Singapore Budget 2015: Fees for national exams waived in Govt-funded schools

SINGAPORE- Examination fees for Singaporeans sitting national exams in Government-funded schools will be waived, says Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in his Budget speech.

This covers fees for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), and GCE N, 0, and A levels. Students and their families will save up to $900 for these exams, Mr Tharman said.

Examination fees for Singaporeans enrolled full-time in institutes of technical education and polytechnics will also be waived.

The government will also provide a $150 top-up to the Edusave accounts of Singaporean students aged seven to 16, on top of the annual contribution of up to $240. This will benefit about 400,000 students.

The minister said that while education is already heavily subsidised for Singaporeans, more help with education cost is on the cards.

Under a new subsidy, transport costs for students under the Ministry Of Education Financial Assistance Scheme will be subsidised by at least half. The subsidy will cover public transport costs for all students under the scheme as well as the school bus fees for primary school pupils.

In November 2014, parents were reportedly paying school bus fees of between $65 and $200 a month based on distance. Students under the scheme currently do not pay school fees and standard miscellaneous fees, and benefit from free textbooks and uniforms.

There will also be a top-up to the post-secondary education account of Singaporeans aged 17 to 20 in 2015. Those whose homes are valued at up to $13,000 as at Dec 31,2014, will get a $500 top-up, while a smaller group that is better-off will get a $250 top-up. This initiative will benefit 160,000 Singaporeans, Mr Tharman said.

He also said the government will increase the annual grants for school-based financial assistance over the next three years. This will give school advisory and management committees more resources to provide further targeted assistance to needy students, he said. The initiatives will also apply to special education schools.

Self-help groups providing aid to children from needy families will also get a $6 million grant over the next two years. All the measures for students from the primary to post-secondary level will cost the government about $250 million over the next three years.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg