Trumpeting an all-time high 9 poly graduates who get a PSC scholarship – but so what?

This year, out of 93 recipients of PSC scholarship, 9 are polytechnic graduates. Mind you, this is regarded as a big jump from recent years. In the past two years, only a single scholarship went to someone from the polytechnics. In 2016, the number was three.

In 2017, 24,210 students graduated from the five polytechnics (figures for 2018 and 2019 are not yet available), Assuming that the polytechnic student output remains unchanged as 2017, the award of scholarship to 9 polytechnic graduates by PSC is like a drop in the ocean. The majority of the top 5 to 10 percent of the polytechnic cohort in 2019 who managed to clinch a place in one of our local universities are likely to have to use their parents CPF savings or secure a commercial bank loan to further their studies.

There is also another segment of the cohort who failed to obtain a place in a local university and they have to go to a foreign university to pursue university education. Many of such poly students have done very well academically and return home to work. The cost of an overseas university education is exorbitant and the average Singapore parent will have to struggle very hard to find the funds to send his or her children abroad to study.

I have read several postings by parents in such a dilemma. My Malay barber has to sell his 3-room HDB flat in a central location and move to the Jurong area in order to secure the funds to send his eldest son to Australia to pursue a tertiary education. He told me his second son also wanted to further his studies but he has to disappoint him as he does not have another HDB flat in good location to sell off.

While we know that the number of PSC scholarship awarded each year is small, and only a small percentage of local students in polytechnics and universities are fortunate enough to have one, the number of government and government-related company scholarship given to foreign students and the annual budget spent on such foreign students are in hundreds of million dollars over the last 10 years or more.

The Minister for Education, in response to a parliamentary question filed by NCMP Leon Perera, said that “the total government spending for this group of international students comes up to around $130 million a year, which is 1 per cent of MOE’s annual budget of $13 billion.” Yet, MOE has not, to my knowledge, issued a report, detailing the actual amount spent and how the foreign students’ scholarship scheme has benefited Singapore.

The critical question is: why does the government seems so generous in educating foreign students in our local educational institutes and yet so tight-fist in extending financial help to local students in polytechnics and universities. Even in JCs, not all students have the means to study at their leisure as I know some even have to work in fast-food shops and giving tuition to earn their daily expenses.

Frankly, the actual amount the government spent on educating foreign students in Singapore schools, JCs, Polytechnics and universities is not clear at all. Why is the MOE reluctant to provide a complete report for public information? We only learnt about this from Ministers’ replies to parliamentary questions raised by opposition MPs and NCMPs.

According to Minister of Education Mr Ong Ye Kung, “Every education system in the world will provide some support to international students, and Singaporeans are also benefiting from foreign sponsor-ships for their studies.”

Minister Ong, please tell us which country set aside about S$130 million or 1 per cent of its annual Education budget to finance the education and schooling of foreign students? So far, I have not known of any Singapore student going to an overseas university for a degree course, on the host country’s budget.

In 2014, in reply to WP MP Mr Png Eng Huat’s parliamentary question, then Education Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat said “the tuition grants for international students comes up to about S$210 million per year.” Does it mean that MOE spends at least $340 million each year on scholarships and tuition grants for foreign students in tertiary education?

In Jan 2018, there are four fewer JCs (with merger of 8 JCs into 4) with an assurance that the chance of a student getting a seat in a JC will not diminish. Is it? Some JCs have up their cut-off points for admission in 2018.

More serious, I was told by Normal and Express students who sat their O-Level examination, that their Form Teachers and even Principals advised them to opt for ITEs and polytechnics instead of going to JCs, If this is a policy directive from the higher-ups from Education, the implications are serious for the future of our own students.

If more students opt for ITEs and polytechnics, who will take up the places in the JCs? The answer is obvious. About 70-80% of a JC cohort goes on to university while only top 5-10% polytechnic graduates can qualify for a place in a local university. In the next 3-5 years, I believe there will be less applicants to local universities as less went through the JC route. Who will take up the vacancies in local universities?

In India, the Ministry of Education of Singapore is inviting applications from Indian students for the Singapore Airlines (SIA) Youth Scholarship 2019 for 2 years of pre-university studies in selected junior colleges of Singapore. Under this education scheme, about 25 to 50 students from all over India are chosen to study in one of the JCs.

There must be deeper policy objectives behind this scholarship and tuition grant scheme to educate foreign students so liberally at tax-payers’ expense.

The Peoples Voice will seek a clear change in this foreign students’ scholarship policy. While having a certain diversity of student population has its merits, there should be a much higher priority to use the annual Education budget to help and develop local student talents in all critical areas to meet Singapore’s long-term needs.

In fact, there are enough foreign students who left Singapore immediately upon graduation (and the MOE and university administrations can’t do anything to recoup the money spent on them), to tell the government that this current policy of free funding the education of foreign students indiscriminately, is unfair to our local students and their parents.

We work for change for a better Singapore.


Kok Ming Cheang



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5 Responses to “Trumpeting an all-time high 9 poly graduates who get a PSC scholarship – but so what?”

  • Rabble-rouser:

    High Education were being manipulated as a scarce resource (great [people] demand vs [govt] controlled supply) & as a political tool (Uphold Meritocracy Policy to create Elitist society) to maintain everlasting power.
    The political mechanism were being configured as a two-tier society; (1) the 1st tier, a political elite core served by a business crony mechanism; (2) the 2nd tier, the masses (digits) which comprised of: disenfranchised locals & increasingly, a growing foreigner core (in a tribal setting; ie. a divide & rule strategy).
    PAP Political System is inherently a weak mechanism. They exist only when people’s rights are marginalised (trampled upon), the biggest proportion of S’pore population universe were illiterate, undereducated or docile, unthinking graduates (apathetic, focus only on earning SG$ & on day-to-day living). On the other hand, the System is all mighty ie. a Paramount State Mechanism (GLCs, SWFs & Crony businesses) dominating the Economic Landscape.
    Higher Education is controlled (Meritocratic Policy, Quota Mechanism, etc) as a political mechanism to avoid creating an Independent-thinking Intellectual Class as well as prevent developing a Strong Enterpreneurial Core. Both were calculated threats to PAP’s political doctrine of a Paramount State Political-Economy Mechanism. And the PAP, at the end of the day, were an insecured bunch & needed a lot of control mechanisms to maintain & enforced their rule (hence, S’pore’s legalistic society of over-regulation, stifling laws & archaic rules).
    This mechanism initially worked well for the following reasons:
    * Winsemius Economic Doctrine: which “plucked the low lying economic fruits”;
    * S’pore’s relatively well-educated core (in existence even before PAP came to power) & the prevailing Manufacturing Economy Post-WW2;
    * Prevailing Cold War (Democracy vs Communism political doctrine): S’pore upheld by the West as a bastion of Democracy (it was an Auhoritarian govt/Dictatorship) & the West supported S’pore with much inward manufacturing investments; &
    * The rise of Neoliberialism ie. “Globalisation & Free Markets” which started under President Ronald Reagan (Reaganism, Supply-side economics, etc).
    But PAP’s control mechanism can’t handle the Global Paradigm Shifts that had occurred since (End of Cold War, End of Manufacturing Economy, Rise of China, Rise of the Internet, Rise of Knowledge Economy, etc). If one is sharp enough to understand this phenomena, the PAP has been in sharp retreat eversince.
    The problem now isn’t accessibility towards Higher Education but a new directional setting & a change in people’s mentality/psyche required for Economic Success!
    - Cont’d -

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  • Taleban:

    Many years back, Education Minister Dr. Tony Tan said something to this effect. Why throw good money after some bad (lousy) students. He is referring to ITE students.
    It is from an interview with the brother of the late Dr. Tay Eng Soon.

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  • Rabble-rouser:

    - Cont’d -
    The signs were already festering in S’pore – New graduates directly transitioning to Grab driving, doing Gig jobs or working in unrelated fields, in irrelevant work.
    The main problem isn’t only confined to S’pore’s educational system nor the major issue being accessibility to higher tertiary. There is a greater issue – S’pore’s entire Economy & eco-system is in danger of being disrupted & rendered irrelevant within the next few years.
    S’pore overwhelming control mechanism administered by the PAP govt will cause the people much grief down the road. The most critical elements were already so obvious in S’pore – Inability “To Think Outside the Box”, Lacking Initiative (always waiting for the govt to make the 1st move) & the Fear Factor (over-regulation, stifling laws, archiac rules, etc). S’pore & the PAP govt can talk about Creativity & Innovation till the cows come home but the eco-system needs to reform (PAP VTO?)
    Secondly, the overwhelming focus on academic scores, elite schools & basic education metrics (PISA scores) – totally overlooked one important aspect of the Knowledge Economy. I can’t speak more about the missed opportunities S’pore failed to grasp in the last 20 years. And that is the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in the Knowledge era. S’pore totally missed the boat!
    And this was reflected in the downward spiral of SGX universe of stocks. SGX stock capitalisation had been halved within the last decade – an indictment of the lack of business enterprise & entrepreneurship in S’pore. What replaced business enterprises in the SGX were bond proxy vehicles like REITs (Brick ‘N Mortar), Asset Trusts, etc. This further disguised the sharp lack of business formation (Creativity & Innovation) inside S’pore’s Economy.
    To offset this lack of local content for job creation, the govt have to entice foreign MNCs & investments (tax incentives, pioneer tax status, grants, etc) into S’pore. But as a condition, these foreign firms dictate their preference for a foreigner workforce.
    The most damning fact is that S’pore are still being configured for 10 million population target by 2030. And this can only be achived through nore foreign imports as S’pore’s birth rate is not even at replacement factor. The Local demographic profile were also ageing badly. Also, logic would tell you that job preference would go to the foreigners instead of locals. Or else how to attract foreigners into S’pore?
    If you understand what I’ve written here, the fallacy of higher education accessibilty isn’t going to make an iota of difference if the PAP govt continues on this pathways & S’poreans continued to vote for their own genocide.

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  • Singaporean Lost Soul:

    My Malay barber has to sell his 3-room HDB flat in a central location and move to the Jurong area in order to secure the funds to send his eldest son to Australia to pursue a tertiary education. He told me his second son also wanted to further his studies but he has to disappoint him as he does not have another HDB flat in good location to sell off. if now U sell your flat n see.all your sales of flat money will B lock return to your CPf account n wiil B suck away by the RA. All get lock up. U will disappoint your 2son n will struggle once again to get more money to buy another flat.

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  • Harder Truths:

    Passing exams means nothing in the real world. It is a tool – nothing more. Depending on this one ability for success has shown us that even a tiny island cannot be ruled without common sense.

    The old man ruled by fear. His minions rule by more fear. What kind of knowledge did they employ to run this island by being clever in exams?

    You can correct mistakes and faults – but you can;t change stupid.

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