Outcome: Appeal allowed.
1 In the court below, the 22-year-old son applied for an order against his father to pay for his university education in Canada. The judge below ordered the father to pay 50% of various expenditures for the son’s intended education in Canada. The father appealed against the decision.
2 In broken families where parents are more likely to adopt an unwilling attitude towards their children’s overseas education, since money is often the subject of disagreement, the availability of comparable local courses becomes a stronger factor although it would still vary from family the family. Other factors to consider include the age of the child and the nature of the education. If the child is young, one might say that there are strong grounds to keep him in Singapore if the parents are not comfortable sending him to a boarding school overseas. On the contrary, if the child is older and wishes to pursue a very abstract and obscure course, the choice between a local course and an overseas one may be more difficult to make. For popular courses, the court may also be placed in an unenviable position of comparing and assessing different courses: at  and .
3 In cases where the court has to compare and assess between a local course and an overseas one, in the absence of an expert educationalist or journalist, the court can only compare the different courses in a broad and general way: at .
4 Section 69 of the Women’s Charter 1961 is invoked when the child concerned is usually a minor and issues regarding tertiary education are often considered as a way of looking forward when the child has reached adulthood but is still dependent on the parents for payment of his or her tertiary education. It is not intended to be used by a child after he has reached adult status and is independent: at .
5 Section 69(5)(c) of the Women’s Charter 1961 does not create a specific obligation on the parent to pay for the tertiary education of the child. While there is a provision for the duty of a parent to provide maintenance, it does not mean maintaining fully or of an unreasonable amount. A parent’s duty to maintain their child is not the same as saying that a parent had to pay for all the expenses of the child’s education: at .
6 In cases where the education is basic such as that required for the GCE A-Levels, the courts would be more generous to the child. However, in those cases, the child is usually a minor: at .
7 If the application for maintenance to pay for tertiary education was made by a child after the child had attained the age of 21 and was already an independent adult, the child would have to find his own means as his parents’ obligations to him have become limited: at .
The full text of the decision can be found here.
This summary is provided to assist the public to have a better understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s judgment.