Labour MP Zainal Sapari quizzed Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Hawazi Daipi repeatedly during question time in Parliament on Tuesday, on the issue of promotions for principals and vice-principals.
Mr Zainal, who was principal of Mayflower Primary School before he entered politics, filed a series of questions relating to the promotions of senior education officers.
Specifically, he asked for the percentage breakdown of principals, vice-principals and heads of department who had been promoted to the pay grade equivalent to their appointment, and the breakdown of those who were still not at that pay grade after five years of holding an appointment.
In his reply, Mr Hawazi said a majority of principals and vice principals retire at a substantial pay grade at or above their appointments, but provided no figures.
Mr Zainal pressed on and asked once more for the figures. When Mr Hawazi said he would "appreciate" if Mr Zainal was "specific about what he wanted to follow up with", the latter proceeded to read out loud the detailed parliamentary question he had filed earlier, to make the point that he had indeed been specific.
Only then did Mr Hawazi admit that he "did not think it is useful" to release the numbers, having already outlined the ministry's existing principles and policies.
Mr Zainal (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) later argued that "as a matter of good human resource policy and not to be seen as underpaying its officers", the Education Ministry should consider promoting officers to the pay grade appropriate to their appointment, within a "reasonable" time-frame.
This could be in a span of three years, for example, he said.
In his response, Mr Hawazi said the promotion of such officers would depend on the assessment of their superiors. But he stressed that the Education Ministry strived to pay its officers based on their capabilities and the job grade that they were on.