The practice of withholding result slips when school fees are not paid "should be reviewed", said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung yesterday, adding that he will speak on the matter in Parliament next year.
He made this point in an e-mail to artist Terence Tan, who had earlier this month submitted a petition calling for the removal of what the Ministry of Education (MOE) had said was a "longstanding practice".
The minister told Mr Tan that he did not agree with all the points raised in the petition.
"But I cannot rule out the odd cases, and we do have to question if this practice works at all in urging parents to do a small part in paying some miscellaneous fees. So the practice should be reviewed," he said in the e-mail which Mr Tan shared on his Facebook page.
The online petition has garnered more than 3,100 signatures. It was prompted by a Facebook post that political activist Gilbert Goh had shared on Nov 25 about a pupil whose original PSLE result slip was withheld because her parents had not settled her school fees totalling $156.
The story sparked debate about whether schools should withhold the original slips as this might affect the child negatively.
Replying to media queries then, MOE said it was a "longstanding" practice to withhold original copies of result slips when payment of school fees are defaulted on.
It added that original certificates are also not needed when applying for a place in secondary school.
Mr Ong said in the e-mail to Mr Tan that he had seen the petition and disagreed with how it said that schools or teachers were uncaring and unfeeling.
"On the contrary, schools and teachers are on the front line doing their utmost and often going out of their way to help students from vulnerable backgrounds," he said.
He also disagreed with the point that applying for financial aid was difficult and demeaning, adding that all governmental schemes require some forms to be filled, and this "cannot be helped".
"It is not a difficult form to fill, and school staff often help to fill up the forms for parents."
Mr Ong added that he had spoken to various people and did not get the sense that the children who did not receive the original result slip were humiliated.
"The schools in fact were sensitive about it. The students would receive their results like everyone, and apply for secondary school and progress like everyone else."
He ended his reply saying the policy should be reviewed and that he will provide his response when Parliament sits in the new year.