Parliamentary Replies

August 26, 2008

Financial Assistance Schemes for Needy Students

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mdm Cynthia Phua, Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC

Question

To ask Minister for Education in view of many schools requiring students to use laptops in their school work

  1. whether there are financial assistance schemes for needy students who cannot afford to pay for the laptops and new computer programs;
  2. under what circumstances will these students qualify for free laptops and computer programs from the schools; and
  3. whether the Minister can give a breakdown of the financial assistance granted to needy students for purchase of laptops and computer programs during the fiscal year 2006/07 and 2007/08.

Response

Infocomm technologies or ICT have become an integral part of students’ learning in Singapore schools. There are adequate ICT facilities and computers in schools for use during and after school hours. Based on a recent survey by MOE, about 90% of our students indicated that they had access to an Internet-connected computer at home. For students without such access, some schools also loan out notebook computers to them to work on their assignments at home.

At the same time, MOE works closely with the Infocomm Development Authority or IDA and other community organisations to help needy students gain access to an Internet-connected computer at home.

First, IDA’s NEU (NEw and Used PC) Plus Programme helps needy students to purchase desktop computers or laptops complete with software and 3 years of broadband access at a subsidised price of $285 and $730 respectively. All Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents from families with gross monthly income not exceeding $2000 or per capita monthly income of not more than $500 are eligible for the Programme. Since the launch of the NEU PC PLUS Programme in end 2006, a total of about 5000 students have obtained their computers under this Programme, with 1,350 in FY2006 and 3,650 in FY2007.

Second, those who need additional help to pay the subsidised rates can tap on MOE’s Opportunity Fund, which was set up in April 2006, and the INSPIRE fund set up by IDA with the industry in November 2007. For the Opportunity Fund, schools decide on the subsidy amount and the eligibility criteria. Under the INSPIRE fund, in lieu of the $285 or $730 they would otherwise have to pay for a PC or laptop, they render 6 to 12 hours of community service such as helping out at old folks and children’s homes.

To date, schools have disbursed a total of about $900,000 under the Opportunity Fund and INSPIRE fund for the purchase of computers, with about $66,000 in FY2006 and about $860,000 in FY2007. This is estimated to have benefited some 4,000 students. Thirdly, students can also seek funding support from agencies such as SINDA, Yayasan Mendaki, and Chinese CDAC, as well as their Schools’ Advisory Committee and Management Committee, and the Lee Wee Kheng Fund.

In short, MOE, IDA and community organisations have put in place various schemes to ensure that as many of our students as possible have access to computers at home.