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The issue of scholarship for foreigners

Just when I thought the Sun Xu incident will died down, comments from MP Baey Yam Keng has started flaring up emotions in Singapore. While I understand the need to attract talents, Singapore’s way of attracting talents does seem overwhelmingly generous.

A check with the MOE website stated 5 basic scholarships awarded by MOE–ASEAN Scholarship, SIA Youth Scholarship, A*Star India Youth Scholarship, MOE Scholarship and Hong Kong Scholarships. Apart from the MOE Scholarship, Singaporeans are not eligible for the rest, with most of them sponsoring up to Pre-U except for the ASEAN Scholarship. And why are there 2 scholarships (SIA Youth and A*Star India Youth) that cater to solely India nationals again?? So where is this ‘race-blind-solely-meritocracy-based’ comments from Mr Baey?

I also took issue with his statement (quote): [ “Whether they are a GLC (government-linked company), the government or a private company, they all want good people to work for them,” he told Yahoo! Singapore in an interview on Thursday]. How on earth can foreigners work in government agencies especially sensitive ones such as MOF and MHA? I would not have expected a MP to give such sweeping statements. Does he mean that the government will choose a foreigner to stand in as our minister as long as he/ she is good? I wouldn’t be surprise since that is already happening with ‘newly minted new citizens’ suddenly appearing to stand in our elections last year.

Let us take a look at the ‘Scholarship Objective’ quoted from MOE website:

Scholars in Singapore

There are various programmes in place to ensure that scholars will be able to adjust to life in Singapore. These programmes also aim to develop scholars to their full potential.

Our objectives are to:

  • Ensure the physical and emotional well-being of scholars
  • Support proper character development of scholars
  • Maximise scholars’ potential
  • Encourage outstanding academic performance of scholars

I thought that’s rather generous of MOE to use tax payer’s money to help nurture foreigners. When I clicked onto ‘Life as a Scholar in Singapore’, the contents almost read like a 5 star hotel package that not only take care of all your needs but pay you money as well. I wonder whether the website is created by someone from Singapore Tourism Board.

Quote: [Ms Sim also said that the quality of foreign scholars has been maintained over the years. She quoted some statistics: Around 45% complete their undergraduate studies with a second-upper class honours or better while only 32% of Singaporeans do as well.]. The statistical result is meaningless. We are comparing scholarship holders, or rather, singapore government sponsored foreigners with ‘average’ Singapore university students. As foreign scholars, we would expect better performances from them. If not, why are we giving them free education and money? We are also looking at a much larger Singapore students population. Why don’t MOE compare the results of foreign scholars in local universities with Singaporean scholars (including those on overseas scholarship)?

Most of the Singaporean scholars I know (but then it’s my bias view since I don’t have the big picture) performed very well whether or not they studied at local or overseas universities. In my own sample size, more than 80% achieved a first class or summa cum laude. I mean, if they are to be called scholars, there must be some substance. Looking at the statistics provided by MOE, only 67% of foreigner scholars achieved high honors (second upper included). So what happened to those who managed a second lower and below?

To be frank, I don’t think 2nd lower in local universities can be considered a scholar since more than 50% of the honors batch achieve that standing. Statistically speaking, close to half of these ‘foreign scholars’ (or half of $36 million spent yearly) is simply equivalent to the average of the honors batch. I leave it to you to decide whether $18 million is money well spent in nurturing foreigners that turns out to be average. Meanwhile, there are many Singapore students who are refused a place (much less a scholarship) in the local universities but turn out to be scoring high honors in private universities or overseas universities after paying through their nose when their parent’s tax were used to fund average foreign ‘scholars’. Maybe it’s simply because my perception of the word ‘scholar’ is too stringent?

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    August 21, 2012 at 6:04 am

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