Nowdays, many institutions are getting shamed in public – at least from a one-sided story from a disgruntled victim. However, if the letter here is anything to go by, the admin lapse that’s in Republic Polytechnic is really shocking. Not only did they make the poor guy book out of camp a few times during his BMT, they failed to process his deferment and their system started to threaten to suspend him from school due to non-attendance.

And I thought Singapore aspired to be an Education Hub.

How Republic Polytechnic handled a student’s deferment application

SINGAPORE’S educational system has always been widely regarded as one of the best in the world, with many local and foreign talents being cultivated from polytechnics, tertiary institutions and universities.

Started up in 2002 as the country’s fifth polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic has nurtured and educated many batches of highly skilled individuals. The school has also achieved several significant awards such as the Singapore Quality Class in 2005. However, one recent encounter with the school has tremendously changed my perspective on the school’s management towards its students.

Last month, my brother was successfully enrolled into Republic Polytechnic. However, as he is already serving his National Service when he received the letter of approval, he has to defer his studies and complete his National Service before he continues to further his studies.

On March 27, my brother received an SMS from Republic Polytechnic, requesting him to go to the school personally on the 28th to settle his enrolment. Given the short notice, my brother had no choice but to apply to book out early from BMTC in Pulau Tekong to complete the enrolment and request deferment of his studies. Worried that there might be some procedures which my brother might have difficulties in, I took leave from work and accompanied him to RP. After we had handed in the necessary documents to process his enrolment, we told the staff that my brother needs to defer his studies till he completes his NS. However, we were alarmed to hear from the staff that there is no way deferment of studies can be done and there was only two choices, either defer his NS and proceed with his studies or re-apply two years later when my brother has successfully completed his NS. Also, my brother had to make another trip to school personally on April 1 to complete his enrolment.

Why can’t the school be more efficient and complete the whole enrolment process in one day? It is very difficult to apply leave from NS, especially when my brother has just enlisted and is still undergoing BMT. This disruption in his training will take a toll on him as he will have to stay in camp during Saturdays to attend the lessons that he has missed. Isn’t this making life more difficult and putting unnecessary stress on him?

I went back home and surfed through RP’s website. On one of the pages on deferment issues, it states that ‘Successful applicants who are still serving full-time National Service may apply for deferment of their studies to reserve their place until they have completed their service’. I called up the school immediately and they confirmed that deferment of studies can be done. By giving false information and misleading applicants, the staff of RP must take full responsibility for their actions if the applicants decide to choose either of the two options that were given earlier. If the applicant chooses to complete his NS, re-apply two years later but this time round he is unsuccessful in his re-application for a course in RP, the applicant’s opportunity to further his studies will be diminished. This is very unfair to him as he is not fully informed of the choices that he can make and this decision may affect his path in life and even career opportunities in the future.

Thinking that this was a one-off mistake from the staff, we decided not to pursue the matter. However, the situation just got from bad to worse.

On April 1, my brother booked out from camp and went back to school to complete his enrolment. He went through eight stages, with each stage telling the person in charge that he was requesting deferment. At one stage, the person in charge asked him to purchase a laptop so that my brother can be issued with his student ID and password to gain access to the RP’s website and wireless Internet within the school. However, my brother told him that he was going to defer his studies so there was no need for him to purchase a laptop for the time being. After finalising his enrolment and requesting deferment, he went back to camp.

Despite all the necessary actions taken to proceed with the deferment, there was no letter of confirmation of deferment from RP. Recalling the bad incident that we had in the past, I decided to call up the school once again on April 4. This time round, the staff told me that my brother has to complete an online deferment form, located in RP’s website, and to log in to his account, he needs to have his user ID and password which will be issued when he purchases his laptop. Earlier on, my brother had already informed the staff that he was requesting for deferment and that was why he did not purchase the laptop. Why was he not given his user ID and password on the spot and instead insisted on having him purchase a laptop to get the user ID and password? I believe that technology is so advanced now that his user ID and password can be generated and issued by the IT Department immediately.

Finally, after filling up the online form, we thought that the whole saga can finally die down. However, the best part has yet to arrive.

On April 9, we received a call from the Program Chair in charge of the course which my brother was enrolled in. To our shock, it was pertaining to my brother’s absence from school. From that moment we knew that nothing was done by the school about the deferment and we were advised by the lecturer to wait for the confirmation letter by the Office of Registrar. At the same time, he explained to us about the five stages to successfully apply for deferment, one of which was to seek his approval. We adhered to his advice and waited another week, hoping that everything can be completed as soon as possible.

We received a letter from RP on April 14, stating that my brother was absent from school from April 7 to April 11 and that if he continues to be absent from school till April 18, ‘we will change his/her student status from enrolled to dormant and he/she could be liable to be dismissed from the school and pay the administrative fees equivalent to the 100% of semestral tuition fees and annual supplementary fees’. This is ridiculous. Why should we forfeit the semestral fees that we have already paid when we have already asked for a deferment which was not taken up by the school on the very first day of enrolment? The school has to take the blame for the messed up system and inefficiency in resolving such a simple issue. If the staff are not educated in handling such issues, why allow them to oversee the enrolment procedures? In the very first place, they should already be notified whether the applicants are currently serving National Service ( for those who are eligible to serve NS).

With things going out of hand, I called up the Deputy Principal (Academic Affairs) and Registrar, Dr. W.A.M. Alwis, who took a very defensive and protective stand. I was given absolutely no chance to explain our current situation as he continued to rattle on through the phone on how the school had to handle more than 4,000 students and why the whole procedure was taking such a long time. Throughout the conversation, I was interrupted countless times as I pressed on to ask for an explanation on the poor handling of the situation. When I requested a deadline for the deferment issue to be settled, he could not even provide me with an estimated date. In the end, without any further explanation that he could provide me regarding this issue, he hung up his phone.

I sincerely hope that Republic Polytechnic can improve on its management system as it is causing a lot of unnecessary stress and time wasted in resolving such a simple issue. I believe that this issue can be settled within the day of enrolment itself if the school’s management system is efficient. This will reduce the time spent on follow-up cases and save a lot of trouble for the parents/guardians of the applicants and the applicants themselves.

Cheong Jian Ping

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 19th April 2008



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