Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Added school fee problems for parents

CAP is disturbed at the wide range of additional school fees that are permitted to be charged at individual schools — even going over RM100 and more.

It is very well for the Education Minister to say that parents do not have to comply or that they can take their money back. But in reality, can the Minister actually guarantee that the children whose parents have not paid these additional fees will be treated no differently from their more affluent classmates?

Will all pupils be allowed unrestricted access to the school programmes and facilities, without the headmaster or teachers drawing attention to the fact that the child has not paid the requested additional fees? Will the child feel humiliated among his fellow students for not going along with the individual school requirements?

CAP calls on the Government abolish the system of allowing individual schools or state education authorities to charge additional fees at their own discretion. This system is open to abuse.

The basic school fees could be reinstated as an acceptable contribution. Thereafter, individual school heads or state education authorities should not be allowed to load on additional charges. .

To curb excess expenses, CAP calls for a thorough review of the programmes and items that are being charged to students. In some other Departments, as has been noted from the Auditor-General’s report, there are cases of overspending when no proper check-and-balance system is in place.

An independent audit panel could look into the expenditure at schools, following which, more focus should be placed on cost-cutting measures.

Some of the items could be provided by the schools without charge, such as examination papers and report cards. Items, such as dictionaries or atlases, could come under the book loan scheme.

School magazines could be simple publications using cheaper paper and printing materials. Name tags, badges, T-shirts and track suits could be sourced from less costly sources. Children should not be requested to pay for non-essential items such as files. They could be taught to make their own files.

The use of activity books should be curtailed. Teachers should revert to using just textbooks for teaching, as was the case in earlier years.

The use of computers among schoolchildren, especially during the earlier years, should also be reviewed as charges can be about the most costly component of additional school fees, while the learning advantages are debatable.