Thursday, March 12, 2009

VOLUNTARY?

As more private schools close down in Singapore, the Singapore government is now rushing to implement more stringent rules for Singapore’s private schools.

People who have read my blog before know that I don’t think much of Singapore’s desire to be an education hub in the region. I never believe in some of the pretty outlandish claims by the Singapore government on the benefits of private education (more education is the way to beat inflation anyone?), but the problem is that a lot of Singaporeans do.

A lot of Singaporeans students are now left with no where to turn as the schools closed down and the money they paid to the private school disappeared. So in my opinion, more stringent rules for the private education sector are long overdue. However I have serious doubts about the new Private Education Bill that authorities hope will do the job.

From what I read so far, under the new bill a new EduTrust scheme will take over the current CASETrust scheme in dealing with private schools in Singapore. Under EduTrust, the focus will be on the school’s financial health and academic processes. All good so far but the big problem I see is that EduTrust is ‘supposed’ to take over CASETrust and CASETrust is a total joke. Not only that, what’s worse is that the EduTrust scheme is VOLUNTARY!

Under EduTrust, there is an enforcement act that requires the managers of the private schools to make transitory plans for the students if the private school closed down. How is the Education Ministry supposed to look after private schools and force them to transfer students when the scheme they will be using is voluntary? Does that make sense to anyone?

If the Education Ministry really wants to crack down on errant private schools, they must NOT make it voluntary. It makes no sense.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

So you would rather trust big brother than the wisdom of the free market? You communist, you!

Ghost said...

uh...how is having EduTrust a voluntary scheme the wisdom of the free market?

Anonymous said...

Why do we need any scheme at all? Trust in the wisdom of the free market means one thing: de-regulation! Why do we need governmental intervention at all?

Anonymous said...

coz big brother needs to change his rolls royce to latest 2009 model.

and how can you not trust big brother? trust him. he is always doing the right thing.

Ghost said...

De-regulation? That’s what we have now. There’s no hard rules for these private schools; that’s why we have so many of these schools closing down and the owners running away with the students’ money.

Anonymous said...

Supply and demand! The wisdom of the free market tells us that consumers will vote with their dollars. If a school is poorly run, and collapses, that is not a problem! It deserves to fail, and business will go to better schools. The market is wise! The market is infallible.

Ghost said...

"If a school is poorly run, and collapses, that is not a problem!" Unless you happen to be a student who had paid for the course, of course.

Anonymous said...

Can't make a free economy omelette without some eggs. Unless ... you are advocating socialism?

Ghost said...

Since when is taking a student's money and running off part of a free economy?

Anonymous said...

A free market means that regulation is left to the market. If a school runs off with the students' money, it will collapse naturally as people will avoid it. If the school does well, more students will flock to it.

Regulation means that the government steps in to decide.

I am being facetious in this thread. It just strikes me that in reality almost all Singaporeans are in favour of big-government. There are virtually no small-government conservatives in Singapore. People here want the government to handle almost everything, and then they complain when the government does not do a good job.

Ghost said...

If a school runs off with the students' money, it will naturally collapse but that still doesn't answer the main question. "How are the students going to get their money back and how are they going to keep on their studies if there is no school?" That's my main problem with EduTrust.
I also like to say that this has little to do with the free market. Cases when school operators who took their student's money and then run off have little to do with the free markets and more to do with cheating.

Anonymous said...

Without government intervention, you would have to sue the school for breach of contract - just like any other business dispute with a service provider.

Anonymous said...

Free-market Anon:

I think you are missing the point. Education is not supposed to be a "free market".

If consumers don't like a telephone service provider for example, they can go to another one. Not much loss there.

Now, education. Let me see. If I have paid money for education (or a piece of paper) and my school folded, not only I have lost the money, I'd have lost months/years of study time and effort. Not to mention current holders of certs from that school, who are now essentially holding onto paper that's worth less than toilet paper.

If you don't view this as a "problem", well... how about not regulating banks at all eh? No need for mandated deposit insurance. After all, if the one who holds your life savings suddenly went belly up, you have other banks to choose from right? (Good luck with trying to sue the bank. Institutional creditors all get their money before mom-and-pop customers will.)

Anonymous said...

I am not in disagreement. As I mentioned above, I was being facetious in arguing for a "true" free market. The point is that very often, people pay lip service to free markets actually want regulation. This is especially true in Singapore.

In other words, the average Singaporean here is definitely pro-big government. They want the government (rather than the private sector) to run things - and then they sit back to complain about ministerial salaries and governmental inefficients or errors. And when things go wrong, the first thing they do is run crying to the government for help.

So - are we a socialist nation?

Anonymous said...

I am not in disagreement. As I mentioned above, I was being facetious in arguing for a "true" free market. The point is that very often, people pay lip service to free markets actually want regulation. This is especially true in Singapore.

In other words, the average Singaporean here is definitely pro-big government. They want the government (rather than the private sector) to run things - and then they sit back to complain about ministerial salaries and governmental inefficients or errors. And when things go wrong, the first thing they do is run crying to the government for help.

So - are we a socialist nation?

Anonymous said...

Double (triple?) post for the lose. :(

Ghost said...

Whether it is big government/small-government, socialist/capitalist, does it really matter what it's called as long as it worked.
CASETrust does not work, and EduTrust will not either. Which private school operator is going to be afraid of a scheme that is all bark and no bite.

Anonymous said...

This is a debate that is largely absent in Singapore, but it can matter. It is questionable whether more or less government intervention in any sector is effective in the long run. It is easy to dismiss this as mere ideology but theories do translate into real life consequences, whether we like it or not.

Ghost said...

To me, this is a strange debate to have. To me, it's on a case-by-case basis.
In some case, you want big government, in others you want less government intervention. To say that all big/small government is right/wrong is like saying that this is a black & white world.
Easier to think of it that way, but it's also untrue.

Anonymous said...

The more that government is called upon to do, the larger the civil service bureaucracy grows, which translates into higher taxes.

Imposing regulations can also raise costs and other barriers of entry for would-be entrepreneurs (say someone who wants to start a private school) and also lower overall efficiency.

Pros and cons. I do not think that big or small government is always the right answer, which is why I would also suggest that calling for more regulation as a reaction to a problem may not be the right approach either. It does tend to be how we Singaporeans react to most problems, though.

Ghost said...

I disagree with you on this. Persoally I care little about big or small government and 'big' government (as you say it) is the right answer here. More regulation means it's less likely that private school operators will disappear into thin air.

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