SINGAPOREAN students in mainstream schools here will no longer have to pay fees for major exams - the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), as well as the O-, N- and A-level exams.
Singaporeans enrolled in full-time courses at the five polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will also have their exam fees waived. Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam also announced top-ups to students' education funds and transport subsidies for needy students. "All in, these measures for students from the primary to post-secondary levels will cost about $250 million over the next three years," he added.
Exam fees for the PSLE are $19, while fees for the O-level exam can range between $370 and $520.
The waiver can lead to a saving of up to $900 for national exams from primary to pre-university.
Exam fees in primary and secondary schools and junior colleges were typically paid via Giro, while those for students in the polytechnics and ITE were included in their annual course fees. ITE students pay about $12.60 in exam fees each term. Those in polytechnics pay about $30 each year.
Temasek Secondary student Jaren Pang said the savings in exam fees "will add up to quite a lot of money". "It will reduce the load on my mother," said the 15-year-old. He has three older siblings who are still schooling.
His mother works at a vegetable stall in a market in Bedok, and is the family's sole breadwinner after his father died in 2012.
Financial aid for needy students will also be ramped up.
Those who are already receiving financial help from the Education Ministry will get extra transport subsidies. These "will cover at least half of students' transport costs", said Mr Tharman.
Students can use the subsidies to offset public transport costs, while pupils in primary schools can use them for school bus fees.
The Government will also add $150 to the Edusave accounts of Singaporean students, on top of the annual contribution of $240. About 400,000 students will benefit from this.
Edusave funds can be used for school enrichment activities.
Students aged 17 to 20 will also receive a fund top-up of $250 or $500, depending on the annual value of their homes, in their Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA). The funds can be used to pay for a student's fees in a post-secondary institution. This will help 160,000 Singaporeans.
Mr Tharman said the PSEA top-up, coupled with existing bursaries, will help a polytechnic student offset a year of diploma course fees.
The Straits Times / Top of The New Published on Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015