PCF, the largest pre-school operator in Singapore, announced on 22 Sept that it would raise its fees at most of its centres next year. It explained that the fee increases were needed to maintain the quality of its programmes, go toward meeting part of the rising operational costs and to pay for the increase in investments in curriculum and learning environment.
Looking at many comments online, it seems that many people were against the fee increases. Some typical reactions linked the fee increase to the landslide win that the PAP got in GE2015. Given that PCF (PAP Community Foundation) is part of PAP, it is understandable why people would draw such connections. Having said that, I do not think that the fee increase had anything to do with PAP’s victory in GE2015.
I believe that even if PAP did badly in GE2015, the fees would have gone up. I had believed that there were good reasons why the fees should go up.
Then PCF did something to make me question whether there were truly good reasons for the fee increase. It announced today that it would give rebates to parents affected by the fee increases for the first six months of 2016.
“During this period, all Singaporean and permanent resident children in the centres will enjoy a rebate equivalent to the fee increase amount,” PCF said. This “goodwill gesture” essentially means that the fee increase actually only kicks in in July 2016.
What is the message that PCF is sending? Does this mean that the reasons it had earlier cited for increasing fees are no longer valid? You mean the costs of operations are not higher for the first six months of 2016 and will suddenly be unbearable for the second six months? Will the quality of programmes at PCF drop in the first six months of 2016 because the fees will not be raised? So the curriculum and learning environment will not be improved in the first six months of 2016 since PCF would not have money because they have not raised their fees?
Why the flip-flop? Isn’t raising fees, charging parents more then giving them the additional money received back as rebates an additional administrative burden? Why incur that additional administrative burden? Why spend time and effort, which translate ultimately to money, on such administrative burden? Is it because PCF realise that they can actually make do with the current level of fees until the second half of 2016 and actually only needed the fee increase from the second half of 2016? If that is the case, why not just announce that the fees will be increased in the second half of 2016?
Or did PCF back down on their fee increase because some parents complained? If that is the case, then PCF is truly spineless. As a result of them being spineless, the necessary investments to improve the quality of early childhood development and care at their centres will suffer. Their staff will be shortchanged. Singapore, as a society, will be worse off.
I hope that PCF’s spineless behaviour is not reflective of the wider PAP, especially the political office holders. If there is a need to make tough decisions that may be unpopular, I hope that our PAP political office holders will still have the guts to make them. Explain, with intelligence and empathy, why those decisions are necessary as best as possible. But if there is still considerable discontent, I hope that our political office holders will still have the guts to put their necks on the line and make those tough calls.
If, however, our PAP political office holders are spineless like PCF, then Singapore is doomed.
[Featured image from Yahoo Newsroom]