SINGAPORE - A group of students who were told that they would not get their O-level result slips as they had not paid a penalty for missing a school event will get their results after all.
The Whitley Secondary School students had missed their school's formal dinner night last November and were later asked to pay a $60 penalty for non-attendance, affected students told The Straits Times.
When they did not pay up, the school in Bishan threatened to withhold their result slips when results are released on Friday (Jan 12), they added.
But the school's principal Tay Yang Fern said on Thursday (Jan 11) the result slips of students who did not attend the event "will not be withheld when the results are released".
She also clarified that the dinner at Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre - which students saw as a prom - was actually a formal dinner for students to practise newly acquired skills.
It was part of a development programme for the graduating students, which comprised a course on grooming and etiquette skills for the Secondary 4 cohort and interview and etiquette skills for the Secondary 5 students.
"The school acknowledged that some of the Secondary 5 students perceived that they had not been given the option of not attending the dinner, even though others had opted out in advance and hence did not have to pay for the dinner," Mrs Tay said.
"The school will engage these students and their parents for an amicable arrangement and necessary assistance will be extended in cases of financial hardship."
The Straits Times understands that more than 10 Secondary 5 students were not intending to pay the fee for missing the school event.
The sister of an affected Secondary 5 student told online forum Reddit on Monday that those who attended the formal dinner had to pay only $50 while those who did not show up had to pay $110, or $60 more. Students paid the $50 via their Edusave accounts, after a consent form was issued last August.
The sister told the forum that earlier on Monday, a Secondary 5 form teacher told her class through a WhatsApp group chat to "clear their debts" or they will not get their results. The teacher told them not to "put yourself in an unfavourable position" on results day.
When asked, Mrs Tay said students who were absent from school-subsidised programmes without valid reason must pay the full cost of the programme.
"This was communicated in writing to students' parents and guardians prior to the commencement of these programmes," she added.
But the 20-year-old sister of the student told The Straits Times: "I was baffled and outraged when my sister told me about what she is experiencing... Our family is not exactly well-to-do."
Most of the affected Secondary 5 students indicated early last year that they would not be attending the year-end event, as they had already been to a similar one in 2016 when in Secondary 4. They paid about $80 to attend that event.
They said they should not have to pay a penalty for an event they did not attend.
"Isn't the objective of prom to provide an avenue for students to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with their schoolmates?" said one student. "We have experienced it before. I don't see why we should be cornered to attend the repeated programme."
The Ministry of Education said schools may withhold the exam certificates of students who have yet to pay outstanding school fees after repeated reminders. It added that there are financial assistance schemes available to Singaporeans in need of such support.