Class divide

Student expenses go beyond school fees

It is heartening to note that measures are being taken to address the social divide in the classroom ("Class divide in the classroom"; last Thursday).

While bursaries are essential in encouraging students from less well-off households to enrol in independent schools, these are not sufficient, as financial costs go beyond school fees.

It does not help if students are pressured into making donations during ad hoc events or into buying commemorative items.

Schools must establish a culture where financially disadvantaged students feel comfortable.

It will definitely benefit all if the Education Ministry sets guidelines on potential additional expenses that are incurred by students in independent schools.

Teachers and parents also play a role in addressing the rich-poor divide among students.

I spent time in an independent school as well as a government school when I was a student.

In a government school, the typical student would eventually study in a local university, due to financial constraints.

When I was in an independent school, I noticed the conversations were different. Students were more well-off and they dreamed of pursuing undergraduate studies at top universities overseas.

If they couldn't get a scholarship to do so, they would get financial sponsorship from their parents.

There is nothing wrong with getting financial support from parents for one's education. However, let us not be ignorant of the constraints the poor have.

Teachers and parents have to educate their children to be more aware of others from diverse backgrounds.

Let us be conscious of the fact that the ability to pursue dreams is not a given, but is a privilege that not all will be entitled to, due to financial constraints.

Woo Jia Qian (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline 'Student expenses go beyond school fees'. Print Edition | Subscribe