CEO Thoughts: The challenge of providing bursaries for dyslexic children from disadvantaged families

When I became DAS CEO in 2014, we continued with one of our main efforts to help children from disadvantaged families access DAS programmes by providing these students with DAS bursaries. This is, however, getting harder as DAS increasingly creates and develops more dyslexia-focused programmes and more students attend them. DAS bursary expenditure increased from $410,000 in Financial Year (FY) 2013-2014 to $1,434,000 in FY2017-2018. In the meantime, donations raised from well-meaning foundations, companies, and members of the public to fund DAS bursaries was $725,000 in FY2017-2018&nbsp DAS is heartened that the Ministry of Education (MOE) also provides bursaries to students with dyslexia from disadvantaged families for the DAS Main Literacy Programme (MLP). In 2018, 52% of all students enrolled on the MLP qualified for bursaries. The bursary criteria for the MLP is determined by MOE and MOE regularly reviews these criteria.

MOE part funds only the DAS MLP. DAS has to charge professional fees and raise donations to provide bursaries for all other services and programmes. For example, the DAS Dyslexia Assessment is not funded by MOE. DAS, therefore, charges a fee but to simplify matters for parents, DAS has adopted the MOE criteria to award bursaries for Dyslexia Assessments. Because the application and approval for MOE bursaries take time, to facilitate children starting DAS MLP classes as soon as possible, DAS also provides in-principle approval of bursaries and tops up the difference if the MOE bursary awarded is subsequently less than the in-principle rate.

So what does this all mean for DAS? We face a significant financial challenge to keep our professional fees reasonable and avail bursaries to children from disadvantaged families. As such, DAS has to adjust fees periodically to meet increasing costs. However, I should highlight that the DAS Dyslexia Full Assessment Fee was $743 before GST on 1 April 2014 and is only $800 before GST as at 1 April 2019. An increase of just over 7% over 5 years. While DAS professional fees will inevitably increase over time, DAS will do our best to keep our fees reasonable. We are therefore appreciative that a parent had noted that despite our fee adjustments, “… all outside support other than DAS is very expensive …”

DAS is also trying our best to reduce rising costs. Singapore’s median gross monthly income has increased by 17.69% from $3,770 in 2014 to $4,437 in 2018, while the annual wage has increased by an average of 3.95% annually from 2014 to 2017. With over 85% of DAS’s operating costs being payroll and staff related expenses, the cost pressures at DAS are clear. To counter this at DAS, there has been a freeze in management and administrative headcount since 2014. Yet enrolment in all programmes has increased from 2,858 students in 2013 to 4,351 students in 2018. I am most thankful to my colleagues for their dedication, sacrifice and their significant increase in productivity (52% from 2013 to 2018).

Last but not least, DAS will continue to do our very best to avail bursaries so that children with dyslexia from lower-income families can attend DAS programmes. I call upon everyone to help these children by donating towards the DAS bursary fund. For our latest fundraiser, you can also be one of the first to watch the Avengers: End Game movie! See DAS Avengers: Endgame Movie Screening