes simply because the classrooms are often not available. Furthermore, as the double session system comprises essentially two separate schools operating in the same school premises, it is rare for staff and children from both sessions to come together at the same time. This makes it difficult to build up a cohesive and distinctive school community.

    The pilot project in 20 schools started by my Ministry in January 1986 has shown that with only one session of pupils using the school facilities for the whole day, schools have much greater flexibility in time-tabling and in programme organization. Sir, this makes possible a variety of programmes to be organized to meet the specific needs and interests of pupils.

    There is also better coordination among school staff as more regular consultation on pupil and curriculum matters allows for better planning and continuity in teaching. Relationships between teachers and pupils are therefore strengthened as staff and pupils stay back more often for formal and informal activities. This greater sense of belonging makes schools life more enriching and enjoyable.

    Sir, Government has therefore decided to introduce the Single Session System in all our schools beginning with the secondary schools. To implement the Single Session System in all secondary schools, we will need to build an additional 50 schools over and above the 25 new schools which

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have been provided for under the present school building programme scheduled to end in 1989. It will not be an easy task to build the schools nor to train the principals needed to lead the schools and the teachers needed to man the classrooms and to conduct the lessons. Nevertheless, Sir, for the sake of our children, we must try.

    My Ministry will draw up a plan to implement the Single Session System in all secondary schools over a period of 6-7 years. This will involve building, on the average, 10-12 schools a year or about one school every month over the next 6-7 years. Barring mishaps, all children who register for Primary 1 this year can look forward to entering Single Session Schools when they enrol for Secondary 1 in 1994.

    Now, Sir, I go on to the next point brought up by the Member for Moulmein, and that is, the creation of a more effective teaching environment in schools. As pointed out by one of the principals at the meetings which I had with parents, a teacher today does not only teach. He is also a collector of fees, a keeper of records and an amateur typist. And when he has free time, he is called upon to repair and to maintain audio-visual equipment.

    In order to enable teachers and principals to be more effective, my Ministry will implement a scheme to provide an executive officer and adequate clerical staff and technicians in all our schools in order to reduce the administrative burden of principals and teachers. Further- more, the Ministry will introduce measures to relieve teachers of unnecessary administrative chores, thereby allowing them to concentrate on their teaching duties. A pilot project on the use of GIRO for the collection of school and miscellaneous fees was implemented in eight schools last year. With the GIRO scheme, teachers are freed from the task of fee collection. The Ministry will extend the GIRO scheme for the payment of school and miscellaneous fees to all primary schools by March 1988 and to all secondary schools and junior colleges by December 1988.

    Similarly, with the implementation of the computer network linking schools to

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the Ministry Headquarters, teachers will be relieved of many non-teaching and mundane tasks, such as filling in of report books, mark sheets, class registers and pupils' data forms.

    Sir, one of the problems which makes for less effective teaching in our schools is the very large class size, which can be over 40 pupils to a class in some of our more popular schools. This large class size makes it difficult for teachers to vary their teaching styles to fit the particular requirements of the subjects which they teach. The teachers also cannot use individualized instructional methods or pay as much attention to each pupil as they would like.

    As a first step towards reducing class size, the Ministry will increase the intake of the Institute of Education over the next six to seven years with, first of all, the aim of training an additional 1,500 secondary school teachers over and above our normal requirements. Sir, when this is done, it will enable us to reduce class size in our secondary schools to an average of not more than 30 pupils per class.

    Sir, I go on to the topic of pastoral care and career guidance in our schools, points which have been emphasized, first, by the Member for Leng Kee and then by the Member for Boon Lay.

    Sir, education does not consist only of teaching our children how to pass examinations, although, as I have always stated, examinations are very important. Education, Sir, is also concerned with giving our students a purpose in life and in inculcating in them, through our moral education programmes, through our extra-curricular activities, good habits of self-discipline, respect for the family, loyalty for the nation and concern for the community. To further develop these important aspects of education, the Ministry plans to introduce a proper pastoral care and career guidance programme in our schools. Two lecturers in the Institute of Education are at present undertaking specialist training in the particular field of pastoral care and career guidance. In collaboration with the IE, the Ministry will mount training courses to train teachers in these areas. The IE will also strengthen pastoral care and career

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guidance aspects in its training programmes for both its Diploma-in-Education and Certificate-in-Education courses. These measures will enable the Ministry to help principals and teachers to develop comprehensive pastoral care programmes for their schools and, in particular, career guidance in our secondary schools and our junior colleges.

    Now, Sir, the topic of flexibility and autonomy in schools and independent schools commented upon by the Members for Kampong Ubi, Moulmein, Fengshan and Changkat. I will just take all of these together.

    Since the enactment of the Education Ordinance in 1957, schools in Singapore have been closely controlled by the Government. This centralized control of schools has brought about major benefits. It ensures that all our schools, without exception, meet minimum standards of instruction and of physical environment. While there must be checks and balances to ensure that there is no abuse of authority, the Minister will, in consultation with principals and with teachers, work out how best we can remove those restrictions which are unnecessary or which have become outdated.

    One example of a regulation which can be relaxed is the present rigid guidelines on the transfer of pupils between streams in our schools. I announced at the Schools Council Meeting in January this year that the Ministry was reviewing the guidelines, particularly those relating to the transfer of pupils from the Normal stream to the Express stream in secondary schools. This review has been completed and I am happy to announce that with effect from today the transfer of pupils from the Normal stream to the Express stream in our secondary schools can be done as and when, in the judgment of the principals and the teachers, the pupil is ready even if this is not at the end of the year.

    In order to see how we can further remove restrictions in our schools so that they can perform better and respond more sensitively to the needs of parents and of pupils, the Government will also allow a

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small number of our well established schools to go independent, if the schools wish to do so. I would like to stress here again that the initiative must come from the schools.

    In the implementation of independent schools in Singapore, we must however make sure that the following conditions apply:

    (1) The independent schools must conform to our national education policies and chief among these, Sir, are the maintenance of our bilingual policy and the teaching of moral education.

    (2) There is proper provision for control and supervision of these schools.

    (3) A scheme of financial assistance funded, if necessary, by Government must be set in place so that bright children from poor families who qualify for admission to the independent schools will not be prevented from attending these schools simply because they are unable to pay the fees.

    Sir, these three conditions must be set in place before we can allow independent schools to be set up in Singapore.

    Since the debate on independent schools started in October last year, about six months ago, four schools have indicated strong interest in going independent. Three of them are aided schools - the Anglo-Chinese School, St Joseph's Institution and Chinese High School. The fourth is a Government School - Raffles Institution. These four schools have set up Committees with members drawn from the Boards of Governors or the School Management Committees, School Advisory Committees or Old Boys' Associations to work out plans on how their respective schools can operate more independently of the Ministry of Education than is the case at present.

    Sir, I think we should not pre-empt these committees but to allow them to work out their plans before we can decide or amend them. The Ministry will work with these four schools in order to help them to implement their plans expeditiously.

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    Sir, I will conclude by saying that improvement in education is necessarily a slow and sometimes a painful process. The Report prepared by the principals who went with me and the discussions which I have had with parents, principals and teachers have given us a new momentum in our quest for excellence in education in Singapore. Sir, we must build on this momentum and we must not be afraid to undertake bold measures to improve our schools. Only then, Sir, can we be sure that our children will be adequately prepared to face the future with confidence.

    I will now be happy to take any questions which Members will have.

    Dr Lau Teik Soon (Serangoon Gardens): Sir, first let me congratulate the Minister for his prompt response to the recommendations of the principals. The principals made four major recommendations and the Minister has responded to all of them. I think what the Minister has just said is very reassuring, particularly to parents, teachers and students because he has reiterated that the Government emphasis now and in the future is to improve the present school system, to improve our secondary schools and achieve excellence. That is the emphasis of the Government. That I am sure is very reassuring to parents, teachers and pupils.

    May I comment on some of the points which the Minister has mentioned in his statement. With regard to the single-session schools, I hope that the Minister for Finance, and I see he is not here, will grant the Minister for Education the request to expedite the construction of schools so that the scheme to implement single-session schools can be achieved as soon as possible. But may I just add a word of caution that in the implementation of this scheme,that the single-session school should be spread across the country to ensure that in each of our HDB housing estate there will be at least one or two single-session schools. There should not be a concentration of single-session schools in any one particular place.

    With regard to the support which teachers will be receiving, I am glad to hear that the Minister has mentioned that the schools will get executive officers to

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lighten the load of the teachers, particularly to relieve them of the administrative duties. I would like to say that if the teachers are relieved of their administrative duties, the principals should not add on additional load to the teachers.

    In this connection, I would like to comment on the number of in-service courses, relevant or irrelevant, to the teachers which are being conducted by the Ministry of Education and which teachers have to attend. It should be reduced. The Minister has just mentioned that immediately principals will be given the flexibility to transfer students from one stream to another. I think he is rather cautious here. I would like to see the Ministry give a little more authority to principals. For example, give them the authority to recruit a small percentage of the staff they require for the schools. If that were to be the case, the principals would have the opportunity to select the best of the applicants. Additionally, I think they should also be given the authority to employ one or two additional clerical staff to help the school in the administration.

    The Minister mentioned about the pastoral care and career guidance and the steps being taken. If there is any omission in our present school system, Mr Chairman, it is the lack of pastoral care and career guidance in the schools. As far as our academic standard is concerned, I think we should have no concern about that. The academic standard in Singapore is comparable to the best, in my view, of the schools in the Commonwealth and even in the United States. We all know how well our students compete with the undergraduates in the various universities abroad. But it is this area of pastoral care and career guidance, which has been missing from our school system and I am very glad indeed that the Minister has agreed to adopt that recommendation. I hope that the Institute of Education will accelerate the establishment of this Department and go ahead with the training of teachers in this particular area.

    Finally, Sir, with regard to the independent schools, as the Minister has mentioned, it is entirely up to the school to offer its scheme to go independent. I

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hope, however, in the process teachers from the Government schools, ie, the good teachers, will not be drawn into the independent schools.

    The Chairman: Dr Lau, your time is up.

    Mr Goh Choon Kang (Braddell Heights)(In Mandarin): Mr Chairman, Sir, I share the sentiments of the Member for Serangoon Gardens. I am glad that the Minister now says that measures have been taken to upgrade our educational standards, including the adoption of single session for secondary schools, providing office administrative staff, strengthening pastoral care and career guidance for the students and promoting independent schools. All these measures, if implemented in toto, will definitely entail greater expenditure for the Ministry of Education. The question is whether the Government will give greater subsidy to education so that such increase in expenditure will not be transferred to the consumers. This is a question that everyone is concerned about.

    As a member of the Feedback Unit Supervisory Panel and the Government Parliamentary Committee on Education, I have been able to get in touch with people from all walks of life. I feel that many of them are worried whether in future, particularly when implementing the idea of independent schools, schools tuition fees will be greatly increased. Although the Minister for Education said just now that on implemention there would be a scheme to ensure that needy students would not be deprived of education because of poverty, he did not mention whether, or to what extent, school fees would be increased. From the feedback from members of the public we found that they are very concerned about whether school fees will be greatly increased and the extent of such increase. They are also worried that when independent schools have increased their school fees, Government schools and aided schools would also follow suit and increase their school fees. Some people openly discuss this question while many more others discuss privately and quietly whether school fees would be greatly increased in future and

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whether such increase would be passed over to the consumers or whether the Government would continue to give big subsidies to education. Are all these worries and concerns of members of the public correct or well founded or not? I hope the Minister will give an answer to allay their fears and suspicion.

    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Encik Sidek bin Saniff): Sir, I am glad to hear the reply made by the Minister. It is amazing that within a short space of time the Minister managed to get all the information, browse it through discussion, come to a conclusion and give this House and the people of Singapore a crystal clear direction.

    As the Minister mentioned just now, over 30 years ago in 1957, an intensive school building programme was initiated where double session schooling was first introduced. Then in 1958, the Singapore Polytechnic was established. The great demand for adult education was met through the Singapore Council for Adult Education or more popularly known as the Adult Education Board. Let us compare 30 years after 1959. The Minister mentioned that instead of having double session schools we are going to have single session schools. We are going to build between 40 and 50 secondary schools within the next 6-7 years. For adult education, our Government has introduced BEST, MOST and then WISE. What can be wiser than by giving us today a clear direction of excellence in schools and, of course, independent schools which I will comment later.

    In my meeting with the community leaders, there are three major areas which the people are concerned about. First, they are worried about the criteria of admission that would be adopted in the independent schools. This has to be answered by the Minister. Second, fees. I am glad that the Minister mentioned that the Government will take care of it. I am not quite sure whether the independent schools will look after it. And third, the community. I would say that the moment our kids manage to go to independent schools, it is best that parents do not worry about it. We have nothing to worry about it because the

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community as a whole is responsible for it. If it is a Malay community, let the community take it as their responsibility, as a present, as an award to the parents or to the students.

    As far as the growing elitism is concerned, my conclusion is that any tendency towards elitism would be eroded over time by Singaporeans' sense of common destiny and common aspirations. I always believe that whatever measures taken, let us put everything equal.

    On the suggestion made by the Minister, I would like to highlight one important area and, that is, the number of students in the class. Being a former teacher, I always believe that if you put 40 students in a class, say, in ACS, and 20 students in another class, let us say, in Raffles Institution, I have this notion somehow or other, that everything being equal, the school with 20 students in a class will perform better. I am indeed glad that the number of pupils in a class is 30. Who knows, as time goes by, maybe we can make it to 25, 20 or even 15, as suggested by the principals. I congratulate the Minister.

    Mr Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir): I am glad to hear from the Minister that steps are finally being taken to reduce the class size. I believe 30 at the moment is a realistic figure although we know that the smaller the number the better. But I have no quarrel with the number of 30 in the class in Singapore's present context. But I would urge the Minister to implement this policy as fast as he can because as long as there are 40-45 pupils in the class there will be very bad results. What will happen will be that a teacher who is confronted with 40 pupils in the class will be indifferent. He just simply cannot teach. He will not volunteer to do extra work and he will lose interest. There is less motivation and in the circumstances the authority will probably put pressure on the teacher and say, "Look. You have to do this amount of work." The teacher is forced to give so many essays and so many sums a week. This kind of method will in fact make the situation even worse. With a bigger class, things will always get worse and it would not be better. There will of course be no effective teaching and that is why in Singa-

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pore we have got such widespread private tuition.

    Recently we have read in the papers that even someone at Primary 5 level is employed to teach a Primary 4 student. The situation as regards private tuition in Singapore is really bad because it stems from big classrooms. Too many in the class. Of course, economies of scale in school management is an unwise policy. You try to save and the situation is made worse. What will be the result? The students who come out from such large schools suffer from apathy. They do not seem to have an interest in anything. There is a lack of social consciousness and it will be difficult for the authorities. More stringent laws will have to be enforced to keep this type of people in place. I think it is a very good thing that the number of pupils in the classroom is becoming smaller. If there are too many pupils in the class, it also does not encourage creativity. There is no motivation for innovative teaching. It will always be mechanical. This is not good as far as education theory is concerned.

    What is the aim of education? Of course, it is to bring up students so that when they come out of school, they will have, what they call, an all-round development. What does it mean? It means that he is physically and mentally developed. He will be a good citizen. I think I did not hear the Minister mention that. In fact, one of the main aims of education is to teach students to think. That is very important. At the end of the day, what we want are students who are self-confident, who can think and who can solve problems by themselves. These are very important aims of education. I hope the Minister will bear that in mind.

    In Singapore's context, another important area which is not touched on in our schools is the teaching of democracy. I believe Germany suffered a totalitarian type of government and after the war, when the Allies gave independence to them, they had this subject in the schools - what democracy is all about. Teach the students our Constitution, our parliamentary processes, their rights, their duties as citizens. If we really want to be a democratic society, we have to include this in our

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schools. I think it is very important and I hope the Minister will bear in mind and have some things done in this area.

    The Chairman: Mr Chiam, your time is up.

    Mr Sia Khoon Seong: Sir, I welcome the response of the Minister for Education. I think he has got the priorities right and I wish him luck and success in the education direction that he is charting for the Ministry of Education.

    On the proposal to set up independent schools, I have only three areas of concern. The first is the confusion that the current debate has created in the minds of many. Secondly, what the product of the proposed independent schools will be and, thirdly, converting Raffles Institution into an independent school. I believe the principal argument behind the Government's proposal to set up independent schools is this. There is a danger of our schools which are centrally controlled, remaining stereotyped; the bureaucracy may stifle initiative and educational innovations. With a few schools going independent, an element of competition can be injected into the way our schools are run, and comparisons can then be made between the strengths and the weaknesses of the different approaches. There is merit in the argument.

    But unfortunately, as the Member for Ayer Rajah and the Member for Changkat have pointed out, the present debate on the setting up of independent schools takes a different twist. It appears that the real intention of the Government is lost. In the minds of many, independent schools mean excellence, and only by going independent can schools achieve excellence. This assumption is misconceived. Excellence can be achieved whether schools are state schools or independent schools. What determines excellence finally is the quality of the principals, the teachers, the pupils and the kind of facilities available.

    If the intention of the Government in setting up a few independent schools is to inject an element of competition in the way our schools are run, in my view the

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best approach to achieve the objective is to let a top Government school (run as a Government school) compete with a Christian Mission school and a Chinese school (run as independent schools). If RI (Raffles Institution), the top Government school, is turned into an independent school, it will effectively eliminate an essential element in the competition. RI, for more than a hundred years, has existed as a Government school. It has also existed as the premier school among all schools, both Government and non-Government. It can be said that one of the powerful forces behind ACS successes is its Christian missionary zeal that rallies the Methodist community behind the school. In the case of the more traditional Chinese schools, it is the sentiments for the Chinese language and culture that draws from the Chinese community strong support. When ACS and one of the Chinese schools become independent, they will have very powerful forces behind them to ensure their success.

    RI is different. RI old boys have a different sense of pride. RI is always 100% Government backed. It is the premier school. It is always treated more than just a school, it is an institution. The only school in Singapore treated as an institution is RI. It is the pride of the then colonial Government and the pride of the present Government. RI shines because of its special and prima donna status as a national educational institution. Remove that status and the force behind RI's eminence will considerably weaken.

    RI, for more than a hundred years, has always held out hopes to all bright students irrespective of their social background. Making RI an independent school will cause a feeling of unease among the middle income and lower income group of parents. This feeling of unease is still present despite assurances given that scholarships will be given to children of poor background.

    Coming to the product, the possible product of the independent schools. What will the product be? Will the product of the independent schools likely to be accustomed to having the best of everything - the best teachers, the best facilities and

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amenities, the best academic and aesthetic programmes, etc? He will be spoon-fed with excellence and then on leaving school will expect the best treatment from society since he is such a privileged person. Society owes him a living since he has been specially groomed; it is a matter of course that he should get preferential treatment in the job market and that he deserves the best-paying job. It is his right to expect this since he has the ability to do well in examinations. He is less likely to want to talk about his obligations and debt to the society that raised and supported him. In his spare time, he will be more inclined to take out his violin or paint brushes rather than don sports shoes to play a game. Although participation in sports and games is implied, it will be observed that it is under-emphasized in the "Recommendations of the Principals". One would think that it is important to inculcate the spirit of sportsmanship and to develop a team spirit. In all, one does not get the picture of a rugged (another popular word at one time!), red-blooded Singaporean but of a pallid, snooty, arty-crafty, bookish person, more inclined to look out for himself than for others.

    Perhaps, Mr Chairman, Sir, this is a very unfair and pessimistic projection of the kind of product of the proposed independent schools. But I think it is worth thinking about what the product can be if we are not careful about what kind of inputs that are put into the independent schools.

    One final comment on what the Member for Potong Pasir said about classroom size. While everyone of us welcomes the reduction of class size, I could not let his comment go unchallenged when he said that, because of the 40-pupil class size, therefore teachers were deterred from doing a lot of things. Despite the 40-pupil class size, teachers have all the while not been deterred to do extra things.

    Some hon. Members: Hear, hear!

    Mr Sia Khoon Seong: But, of course, the quality of attention and the quality of education will be that much improved if the class size is reduced. There is no lack of effort, no lack of enthusiasm on the part of teachers. But if you want quality, reduction of class size will achieve it. Thank you.

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    Dr Tan Cheng Bock: Mr Chairman, Sir, you have heard my Committee members express their views. We are glad that the Minister has identified the four areas concerned - single session schools and ancillary support for principals, reducing class size to create a more creative teaching environment, pastoral care, career guidance in secondary and junior colleges, and the greater flexibility and autonomy given to schools. I do not want to add further to the comments made by my Committee members, except to ask one question: why is it that they are concentrating so much on secondary schools? I would have thought primary schools should be considered first because it is in primary schools that we teach our children good habits, good behaviour, good attitudes. I was wondering whether we are putting the cart before the horse.

    When my colleague, the Member for Moulmein, mentioned RI, being an old boy of RI I must also respond. Yes, if you let RI go independent, I think we are going to have more dissatisfied parents. RI holds out hope for many parents. It is a good school. Many of us in this House come from that school and we are proud to be called Rafflesians. Do not take this hope away from many parents. Improve it by all means through the incorporation of the many recommendations. Reducing the intake into RI, which must inevitably happen if it goes independent, will definitely dash the hopes of many parents. You must remember, it is a desired school. Take it away and it will be perceived as taking away the hopes of the poor bright pupils. If at all the Ministry should allow an aided school to go independent, it would be to provide a welcome diversity and contrast to the state schools.

    Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam: Mr Chairman, Sir, first of all, I would like to respond to the point which has been raised by three Members - the Member for Serangoon Gardens, the Member for Braddell Heights and the Member for Kolam Ayer - and that is regarding the financing that will be required to implement the proposals which I have just made. They are right in the sense that this will require additional funds to be provided by the Ministry of Finance. All I can say, Sir, is that the

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statement which I have just made in reply to Members' comments has been approved by Cabinet, of which the Minister for Finance is a member. So I presume that, as and when funds will be required, funds will flow liberally from the Minister for Finance. If that is not the case, then I presume also that Members of Parliament will remind the Ministry of Finance of its duties to help to provide a good education for our children. And I would look forward to Members' assistance as and when this is required.

    Secondly, Sir, the proposal from the Member for Serangoon Gardens that we should extend the autonomy for principals to allow them to recruit some of their teachers. Sir, this is a matter which is now being looked at by my Ministry. It is not an accident that in the principals' report, so much emphasis has been given to the leading role of the principal as one of the factors which go to make a good school. Yes, it is necessary in a school to have good teachers, it is necessary to have committed teachers. But it is also essential, vital, to have a leader, someone who can coordinate the teachers, someone who has got a sense of vision, someone who can make his teachers share the sense of vision of what a good education is, someone who can be an inspiration to his teachers or her teachers. And it will be the intention of the Ministry of Education to try and see how we can give our principals as much flexibility and autonomy as possible, consistent with the need to have checks and balances to avoid abuses of authority. So this is an area which we will look into. My own view is that when you are proceeding with these matters, it is better to approach them cautiously, and that is, to relax only when we are sure that such relaxation will be for the good and will not cause abuses.

    Now, Sir, the matter of class size was brought up by a number of Members here. Yes, like everyone else, we would like to implement this recommendation as quickly as possible and to reduce the class size expeditiously. But it takes time to recruit teachers, it takes time to train teachers. I think one of the problems which

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we have had in education is this. When we decided to achieve our aim of providing a place in school for every child of school-going age, we had to expedite the training of teachers. That is why we have the normal trained teachers. While I appreciate the feeling of the Members that we should try and expedite this as quickly as possible, I think, Sir, that it is only fair to our children that we should make sure that we recruit the right type of teachers not only with the ability, not only with the technical knowledge, but also with the right attitude. We must have men and women who not only know their subjects but who want to teach, men and women for whom teaching is not only a job but a profession and a commitment, men and women who like to bring up children and see them grow under their charge. So it will take time and I think that it is better that we select our teachers carefully and we train them carefully rather than try and rush into reducing class size within any specified period of time.

    Now, Sir, on the comment from the Member for Ayer Rajah as to why are we concentrating so much on secondary schools and what about the primary schools. Yes, the primary schools are just as important as the secondary schools. But we have to make a start somewhere. And it is the years from the age of 12 to 16 that are the most formative period of a child. It is there that the child is beginning to form attitudes, is beginning to think about what careers he would want to aim for. These are the years when the child's teachers and the principals have a maximum influence on the child's development. And that is why, for a start, we have to concentrate our efforts on the secondary schools. When we have done that, I promise the Member for Ayer Rajah that we will not forget the primary schools and they will certainly have our attention as well.

    In these remarks I think I have also covered most of the points of the Member for Potong Pasir except that he says that we have left out two things. One is that I have not mentioned that we have to teach students how to think. Sir, I will send him a copy of my speech which I made to the Harvard Club of Singapore in which he will see that this topic is adequately covered.

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    Secondly, on the point about teaching democracy to students in our schools. I recommend that when he goes back - I know he has children studying in schools - he looks at the Civics textbooks which his children have and he will see that this topic is adequately covered.

    Finally, Sir, the point about Raffles Institution. I think this is a point of great emotion for many Members of the House here. I know there are 11 Members of this House who can count on RI as their alma mater. Sir, I do not think that it would be right for us at this stage to take a final decision on how RI should go independent. What we know is that RI is a premier school. RI is a jewel in the educational crown of Singapore. All that we want to do is to make sure that RI retains its leading position among the schools in Singapore. There is now a committee which has been set up comprising old boys, the principal and other people who are concerned for the welfare of RI. I am sure that this committee will take into account the strong views which have been expressed by the Member for Ayer Rajah and the Member for Moulmein. It may not be incompatible for RI to have a high degree of independence and yet remain within the ambit of the Government schools. But I think, Sir, I would prefer that this be left, on reflection, to the committee so that they can come up with the best solution to giving RI the maximum independence and autonomy that is possible and yet retain its leading position among the Government schools in Singapore. If that is possible, Sir, then I can assure the Member for Ayer Rajah and the Member for Moulmein that the Ministry will not stand in the way of the committee. But at all cost, I think the final solution that we take must be to enable RI to progress further and to retain its position as one of our most leading schools in Singapore.

    Mr Jek Yeun Thong: Mr Chairman, Sir, the Minister has not touched on my point regarding the tuition fees of University students. I do not know whether he would like to take this opportunity to answer or he would want to leave it to others to answer it.

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    Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam: Sir, I was proposing to respond to the Member under the cut of the Financing of the National University of Singapore. But since he has raised it, I will say this. On the point about the interest rate, I have received a petition from the Students' Union of the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological Institute requesting among other things for some concession or some reduction in the interest rate. I am at present in the process of discussing their request with the University authorities and also with the Ministry of Finance and I will obviously take into account the Member's suggestion in my discussions.

    Dr Arthur Beng Kian Lam: Mr Chairman, Sir, I thank the Minister for his clarification regarding the role of principals. Would the Minister care to clarify about the role of the board of governors as he perceives it?

    Mr Sia Khoon Seong: Mr Chairman, on the question of converting RI to an independent school, I think the Minister must take note of this point. Converting schools to independent schools is a project under experiment. In other words, we are not sure of the pluses or the minuses. It is a good idea. We should try. And since Singapore is so short of talents and RI is the place where we capture the talents, and so also a few other schools, I think we cannot at this stage of experimentation bank all we have in as far as our small pool of talents on experimentation. So can we not wait until the appropriate time? If the independent school concept and the proposal is a very successful project and it has got a lot of features which are desirable, then not only RI should go independent but more schools should go independent. The question is: at this point of time, should we not be more prudent in the way we manage our human resources, especially when we are in short supply of talents and when we have got to be very careful in the way we nurture our talents? And RI's way of nurturing talents all these years has produced results. Until we are sure of a new approach, let us not experiment with it.

    Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam: Sir, first, I will respond to the point of the Member for Fengshan regarding the responsibilities of

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the board of governors. During the visits which I made with the principals to the independent schools in Britain and the United States, basically, we found that the board of governors have four responsibilities.

    The first one which is very important is the appointment of the headmaster or the headmistress, ie, the principal of the school. That, rightly, Sir, they give a lot of attention and a lot of time.

    The second responsibility is when the school makes a major financial decision, ie, if they want to build a new hall or a new school wing, then obviously the board of governors would have to come into the picture. Or when the school makes a major change from its traditional policies. For example, if it is a boys' school and it is felt that they should now start admitting girls in the Sixth Form, then this would be an area which the board of governors will want to have a say.

    Then there are two other areas, Sir, which are not of the same magnitude as these two areas but which are also given very great importance by the board of governors. One is when a teacher has to be dismissed or to be asked to leave the school. The system in the independent schools is that the board of governors would have full confidence and trust in the principal to select the teachers because it is felt that this is necessary to enable the principal to build up his own team. But where, for various reasons, the teacher does not work out well and has to be asked to leave the school, then the responsibility is taken not by the principal but by the board of governors. Of course, the principal and heads of departments will have their say but the board of governors make it very sure that theirs is the final decision. And if we have a responsible board of governors, I do not think that this will be done lightly.

    The fourth area, Sir, is when a child has to be expelled from the school for grave misdemeanours. This may be regarded as not of the same magnitude as the other three. But rightly, Sir, the board of governors feels that this is a very traumatic experience both for the child as well as

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for the parents and therefore they say no child should be expelled or be asked to leave a school without the approval, explicitly, of the board of governors. These are the four major responsibilities of the board of governors of the independent schools overseas.

    Then, Sir, on the point made by the Member for Moulmein about RI - that we should take our time and not rush into such matters as changing RI into an independent school. I am not known to be a person of reckless disposition. In fact, I think the comment which I have heard about the independent schools is, "Why are we doing things so slowly? We seem to be talking a lot about it. Unlike some other Government initiatives, we are taking our time over this." I think that this is right. Education is a very important process. Whatever experiments we do, at the very least it must affect one cohort, one generation, of students. And I do not think that we should lightly go into education innovation until we have thought the matter out fully and be sure that as best as we can, we are confident that this will be for the benefit of the children, for whose benefit we are now putting through this innovation. Sir, I can assure the Member for Moulmein that all these will be given very careful consideration before RI changes its status.

    Dr Tan Cheng Bock: Mr Chairman, Sir, before I withdraw my amendment, I would like to say a few more words. We have been criticizing but I think sometimes we should make some recommendations and that is what I intend to do.

    The Ministry of Education's approach in stressing that the objective of the principals' report is to identify principles for excellence which could be applied to all schools is correct. It is also correct to stress that the initiative for independent schools should come from the schools themselves and the Ministry would not impose on any school to go independent. But unfortunately, this message is either not getting through to the majority of the population or that many are sceptical of the sincerity of the Government. Therefore, it is imperative that the Ministry of Education continue to reiterate and reinforce this message that excellence is for all

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schools and initiative for independent schools should be from the schools themselves.

    The Ministry should also lay to rest the confusion in terminology between excellence, independence and privatization. More importantly, the Ministry must not only be saying that it is genuinely interested in improving all schools but also be seen to be doing so. Therefore, to convince the people that the Government's object is to improve the quality of schools as a whole, the Government should as far as possible implement some of the recommendations, pastoral care and career guidance and single session in all schools before embarking on independent schools. Perhaps then there will be less antagonism and apprehension but better acceptance when independent schools are introduced.

    Parents tend to be emotional and fear the worst on changes in education matters, especially when there is no precedence in such an area. Education is a national concern. And all along, the Government has kept a tight rein on it. Parents must be assured that the establishment of independent schools would not disadvantage one child against another but instead would benefit all children. They also need time to be informed and to get used to the idea. Many parents are quick to criticize the educational system. In particular, the parents' over-emphasis on academic excellence at the expense of a more rounded education. Perhaps our system of meritocracy has contributed to this obsession. But parents too have a responsibility for they decry the attention placed on academic excellence. They are also the ones to complain about their children spending too much time on ECA at the expense of their studies. Many parents are unaware that if they desire all-rounded education and excellence, they together with the principals, teachers and Government, too have a part to play. This must be emphasised.

    Even those who concede to the benefits of independent schools are concerned that there would not be good Government schools left if all of them go independent.

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To many, it is logical for Government-aided schools, with their tradition of independence, to become independent schools. But good Government schools should remain as such, as they represent hope to many disadvantaged parents of a better future for their children. This hope must be preserved. Not all good Government schools should go independent. These schools should be maintained as they can also provide healthy competition to the independent schools.

    Undoubtedly, there are many benefits in having independent schools. It is like providing another kind of service to the consumer. And it provides contrast and diversity. A minority understand this and even extol the virtues of such schools. What many object to is the over-emphasis on premier schools and the seeming neglect of the majority of the schools.

    The perceived anxiety and apprehension related to independent schools must not be allowed to overshadow the good intentions of the Government in introducing the independent school system. Perhaps, Sir, the answer lies in being more process-orientated rather than being solely goal-orientated in the attainment of excellence in education.

    Sir, I beg leave to withdraw.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Mr Sia Khoon Seong: Sir, I beg to move,

    That the sum to be allocated for Head L be reduced by $10 in respect of Subhead LA-01-1210 of the Main Estimates*.

    Sir, with so much attention now focussed on independent schools and the recomendations of the 12 principals, is the Ministry going to neglect other areas of concern that need equal urgent attention of the Ministry of Education? I refer specifically to three issues, namely, the heavy dependence on relief teaching, the problem of coping with increasing demand for HSC education and the depletion of experienced teachers through retirement.

    To me, the problem of relief teachers has to be given urgent attention in its present drive for excellence in schools. No

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matter how much is done to improve on the quality of teachers and education, the efforts will be negated by our heavy dependence on relief teachers. This problem is going to be compounded many-fold by the introduction of more generous leave provisions for female officers in the Civil Serice. Not only the present number of relief teachers will be doubled, but also the period of leave in some instances will be extended beyond six months. Need I to say of the dire consequences this will have on the education of those affected? The problem is even more acute in the girls' schools where almost all the teachers are female, especially if the set of Government incentives on procreation works.

    The problem of relief teachers is not new. Yet a complete or even a partial solution seems so elusive. Now it is going to become more acute. When relief teachers take over, it is not only upsetting to the pupils' pace of learning but also disruptive. The problem will be less if all the relief teachers were trained teachers. In our schools, the relief problem is further aggravated by the predominance of untrained teachers, many of whom are young job seekers waiting for their first job. They come and they go as they please.

    I appreciate that in the nature of things, the dependency on relief teachers is unavoidable. What I do question is whether enough of effort and imagination have been put into working out a scheme that will ensure the attainment of certain standards in relief teaching, at least in the foreseeable future. Even if this means incurring extra expenditure, the extra money spent is well worth it.

    On the problem of increasing demand for HSC education, last year the junior colleges were overcrowded because there were more students than what the capacity of the junior colleges could ideally cope. This year the problem is even worse, I believe. I believe there is an excess of several thousand students more than the present capacity of junior colleges could ideally cope. The problem must become more acute in the coming years as a greater number of students will qualify for entry to junior colleges and pre-university

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centres, with better teaching and learning facilities. Before, most parents would have been satisfied with an 'O' level certificate for their children. Now most parents will not be happy with nothing less than an 'A' level certificate.

    We should also be concerned that over the next few years we will be losing the services of some 1,000 to 2,000 experienced principals and teachers in both primary and secondary schools who will be retiring. This coupled with the fact that we are already engaging a large number of relief teachers means that we will be extremely short, not only in terms of numbers, but more important, in terms of experience. Perhaps the best thing to do now is to take advantage of the recession and the excess of job-seekers to recruit the best in order to resolve the perennial problem of teacher shortage.

    This is a time of transition. We must ensure a smooth changeover as the young take over from the old. We would do well to provide the younger group, especially those who are assuming positions of responsibility, with some assistance and guidance from the older group. Perhaps we should retain a certain number of the old but experienced principals as consultants to their younger colleagues.

    Encik Ibrahim Othman (Tanah Merah): Sir, I wish to join my colleague, the Member for Moulmein, in talking about teachers.

    I think we cannot deny the fact that teachers make a very big contribution to the making of a very good school. We have within our system qualified and dedicated teachers who could be relied upon to carry out their duties in implementing educational policies laid down by the Ministry of Education.

    The Ministry of Education has constantly looked into the qualification of teachers and has encouraged many teachers to pursue higher studies. This is in line with the recommendations made in the 1978 Goh Keng Swee Report, which states:

    'The Ministry should offer opportunities for deserving teachers to further improve themselves academically and professionally. For example, selected teachers with GCE 'O' and 'A' level qualifications should be given the opportunities respectively to study for their 'A' level and degrees with full pay.'

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    Sir, I wish to know, up till today, how many teachers have been given this opportunity to further their studies? And what other plans are there to upgrade our teachers' qualifications? To pursue this matter further, I am pleased to note that the Ministry has been sponsoring teachers to do their second degree, especially their Masters degree. However, sometimes the Ministry has not been kind in giving study leave to deserving teachers who want to do their second degree on their own. I know of a number of applications for study leave to go overseas made by teachers rejected by the Ministry due to reasons known only to the Ministry's officials. Besides, some teachers admitted to the Masters-in-Education course at the Institute of Education this year were not given study leave by the Ministry of Education. I thought this is part of the process whereby if we want to achieve excellence in schools we must give the opportunity to teachers to improve themselves academically and professionally. I wish to know the Ministry's policy on encouraging teachers to pursue higher studies. I am of the opinion that teachers have to be given time off after a few years of teaching to further their studies. Sir, I wish to say that I am presently in the Education Service. However, I do not have any direct interest in the matter that I am raising about. I can tell you, Sir, that it is frustrating teaching year after year and when we want a break of about a few months we are not given the chance even if we want to go on our own. So after five or six years of service, this sabbatical leave would do a lot of good to the teachers concerned. I think there is a scheme in the University to encourage lecturers to go on sabbatical leave. I am sure teachers will be more motivated, eager and enthusiastic to impart their newly acquired knowledge to their pupils. The students on the other hand will look upon them as models to excel in their studies. I hope the Minister would comment on this matter.

    Another point I wish to make is connected with pre-primary education. Last year when the Minister for Education replied to Members in this House during the Committee of Supply, he touched on how the quality of education in our schools can be improved at various levels.

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At the primary schools, there are plans to make pre-primary programme available to more children, including those children who take Malay or Tamil as their second language. This pre-primary programme which was started in 1978 has shown that an early start in proper language instruction is useful in providing pupils with a stronger foundation in school languages. This phase of education is necessary to prepare a child for a normal primary education, especially English. As such, the Ministry must continue to increase the intake of pupils into pre-primary classes. I wish to know the progress of the plans of the Ministry of Education to increase the intake of pre-primary children, including those who take Malay or Tamil as a second language. I hope the Minister could elaborate.

    The Minister of State for Education (Dr Tay Eng Soon): Sir, I would like to reply to the points brought up by the Member for Moulmein and the Member for Tanah Merah. Both Members touch on matters to do with teachers and the teaching service.

    The Member for Moulmein highlighted three points. One was that of the problem of relief teachers and what the Ministry proposes to do to reduce the dependence on relief teachers and to reduce the vacancies. I gave him an answer in a Question for Oral Answer two days ago when he raised this, and I think it is worthwhile for me to elaborate on the answer then. We have about 600 relief teachers today, and that is about one or two teachers per school. The number has been coming down as we have had more success in recent years in recruiting teachers into the teaching service. But the problem still lies with the question of how quickly we can find people who have the right qualifications and aptitudes for teaching. We would of course like to encourage as many as possible to join the teaching service but, like other services in Singapore, we are competing with many sectors for graduates and for 'A' level school leavers who could come to the teaching service.

    It is true that in the last two years, with recession, we have had more success in recruiting teachers. But I can assure the Member that we spare no efforts in trying to do so. We have, in fact, publicized the

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teaching service to students while they are at junior colleges to let them know what the teaching service is about so that, when they leave or when they go to university, this is one option they can keep in mind. I just would like to bring a personal experience to illustrate this problem. A parent spoke to me sometime ago on this very point about the lack of teachers and how she wanted to see more better qualified teachers in our schools, and I agreed with her. I asked her how many children she had. She told me she had two daughters and that they were at the upper secondary, pre-university level. I asked her that when her children finally leave school would she encourage them to become teachers. She hesitated. In other words, she was not willing to encourage her children to take up a profession which she knew was useful and important. I think there lies the root of one of our problems. People have different ambitions and expectations and the teaching profession has to compete with all other professions.

    Today, the teaching profession is a well-paying profession. The conditions of work are improving. As you heard from the Minister just now, steps are being taken to reduce class sizes. This will take time. Ancillary staff will be provided to make administrative chores less of a problem and allow teachers to spend more of their time in the real task of teaching. All these moves are in the right direction to make the teaching profession an even more rewarding one. Our hope is that we can get more people to come into this service. Even career counselling that was mentioned by several Members is a part of this because last year the IE wanted to take in 600 into their course. They had 4,000 applicants and they had to reject many of them because they did not have the requisite teaching subjects when they applied. They did the wrong combinations when they were at the university, for example. This is where career counselling would have helped some of them before they embarked on their courses at the university.

    The Member for Moulmein also brought up this question of the overcrowding of our junior colleges and the large numbers

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that are now registering to come in. I want to take this opportunity to link this question with the point brought up by the Member for Leng Kee who expressed concern that students today seem not to want to join the Polytechnics to do technical courses leading to a diploma. Sir, these two issues are inter-related because the junior colleges and the pre-university centres, on the one hand, and the Polytechnics, on the other, draw from essentially the same pool of 'O' level students. I would like to provide Members with some information and background on this to see how the trend or the choice of the students affects one institution or the other.

    Every year, about 30,000-35,000 students complete their 'O' levels. Of course, many go on to work but many also aspire to join the pre-university centres and junior colleges to do their 'A' levels. Others want to go to the Polytechnics and yet others want to join the VITB or the EDB training centres to further their skills. In the last few years the trend has been that more and more students choose to go to the junior colleges and pre-university centres to do 'A' levels. From 1983 to 1986, the increase has been in the direction towards the 'A' level courses. In 1983, 9,500 went to the pre-university centres and junior colleges. In 1986, 13,300 went to the pre-university centres and junior colleges, an increase of 40%.

    This is understandable in that perhaps students' expectations have risen and they believe that by going to these institutions and doing their 'A' levels their chances of going to university will be greatly enhanced. But the reality of the situation is that not all students who do their 'A' levels go on to university. The university has been expanding but there is a limit to the number of students the University can take in based on the capacity of the faculties and based also on what the country as a whole needs in terms of various types of graduates. For example, the country needs about 200 doctors per year for replacement purposes into the medical careers and it does not make sense to expand that intake at great cost simply because a lot of people want to be doctors. The overall picture has to be taken into account by the University in relation to the country's needs.

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    Of the students who go to junior colleges and pre-university centres to do their 'A' levels, obviously only the ones who have got very good 'A' levels have the chance to go to NUS because it is by competition. Let me just give Members the latest figures. The 1985 candidates totalled 10,260 doing 'A' levels. Admission into NUS in 1986, last year, was 4,698. That is to say the success rate was less than half, 46%. So the majority with 'A' levels go on to other streams, to work, to become teachers through the IE and to various other careers. I think this point needs to be understood by students who opt to go for 'A' level studies and that their chance is as indicated here.

    On the other hand, the needs of our economy today are very wide. We have people who are needed at all levels, graduates as well as large numbers of non-graduates. The job situation is complex and we need to give career guidance. We need to inform our students while they are at school or at junior colleges or before they leave the secondary school what all these different types of careers and jobs are and how a person may get into them and what the opportunities are. For example, let us take graduate engineers and technicians who have a diploma from the Polytechnic. From the feedback we get from employers who employ both types of people, for every one engineer that they employ they need to employ three or four or more technicians or technologists. That is what the employers need. So it is important that in the educational institutions that prepare people for this, there should be cognizance of this fact and there should be a balance in the places available and we need to let our students know this.

    Another point that perhaps is not understood by many students when they make these choices, apart from the opportunities, is that unless the student has very good 'O' level results, when he does his 'A' levels the likelihood of his getting very good 'A' level results is also affected and unless he gets very good 'A' level results his chances of going to NUS would be that much less. I have asked my officers to look into the records in the last few years to see how the 'O' level results of students influence or is related to their likelihood of getting into NUS through the 'A' levels or,

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in the case of those who go to the Polytechnics, the likelihood that they will get a diploma at the end of their three-year study. They looked at students with 'O' level results in the range from 15 points to 20 points and that is an average group, in the middle band, so to speak, ie, 15 points to 20 points at 'O' levels based on five subjects. In that group, less than one in five students successfully obtained good 'A' level results and went on to the NUS, which is to say that unless you have better than 15 points your chances are less than 20%.

    On the other hand, the same group of students with the same 15-20 points who joined the polytechnics, after three years of study, more than 90% successfully completed their Polytechnic diploma. This again needs to be made known so that students can weigh their chances and make a realistic decision on which course they should go for. There is no doubt in my mind that we need to do more in the way of information providing and career guidance in our secondary schools, and this point has been stressed by at least two Members of Parliament. This process is already going on and we will do more. For example, reference was made to the Polytechnics and even the VITB sending people with audio-visual aids and so on to secondary schools to brief students in Secondary 4 on courses they run and, more than that, on the careers and jobs that these courses lead to. This is a move in the right direction and it provides information and allows students as well as the teachers in the schools to raise questions and to clarify many points. More of this will be done in the next few years. My belief is that when students are better informed on these matters they will make better and more realistic choices concerning their own careers.

    The Member for Moulmein talked about the teachers retiring in the next few years. I assure him that we are fully aware of this. In fact, we have a manpower plan for the teaching service by making allowance for teachers who will retire as well as the new teachers that have to be brought in, and this is reflected finally in the recruitment figures for the Institute of Education. So we are preparing all the time for this because this is a never-ending process.

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    The Member for Tanah Merah talked about opportunities for teachers to improve themselves during their teaching service. I agree with him that it is important that there are opportunities for teachers, particularly to refresh themselves after teaching for a number of years. Various schemes are available at present to enable teachers to do this. Let me give him some examples of this. There are various forms of study leave for teachers to upgrade themselves. For example, there is opportunity for teachers who have only '0' levels to work for 'A' levels. Over the past seven or eight years, something like 1,200 teachers had that opportunity to work for 'A' levels and therefore improved their general education. There is also opportunity for teachers who have 'A' levels to work for degrees, and we award bursaries and scholarships to teachers for NUS courses and even abroad to get degrees. Again, over the past seven or eight years, 621 teachers successfully obtained bursaries and completed their degrees. There were also a number of teachers who were allowed to go on no-pay leave or half-pay leave to work for degrees, and this number is 365 over the past seven or eight years. So there are these opportunities.

    But I would like to say that there are also some criteria behind the decision to let teachers go on to improve themselves. The most important is that the courses that they pursue should be relevant to the teaching service and to subjects that are being taught in schools. The second is that the teachers should have the adequate years of service as well as pre-requisites in academic grades and so on before they get bursary awards or go on to upgrading courses.

    The Member suggested that perhaps some kind of sabbatical leave could be provided. I think sabbatical leave is not appropriate to the teaching service. What would be more useful in the teaching service are short breaks where the teachers can go for refresher courses or in-service courses. As the Member well knows, there are many courses today available precisely for this - short courses

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at the IE or other institutions like the RELC and the British Council, where teachers can have a refresher in the subjects they are teaching or do an in-service course to prepare them for new subject areas. These opportunities are there.

    Finally, he touched on post-graduate education, that is, going beyond the first degree. The same criteria that I have mentioned earlier regarding relevance of the course as well as the teachers' own working experience and educational qualifications apply. There are small numbers who go away each year to do post-graduate courses.

    I will leave the subject of pre-primary education to be answered later because I think other Members also want to raise this matter.

    Dr Ow Chin Hock: Sir, I thank the Minister of State for giving the assurances and the statistics so that the students got a realistic picture of the careers and courses. I agree with him that Polytechnic staff members and VITB staff members must do their share of counselling and guidance. In fact, we have seen the results - the 9,000-plus applicants for the polytechnics in no small part is attributed to their help in the last few months.

    However, may I ask the Minister of State: is it not more effective for principals and teachers in secondary schools to provide this information and guidance? Because students have been conditioned day in and day out to think only ofJCs and universities. So how could staff members of polytechnics and VITBs, within a few hours of counselling, talks and consultations, change their attitude and counter their biases against technical education of the polytechnics?

    Mr Sia Khoon Seong: Mr Chairman, Sir, from the Minister of State's reply, I now fully understand why the relief teacher problem is never solved. It is because the Ministry of Education has not got the nub of the problem. He gave a long answer to the effect that there is a big publicity campaign on the attractiveness of the teaching profession. Yes, to a point it is useful to have sufficient numbers of teachers of the right calibre recruited. But

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supposing we manage to attract sufficient numbers of teachers or a number of people of the right calibre into the teaching profession, and you have filled up your Staff Establishment List of the Education service. What then?

    Let me use a figure by way of example. 18,000 teachers is all you need and is all that you can have, according to the number of pupils you have. Making teaching an attractive career is not going to solve the problem of relief teachers because with 18,000 teachers on the Establishment List, maximum to capacity, at least 1,000 or 1,500 of them will be on leave for some courses or on maternity leave. And now with this more generous provision of leave for procreation, with a longer leave, more people will be taking leave, I want to ask a question: how is the attractiveness of the teaching profession going to solve this problem? Are you going to employ extra teachers? You cannot, isn't it? So I think sometimes these shortages are temporary and you have to find a way to solve this temporary problem. There may be an abundance of job seekers of the right calibre. That will not help you to solve the relief teacher problem.

    My point is that while appreciating that we cannot run away from the problem of relief teachers, has the Ministry taken adequate measures to ensure that certain standards are observed? I think that is the important point that I posed the Minister. Because now, any Tom, Dick and Harry can just take the job and become a relief teacher. And I think this is what the parents as well as teachers are concerned about. For example, I know for a fact that there are thousands of retired teachers, experienced, qualified teachers, who have either retired or resigned, will not want to take up the relief teaching job because the rate of remuneration is so miserable. Has the Ministry considered, for example, reviewing its rates of remuneration to attract the right people? $30, or something like that, a day to attract a qualified teacher to do relief teaching? You are asking too much. So I think the problem is: does the Ministry think about the problem in the right direction? From the answer that the Minister of State gave, obviously they have not.

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    Mr Chiam See Tong: Mr Chairman, may I just be allowed to make certain observations of what the Minister has said. The last Education report we had was chaired by Dr Goh Keng Swee and it highlighted the pass rates of five countries, from primary level all the way up to university level, and the countries compared, I believe, were France, Taiwan, England, Japan and Singapore. We had the lowest pass rates for all the countries, all the way to secondary and 'A' levels, up to university.

    I note that out of the 10,260 'A' level students who took their examinations, from the results that came out in 1986, less than half passed. Is that what you say? Or half were admitted to the NUS? But anyway, their grades were not good enough. Their grades were not good enough for them to be admitted to the NUS. My question is: since the Goh Keng Swee Report was published, have we done anything in regard to this great attrition rate in our schools? Have we done anything to correct this problem? I believe it is a grave problem. If I remember, I think out of a cohort of, say, 100 in Japan, I think 90 of them reached 'A' levels, and out of that 90, another 34. [Interruption] Anyway, what we want to know is that since that Report was published, have the children of our schools improved in their performance? That is what I want to know.

    Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam: Mr Chairman, Sir, the main points will be taken by the Minister of State. I just want to respond to a point from the Member for Potong Pasir. I think what he is asking is: since the Goh Keng Swee Report, are there more students who are going on to university?

    Mr Chiam See Tong: Yes, overall passes all the way. What I want to know is up to secondary, 'A' levels, and up to university level, have we improved since the Report was published?

    Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam: The answer is yes. In 1979, if I remember correctly, the number admitted to NUS was about 3,000 students every year.

    Mr Chiam See Tong: In percentages?

    Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam: The number which will be admitted to NUS this year

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and last year is in the region of 4,500 and 5,000 students. So the number has gone up by at least 50%. In terms of percentages, more of our students are now passing their '0' levels and more of our students are going to some form of post-secondary education, either at junior colleges or at our pre-U centres or at our polytechnics. Therefore, the number of students having some form of advanced training after secondary level has gone up at all levels.

    Mr Jek Yeun Thong: Mr Chairman, Sir, I do not know where we are now. But I suppose we are still on this vote for administrative manpower, and that includes teachers and the quality of teachers. Since the Minister has earlier mentioned single session schools, it would mean that eventually we will need more teachers to man these schools.

    This single session school is, I think, a very good move. I for one am one of the products of a single session school. There is a lot of merit in it; for instance, procreation. But I hope you will not rule me out of order. It is very true that single session schools have got this. I remember when I was in Chinese High School - I know this is no laughing matter; I am serious - it was a single session school and at that time the Nanyang Girls' School happened to be just round the corner. And in between the Chinese High School and the Nanyang Girls' School, there was a huge piece of jungle of, what you call it, rubber trees. But they are now all gone. You now see only bungalows there. But, you see, the good thing about the single session school is this. You had classes up to 12 o'clock and then you adjourn for lunch, and then resume at 2 o'clock. Those two hours is very crucial. A lot of relationships had been struck during those two hours. When you go to the jungle, you will see what they call ta tiak, meaning pak tho in Cantonese. This is one thing. Then there were also students who were doing other things. Not all the students would go there. As for me, I did not take advantage of that. Instead I spent all my time in the library and read books. That was why, instead of getting a wife, I got myself

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involved with the Communists. As a result of that, I think the single session schools, the procreation part of it, has very good merit, and that is, we have the time to let students read extra-curricular books. I remember I read a lot of books, both orthodox and unorthodox, books like the Dream of Red Chamber and, what you call, Xi Xiang Ji. It is a romance between a scholar and a student. But the problem now is that students do not have enough time to do reading. But with single session schools, they will have time to do reading and the others will come on its own.

    Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon (Yuhua)(In Mandarin): Sir, I would like to air my views on the Minister's speech about the single session schools. In my view, with regard to the education system, usually when the standard of living is raised, the parents and the whole society also raise their expectations of the education of their children. When we discuss the question of change in our education system, usually we do so with some conservative views. Some will have more advanced views.

    The Minister has touched on four main points in the wide scope of education policy relating to the care and educational development of our children. I feel that the living standard of Singapore is rising and the standard of education and technology has reached a certain stage where if we do not reform or change certain aspects of the education system, then some parents would like to ask why do we not make some changes. I feel that where schools have good facilities and are preparing themselves for autonomy and to be independent, we should let them have this opportunity to have a try. I am all for it. However, I must point out that many people are concerned mainly about educational expenses or school fees.

    The Minister has also touched on his attention to school fees. If the admission of students into schools would not be hinged on the ability to pay school fees but on merits then I would support independent schools. I had intended to speak on single session schools which could be developed into full day schools. Sometime ago, we had tried out full day schools. At that time the Ministry of Finance did not provide adequate financial support. Therefore, the

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facilities were not adequate to cope with the demand of the schools which implemented full day sessions. Therefore, the Minister could not have a good success. I hope the single session will lead to full day school system. We could have a certain arrangement to provide extra-curricular facilities to be carried out outside normal school hours, so that students may better utilize their leisure hours on beneficial activities. In this way, with adequate facilities, parents will feel safe for their children while they are working with peace of mind. I hope after the implementation of single session system in the secondary schools, the Ministry can go on and implement it in the primary schools.

    Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam: Sir, I think I have touched on the topic of single session schools at some length during the first cut, and I would just like to mention to the Member for Yuhua who has raised this point about fees, that I have already given the assurance that whatever the arrangements for independent schools we will make sure that all bright children will have the opportunity to go to these schools. The Government regards education as an investment. I think that there are fewer things on which Government can spend its money more usefully than in providing a good education for our children. So I do not think, on that point, that she should have any concern.

    Before I pass on to my Minister of State, if I may, Sir, I would just make one last point. Although I know that there are many merits in the single session school, I was glad to learn from the Member for Queenstown that among these merits is the fact that it will lead to many marriages in our society. That is a new fact that we can take into account.

    Dr Tay Eng Soon: Mr Chairman, two points were brought up by the Member for Leng Kee and the Member for Moulmein. I would like to deal, first, with the point brought up by the Member for Moulmein regarding relief teachers on the one hand and the need to fill up vacancies and to recruit more teachers on the other.

    I think the Member has somehow mixed the two issues. They are really quite separate. There is no doubt in our mind that the

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goal which we should work towards is to fill up vacancies in our schools, and we work towards this goal. The solution is not to try to provide more relief teachers because, by filling up vacancies, in fact, we make ourselves less dependent on relief teachers. So the goal that the Ministry has set for itself is to recruit as many qualified people as possible into the teaching service to fill up the vacancies, especially now bearing in mind that we have set ourselves even higher goals, namely, to reduce the class size and so on. We have to work towards this. And it is not going to be an easy task because we will not compromise standards of recruitment into the teaching service in the interest of the pupils and of the service. This is a process that will take a number of years.

    As for relief teachers, I can assure the Member that there are minimum requirements for a person to become a relief teacher in terms of his educational background and even some teaching experience that he may already have. If the Member feels that the rate being paid to relief teachers is not adequate, this is something which the Ministry can look into and, in fact, does review from time to time. But the solution, as I said, is to work towards reducing vacancies in the service.

    The more generous maternity leave that he pointed out may help the education service. More women may be willing to come into the education service precisely because maternity leave is easier and they do not feel there is a conflict with being a mother of very young children and being a teacher at the same time. So we will have to see the impact of this in due course.

    The Member for Leng Kee touched on the career guidance and the importance of involving teachers and principals in this process. I could not agree with him more. We will certainly, in developing this programme, involve principals and teachers because they are the people who are in contact with the students day in and day out. But I would say that we can go even beyond that because schools can draw upon outside resources, employers, parents who have contributions to make to give talks in career guidance to their own school pupils.

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    Mr Sia Khoon Seong: Mr Chairman, Sir, the Minister of State is tempting me to continue with this. But in view of the time factor and the many issues involved, I will allow him one year to think about what I have said and we will meet again next year. So in view of that, I beg leave to withdraw.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Mr Goh Choon Kang: Sir, I beg to move,

    That the sum to be allocated for Head L be reduced by $10 in respect of Subhead LA-01 of the Main Estimates*.

    Sir, I would just like to take this opportunity to repeat the question I raised just now, ie, whether the implementation of the independent schools will result in higher school fees across the board and, as a result, parents will have to bear a higher educational cost for the education of their children. I believe this is one of the main concerns of the public.

    Encik Sidek bin Saniff: Mr Chairman, Sir, I would just like to touch on change, not for change's sake but change that has brought progress for Singapore and the third-world countries. It means survival.

    Sir, our future, as the Prime Minister said and reported in Newsweek of February 1987, "lies in being plugged into the international network of trade and communications," which means from finance to robotics to biotechnology. And this can only be achieved through our educational system. That is why I must say that changes in the educational system and innovations in Singapore started as early as 1946, right after the Second World War and have continued ever since.

    Mr Chairman, Sir, the innovative effort was later embodied in the Education Ordinance in 1957. But, of course, as we all know now, it needs an action oriented, business-like Government like ours to translate intent into action. We have gone through many phases of educational change. From 1946 to 1956, as educationists term it, the period of conflict resolution. I mentioned earlier, in the case of 1957-59, and 1960-68, that period of

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dynamic action, 1969-78, the period of qualitative consolidation and, of course, 1978 till 1985, upgrading of quality, Dr Goh Keng Swee's Report on streaming to prevent wastage or wasteful, talented students, gifted education projects and SAP schools.

    Educationists are always being posed with many questions such as: are there not factors which inhibit change? The answer is always yes. And they found that whenever a change is being introduced, there are five areas which hamper changes. One is the entrenched beliefs and I am quite sure here, with due respect to my colleague, the Chairman of the GPC on Education, he expressed that maybe we have to ponder about the change to be made in RI. I am not a Rafflesian but my boy is. Maybe he may not agree with me. Second, the stronghold of unrelieved and monotonous experience. The third hamper, bureaucratic reticence. Fourth, fear and insecurity. Fifth (maybe this does not apply to us) limited financial resources and shortage of educators with both knowledge and perspective. That is why if we were to cover these five hampers, we will notice that a person like Stedman, for instance, in his book "Engineering and the many Cultures", and in De Simone DV, "Education for Innovation, London, Pergamon, 1968" page 40, what did he say? He considered the following as the killer phrases. What are the killer phrases for change? "We tried something like that years ago". This reminds me of the so-called Christian Brothers School run by themselves. "That's ridiculous", "That's too radical", "Let's form a committee to consider it", and it takes years and years to find the solution. "That's contrary to the policy", "Has anyone ever tried it?", "It won't work", "That's superficial", "That's interesting, but we don't have the time or manpower". And to add to these, according to Dr Ruth Wong, a well-used local retort, "My gosh, the English school teachers will not like it". Or as the case may be, "The Chinese school teachers will not like it", "The Malay school teachers will not like it", or "The Tamil school teachers will not like it".

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    Ladies and gentlemen, I pose you this question simply because I think we must ask ourselves: if we agree that independent school is better than the present school, then we must change. But if we think, if we observe, if we finally come to the conclusion, that "towards excellence in school" will give the right answer, then status quo. Do not change.

    So my conclusion, especially to my GPC Chairman, if we finally found out that independent school is the answer, not to allow RI to be an independent institution is a disservice to RI. Unless of course you can find some other alternative and that alternative maybe to give all the manpower, all the money and create two RIs. You solve the student population problem. You need two RIs, two schools to cater, in order to have the 20 or even 15 students per class. So I wish we can ponder this problem and, as the Minister said, we come to the conclusion so that that conclusion will not only satisfy us here in this august Chamber but the people of Singapore.

    Mr Chiam See Tong: I am much obliged to you, Mr Chairman. May I just mention something about the kindergarten schools found in our housing estates. I notice that many of them have got PAP signs outside their premises and exercise books have got the PAP logo printed on them and the PE outfit has the PAP logo on it. This is politicizing the kindergartens in our housing estates. This is not a new thing. In fact, in the early days I believe some other political parties attempted this and the PAP objected vehemently. Now the PAP is copying those left-wing communist orientated political parties and they are doing exactly the same thing today. I think this is not right and I hope the Minister will do something to remove all the PAP logo from education centres and let us not make education a ground for political work.

    We read in the papers the first walk-about of the Second Defence Minister. He was welcomed by about 300 kindergarten kids waving pom-poms.

    Mr Chandra Das: Why not? Come on.

    Mr Chiam See Tong: What do you mean by "why not?" These poor kids got no choice. They have to go out whether they

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like it or not to wave their pom-poms. They have a pressure put on them to do it. If not, out they go. They probably cannot attend the kindergartens. So what choice have they got? I hear, at some other walkabouts, the same thing occurred. So the PAP is using all these poor kindergarten kids for their own political purposes. Is this right?

    If this kind of standard has been set for one political party, why not allow other political parties also set up kindergartens with all their logos put up? I think it is not correct to allow kindergartens to be politicized.

    This question of independent schools has been talked about, but under the present circumstances I think more than one Member has mentioned that as long as the Government controls the purse strings there is no real independence in these schools. It will just have to follow Government policy, although the name is "independent" it can never be really independent. So I do not know whether these so-called independent schools are set up more for the purposes of the Government than for the sake of good education, as they say, "excellence in education". But I have my doubts. Probably, it is more to get the cream of students, keep them and hopefully get them into Government service and in the end probably sitting here as Ministers.

    An hon. Member: What is wrong? That is the whole idea.

    Mr Chiam See Tong: Oh, we have got an admission. I hope the Minister will come out and say that. So Government money is to be spent to train our students to be future PAP ministers. Let the electorate know that.

    Independent school, as I say, is not a new thing. Before the PAP came into power there were many independent schools. The Member for Queenstown has mentioned this. In fact, he came from an independent Chinese school. I think all the Chinese schools in those days were independent.

    The Chairman: Mr Chiam, we have been talking about independent schools since 12.20 pm and a lot of replies has been given.

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    Mr Chiam See Tong: The point I am going to make is that I think the Government should encourage, if they really want independent schools, the private sector, the business community, the clan association, whichever section of the community wanting to set up schools of their own, they should be encouraged. I think the Government should have a policy telling the people, "Set up your own schools if you want to." That will really be independent schools. Of course, I think the Government should not charge them above the price paid for acquiring the land. Give them this land at the price paid for to set up schools. I think, if you really want to set up independent schools, the Government should take that step.

    I notice that the Government education policy is closely tied to our economic policy. You see what is the number of doctors that is required, or the number of engineers that is required, and you churn out that same number. I think this is a very short-sighted type of education policy. I think we should have an education policy that trains minds so that the children can be equipped for life for any work they would later on want to do. Whatever the course, whatever the subject, I think, a child who has got talent should be allowed to pursue in that direction. I do not think a child should be prevented from fulfilling his or her talent because of certain economic policies. I think this is short-sighted. Unless a person is allowed to pursue the things he like, he will never really succeed in life. He must do the things he likes and not do the things that he is told.

    Dr Tay Eng Soon: There are so many points made which are not under this Amendment that it will take a little while to sort it out. But I will deal with the points made by the Member for Potong Pasir.

    First, the subject of kindergartens and the ones provided by the PAP education centres. I am afraid I detect a tinge of envy on his part when he said it.

    Mr Chiam See Tong: No envy, please.

    Dr Tay Eng Soon: Sir, many kindergartens are providing this service and they are run by the People's Action Party. Let me first tell the Member for Potong Pasir that

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nobody is compelled to come to these kindergartens. These are kindergartens fully paid for and run to cater for the children in the neighbourhood. Not one cent is subsidized by the Government. And people are free to come to these kindergartens or to go to other kindergartens.

    Mr Chiam See Tong: Can I make a point of clarification? Is the Minister advocating educational centres with political aspects to that? Is he advocating that the education system can be politicized? This is what my objection is all about. I am not objecting to providing educational service.

    Dr Tay Eng Soon: Let me elaborate on this. It is an educational service. Let us ask ourselves what is taught in the PAP kindergartens? The subject matter that is being taught is no different from that taught in the PA kindergartens run in the community centres. It is very similar to the materials being taught in private kindergartens run in churches and other organizations. They learn the basics - drawing, music, alphabets, numbers. What is he talking about political education? You must distinguish the two.

    Mr Chiam See Tong: Can I be allowed to clarify?

    Dr Tay Eng Soon: No, I would not give way. I have answered his point. So this is a community service provided at very reasonable cost to the residents. And as I said, they are completely free to come and register or to go elsewhere to register. It is good service and that is why they come.

    Turning to another point that the Member brought up about the economy and the needs of the economy and why is it in education policy we must gear everything towards the economy. There is no doubt that the economy in the first place is what generates the wealth and income that makes it possible for all of us to enjoy a high standard of living and growing standards of education in Singapore. The economy does have its needs of various kinds of people. As I said earlier, it is a very wide range of people. Nobody is being compelled through the education system to become an engineer or to become a technician. Information is provided and people make their choices again.

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    Mr Chiam See Tong: No. They were forced to go into ---

    Dr Tay Eng Soon: Nobody is forced to go into any course that is run by the university or the polytechnics or VITB. Opportunities are provided ---

    Mr Chiam See Tong rose ---

    Dr Tay Eng Soon: Sir, I will not give way.

    The Chairman: He is not giving way.

    Dr Tay Eng Soon: I would like the Member to understand that it is a system which has many opportunities at many levels, and all that must be done is to present as objectively as possible to the students who have to make these choices for their own lives, for their own future and their own careers.

    Mr Chiam See Tong: They were qualified for certain faculties but they were not allowed to go in. Isn't that true?

    Dr Tay Eng Soon: I will come back to this point about what the country needs in terms of talented people in various fields. Take medicine as an example. From all the estimates and all the records, it is obvious that Singapore does not need to train hundreds and thousands of doctors every year because if you do so at the cost of nearly a quarter million dollars to train one doctor it is a very costly affair which finally the taxpayer has to pay. Therefore, it is prudent on the part of those who have to plan educational institutions and to provide the money for this purpose to make the best estimates they can of needs and to match needs with demands and with the resources available. We are not unique in this. Every country in the world, every advanced country that has to make these provisions has to make these plans and it is prudent and wise to do so. Within it, choice is available based on merit, based on aptitudes, and information is provided so that people who have to make these choices, we hope, will make realistic and good choices for themselves and for their children.

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    Mr Chiam See Tong: Sir, may I be allowed to clarify? Does the Minister not agree that a person will do best on the subject he likes? Does he not agree with that? I have known of a pupil who has got excellent grades and he was refused to go into Medicine because they say the country needs something else. We might have missed a Nobel Prize winner.

    Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam: Sir, there have been many points raised and although we have, as you said, talked about the topic of independent schools since 12.20 pm - it arises from time to time - I want to respond to one important point which was raised by the Member for Braddell Heights. I detect from his comments that there was a worry that the introduction of independent schools may be simply a device or a means for the Government to initiate an all-round rise in school fees across the board. Let me, Sir, assure him that this is not the case. The introduction of independent schools is for the purpose of providing greater diversity of schools in order to provide greater choice for our children and provide a better quality of education for them. It is not, Sir, for the purpose of enabling Government to initiate an increase in school fees across the board and it will not be done.

    Mr Goh Choon Kang: Sir, in view of the assurance given by the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    The following amendment stood in the name of Mr Ng Kah Ting:-

    (4) That the sum to be allocated for Head L be reduced by $10 in respect of Subhead LA-02-3310(4) of the Main Estimates.

    Mr Ng Kah Ting: I am not moving, Sir.

    Dr Tan Cheng Bock: Sir, I beg to move,

    That the sum to be allocated for Head L be reduced by $10 in respect of Subhead LC-01-1210 of the Main Estimates.*

    Sir, in 1981, I spoke out strongly against streaming. After that, I gave up, not because I was won over by the Ministry

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but because I could not find a better alternative. But the Principals' Report rekindled my hope and I am back today to pose a question or two for the Minister and hope that the Minister would like to review the whole subject of streaming. I know it is very controversial but it must be brought up.

    Sir, in the Principals' Report, a policy called "setting" was followed in all the schools they visited and in case, Mr Chairman, Sir, you may not know what "setting" means, I think it is appropriate I read out from the Principals' Report on page 51:

    'All schools followed a policy of grouping children according to ability in each subject by "setting". The Head of Department would decide on the grouping of pupils into sets; the timetabling team would then organize teaching time by scheduling, say, two or more classes for the same subject at the same time. Thus, a child could, for example, be placed in a top set for English and the third set for mathematics. The form class would therefore be split up for selected core subjects and pupils of like ability in a particular subject drawn together for all lessons in that subject. In this way, pupils were educated at a pace best suited to their ability.'

    With the adoption of the policy of "setting", I would like to ask the Minister whether the present streaming system will become redundant because you have accepted this Report and I presume this section of the Report has also been accepted by the Ministry of Education. Would the Ministry like to comment on this?

    Encik Othman bin Haron Eusofe: Sir, I am not speaking.

    The Chairman: Dr Koh Lam Son is not here. Mr Chandra Das.

    Mr S. Chandra Das: Sir, I have only one query for the Minister and this is in relation to streaming of students both in primary and secondary schools. I am not referring to the streaming which the Member for Ayer Rajah was referring to.

    Sir, I for one am a strong supporter of streaming of students by academic ability. I believe this is absolutely necessary so that the right pace can be set for children of equal or similar ability. During my days in school in the late fifties, students were streamed simply by academic ability. I still

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remember my year in Secondary 4 there were eight classes, Class A to H. The first 40 students went to Class A and the next 40 to B and so on.

    I understand the practice is somewhat slightly different today. Pupils are not only streamed according to academic ability but I am told they are also streamed according to choice of their second language. Hence, streaming, apart from academic ability, also takes into account choice of the second language of the student. I believe this may be done for some administrative convenience or because of shortage of second language teachers. But whatever the reason, Sir, I am told this is a practice prevalent in many schools and I would like the Minister to confirm whether it is the official policy of the Ministry to stream students by choice of second language or is it just administrative practice undertaken by the schools themselves. Sir, if it is official practice or official policy, then I would like to question the wisdom of this policy. However, if this is done for administrative reasons, then I would urge the Ministry to have a second look or serious look at this before this policy causes more damage in building up a multi-racial society.

    Mr Goh Chee Wee (Boon Lay): Sir, the question of pre-primary education has been raised by the Member for Tanah Merah and I would also like to speak on this.

    Sir, I would like the Minister to state the original objective of introducing pre-primary education in schools and whether the objectives have been or can be achieved based on the evaluation done on the pilot scheme. One of the objectives of introducing the pre-primary programme, as I understand it, is to facilitate early language learning for children, especially those from dialect-speaking homes. But just like any other programme, after a period of time, one tends to forget about the original objective. I would therefore like to ask the Minister for Education, if we had not departed from the original objective, are we admitting the target group of children into the pre-primary programme? Are we offering places to those children who really need help?

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    Of even greater concern, I believe, is the question of the ability of the Ministry to meet the demand of parents who wish to enrol their children into the programme. Hitherto, pre-primary education has been provided by private kindergarten operators without Government subsidies. With the expansion of the pre-primary programme, does it mean that the parents can now expect the Government to provide subsidized pre-primary education to their children as in the case of primary and secondary education? Can the Government cope with such a demand and has the Ministry considered the impact of such an extensive pre-primary programme on the private kindergarten operators? I would appreciate the Minister's response to these questions.

    Dr Tay Eng Soon: Sir, I would like to reply to the questions raised by the Member for Ayer Rajah and the Member for Chong Boon. With regard to the questions raised by the Member for Boon Lay on pre-primary education, I would like to collect them from more speakers for reply later because I believe there are others who would like to speak on that subject.

    Sir, the Member for Ayer Rajah accepted streaming because as he said he saw no better alternative and now he believes that "setting" may be an alternative. First of all, let me say that the streaming policy which has been implemented very carefully over the past seven years has yielded positive results. For example, because we are giving pupils who need more time two more years in the primary school, many more of them today are completing their PSLE successfully through the extended course. Had we not given them that time, had we adopted the previous policy, we may have lost many of them through failure. Likewise, at the secondary school, because we have given pupils who need more time one more year at the 'N' level before they have to take their GCE 'O'

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levels, again from the results in the last two years, many more have achieved 'O' levels than it would have been if there was no time provided for them. So the results speak for themselves. Streaming by and large has helped more pupils to go through primary school and secondary school and successfully complete their GCE 'O'levels.

    Just as a matter of comparison, prior to the streaming policy, the educational wastage was very high and there was reason for this policy to come into place. Not more than about 40% of our students of a cohort in those days successfully completed their secondary education. Today, something like 75% of our students successfully complete secondary education at 'N' or 'O' levels, the majority being in the 'O' levels. We should give streaming a chance to continue to bring about good results. Of course, fine-tuning is going on and over the years we have implemented various forms of fine tuning. Even today the Ministry ---

    The Chairman: Order. It is 5.30 pm.

    Thereupon Mr Deputy Speaker left the Chair of the Committee and took the Chair of the House.

    Mr Wong Kan Seng: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I beg to report that the Committee of Supply has made further progress on the Main and Development Estimates for the financial year 1987/88, and ask leave to sit again tomorrow.

    Mr Deputy Speaker: So be it.



    "That Parliament do now adjourn." - [Mr Wong Kan Seng].

Adjourned accordingly at
half-past Five o'clock pm.