Education minister invokes POFMA against Lim Tean for 'false & misleading' Facebook posts on education grants

His posts implied that MOE spends less on Singaporean students than on foreign students.

Tanya Ong | December 16, 2019, 10:57 AM

The Minister of Education has invoked Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (POFMA) against Facebook posts made by People's Voice Party (PVP) leader Lim Tean.

Two Facebook posts on Dec. 12

The Facebook posts, which were related to education spending for grants and bursaries, claimed that the “PAP spends S$167 million on grants & bursaries for Singaporeans, but S$238 million on foreign students".

Here are his posts, which were posted on Dec. 12:

Statements are "false and misleading"

On Dec. 16, MOE said that his Facebook posts contain "false and misleading statements".

They said his claims of MOE spending S$167 million on Singaporean students compared to the S$238 million for foreign students imply that MOE spends less on Singaporean students.

However, MOE said that the figures are actually not comparable.

They clarified that the S$167 million cited by Lim refers only to bursaries for Singaporean tertiary students and "grossly understates" the total spending on Singaporeans for education.

MOE explained that nearly S$13 billion is spent on Singaporean students to provide subsidised education for all Singaporean students at all levels, and the S$167 million comprises less than two per cent of the total education budget.

Much of MOE's budget goes towards costs such as infrastructure, facilities, laboratories and teaching. These include fixed and non-variable costs.

They stated that much of the S$238 million attributed to spending on foreign students would have to be incurred anyway regardless of whether a "small proportion of foreign students (currently 5 per cent)" are being admitted in the system.

POFMA office to issue Correction Direction

MOE said that it has instructed the POFMA office to issue a Correction Direction to Lim regarding these posts.

The Correction Direction requires Lim to carry, in full, a correction notice at the top of both Facebook posts.

This is the first time that POFMA has been invoked against a post made by a leader of political party.

Recently on Dec. 14, the manpower minister also issued three correction directions under POFMA against two social media posts made by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and an article on its website.

Top photo via MOE & Lim Tean's Facebook post