Render with joy to your Mater her due

This is my opinion, based on my own deduction of the facts available on the internet. I am employed by the Ministry of Education. These views here are my own and should no way be attributed to that of my employer.

Recently, ACS (Barker) made national headlines with a “report” first appearing on the gutter citizen journalism site STOMP of a mother who felt that the principal of the school placed unnecessary pressure on her son to sell fun fair tickets for the school’s fundraising activity.

I am not an ACSian, but I have in a way benefited from an ACSian education being on the other side of the fence – I taught in ACJC and admittedly, I was the “other side” of the story – i.e. a member of staff who, in the mother’s words, “forced” my students to sell these tickets.

I don’t blame the mother for feeling the way that she did – it all comes down to a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding that has, in my opinion, been exacerbated by a divide in the psyche and cultures between Government and Government Aided schools here in Singapore. I say this based on my own experience, having benefited from 10 years of education in Mission schools run by the La Salle brothers; as well as being privy to the financial workings of our schools.

Government aided schools – as the name suggests, are schools which are “aided” to an extent by the government – i.e. these schools do not receive full funding from the Singapore government – though they can be funded up to 90% of their operational costs. The school and its board would have to make up that 10% or more.

Rationally, if a school receives 90% of funding from the government, the school’s leadership would have to allocate these funds for “core expenditure” i.e. the day to day expenses to keep the school running – utility bills, consumables, equipment (for science labs and PE) etc. These are core because they school requires these items to run the basic school programme – i.e. a core education (without the frills) for its students. Schools can raise the 10% through various means like miscellaneous fees and ad hoc activities like fun fairs e.g. Funorama (Which is happening next year! – shameless plug).

What isn’t covered by the core? I would think elective programmes such as student development programmes over and above those mandated by MOE have to be funded through fundraising. These include your leadership, entrepreneur programmes etc. Like it or not, these programmes are likely to be the reasons why parents choose to send their children to these schools in the first place. Take for example the classic brand name schools, ACS, SJI, RI. You would here parents saying that they want their children to be in these schools because of the “brand” of education. As the name suggests, the “brand” is backed by a unique blend of experiences which are provided for by the unique programmes that these schools run. And how do they fund it – you guessed it, not by the funding provided for by MOE, but mainly through fund raising activities. That is why, in my own experiences, both as a student and as a teacher in mission schools, Principals ALWAYS rally their students to do their best in these fundraising activities – not because we are obligated for the mere fact that we were students/staff but we were morally obliged to because we ourselves were beneficiaries of past fund raising activities. The SJI and ACS campuses weren’t build in a day – they were built over generations. Alumnus will often say oh our fundraising in year XX paid for this building and so on. As current students, I would say that it is only right that you pay it forward because we enjoyed the fruits of our seniors’ labour.

And as alumni, not one of us will ever say, lets stop donating to help our school. We who have gone through an education in our own schools would want the students who come after us to benefit from the same type of education that we had – if possible, the same programmes or better. Whenever St Anthony’s Primary School students appear at St Mary’s (they do literally appear, because they are otherwise never involved – something that should be CHANGED – HELLO SCHOOL STAFF AND CHAPLAIN), I would grill the student on what they were raising funds for before parting with the largest note in my pocket (caveat, sometimes, times are hard, and $5 is all I have, but I part willingly). And this is where another point comes through – these fundraising activities do allow students to go out of their comfort zones to convince someone else, relative or not, to part with their hard earn money. What other better way to teach a child about the life skill of being able to sell your ideas?

So, dear Madam, who have chosen to hide behind stomp. Yes, I see where you are coming from. However, you chose to place your sons at ACS because you believed that having them there would be beneficial to their growth. Your sons are benefiting from the fruits of labour of their seniors. They should be, doing their part in return for their juniors. If you don’t believe in this, then imagine if everyone doing the same as you, what would happen to the programmes that make ACS special? The ACS experience will fade in the future – and future generations will be denied of an experience your sons would have had.

Whenever I can, I would try to support my schools whenever they reach out.  I do so, because I am thankful for what I have learnt in these schools, for the teachers who guided me and for who I have become.

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