Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade & Industry and Ministry of Education at the Association of Muslim Professionals’ Ready-For-School Fund Disbursement 2010 Ceremony on Saturday, 4 December 2010, at 10.50am at the Singapore Expo
Mr Mohd Nizam Ismail,
Chairman, Association of Muslim Professionals
Members of the AMP Board
Parents & Students
Ladies & Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning at the Association of Muslim Professionals’ (AMP) Ready-for-School Fund Disbursement Ceremony.
Today’s event is testimony to the unwavering commitment of community groups like AMP in helping to ensure that all our children are given the best possible education. Indeed, AMP has always recognised and emphasised the importance of education. It has supported the educational aspirations of the community’s young through its Ready for School Fund (RFS) which has rendered assistance to disadvantaged students across primary, secondary, and tertiary levels since 2002. To date, AMP has disbursed $1.28 million to more than 4,400 such students. This is truly commendable and a tribute to the resourcefulness and dedication of AMP and its volunteers.
Many Helping Hands
Beginning with assistance for children in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools in 2002, the RFS has been extended to include school-going children of all races, from preschool to tertiary levels, since 2007. Other than providing the children with school essentials such as uniforms and school bags, the RFS also subsidises their school and tuition fees as well as transportation expenses. Apart from financial assistance, the RFS also conducts enrichment programmes for its beneficiaries.
Today, more than 2,000 students from preschools, primary and secondary schools, ITEs, junior colleges and centralised institutes will receive their Ready for School Packs. A further 95 students from polytechnics and universities will receive the AMP Education Bursary. These will amount to about $400,000 being disbursed.
AMP’s and other community organisations’ efforts to help students in need, effectively complements the Government’s efforts at the national level. Essentially, there are four elements in the Government’s approach towards social support for families and individuals. The first, is to create economic and job opportunities for Singaporeans to be gainfully employed. The second, is to encourage long term saving for housing, retirement, and medical expenses through the CPF. The third, is to foster a strong network of community support through community groups and organisations, like AMP. The fourth is to augment these individual and community efforts with Government programmes like Workfare Income Supplementation (WIS), ComCare and other forms of assistance.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) also has several programmes to help our students fully realize their potential through the opportunities in our educational institutions. The Ministry has a Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) through which students are granted a waiver of school and standard miscellaneous fees. They are also provided with free textbooks at primary and secondary levels, free school attire and a bursary of $750 at JC/CI levels. Students also receive a 75% subsidy on national examination fees, and those on the MCYS Public Assistance Scheme receive 100% subsidy on national examination fees.
Our schools use the Opportunity Fund to help needy Singaporean students benefit from a range of opportunities to enrich their learning through co-curricular activities and programmes. Together with various school-based schemes, these measures help to ensure that no child will miss out on a good education for want of financial support.
This year alone, MOE has disbursed a total of $15 million under the FAS. The number of students receiving FAS has also increased from 35,000 in 2006 to nearly 47,000 in 2010 .
These various initiatives through our schools, grassroots and community organisations, as well as government agencies, reinforce each other as part of an important collective national effort to help individuals and their families achieve a brighter future through education and skills upgrading.
While community and school involvement is key to ensuring that our young continue to receive a good education, it is equally important to recognise the significant role of parents. Parental support and encouragement is fundamental to a child’s motivation and self-esteem. Strong ties and effective communication and collaboration between parents and teachers will also help ensure that our children are eager and confident learners who are well-prepared for the future. I therefore urge all parents to take an active interest in their children’s education.
For the students present today, I have two key messages. Firstly, I urge you to make full use of the opportunities created for you by your parents and the community to continually strive for excellence. Our education system offers many pathways and, ultimately, it is up to you to take full advantage of it in order to realise your full potential and dreams.
Secondly, I also hope that as you attain your goals, you would also consider ‘paying it forward’ or giving back to the community that has come together to support your educational aspirations. Your contribution will offer hope to someone else in need and, in turn, keep the spirit of compassion alive within our community. I wish you all every success in your endeavours.