23 Sep 2005

Power To The Teachers

A posting of an article for my own records. I worked in a number of 'private schools', or 'business schools' in Singapore and know this story from the inside out. Lets put it diplomatically and state that there is a certain tension or conflict of interest within such organisations, which is best summed up with an image of a "business-school" dichotomy. I am attracted to this article because it refers to one of the few groups of people within said organisations that appear to be motivated towards education. The original article is available here.

Singapore: “A magnet for Asian education” but also of fraud
The education boom in this city state cloaks inefficiency and deception

Singapore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In Singapore, the sharp rise in the number of private schools in recent years has prompted the government to strive to make the country “a magnet for education for all Asia”. The schools do offer a considerable range of possibilities from teaching of English to children’s pre-schooling to electrical engineering and tourism. Education makes up 1.9% of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product.

Many students come from abroad, especially from China. They pay between 5,000 and 20,000 Singapore dollars (between 2,500 and 10,000 US dollars) to be able to read for a diploma or a degree.

However, there are businessmen at work in the sector who do not guarantee quality standards. The authorities have heard many complaints from students who protested against the poor effectiveness of courses or the inefficiency of the school campus. There have even been problems regarding the reimbursement of school taxes. The government, to put a stop to these goings-on, decided last year to introduce a plan to protect students.

Schools are now obliged to deposit enrolment taxes of students in a specific current account which allows the withdrawal of money only after the student would have completed his course. Otherwise, the school may draw up an insurance policy in the student’s name. Only 140 out of 209 schools were able to implement this plan.

The plan, which has a long-term view of protecting students as well as the reputation of the education system is having short-term negative repercussions.

Recently, the “Ait academy” and the “Unicampus” [SAME PLACE]had to shut down. Hundreds of students – including a Chinese student who has enrolled and paid 5,565 Singapore dollars to the school the day before it announced its closure – found themselves without a place to go to school.

Students who had enrolled in the Ait last year were covered by the protection plan and they were able to transfer to other schools without forking out any more money.

Other schools face financial problems. Last year, the formation school “Informatics” which offered to take 250 Ait students, was involved in a money scandal.

Many teachers believe the Ait school is only the tip of the iceberg and that many schools could close if they did not put their accounts in order quickly.

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