The Online Citizen

Foreign scholars: Missing statistics?

February 22
07:21 2012

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Foreign scholars closely tracked” (ST, Feb 18).

Sometimes, replies in Parliament may give you the edgy feeling that the statistics cited may not be telling you the whole story

One such instance I think, was the recent reply on foreign scholars.

“At least” means how many of foreign scholars that the Ministry of Education is paying for actually?

What does at least 2,000 foreign scholars in a year mean? Does it may mean that in some years, it may have been much more than 2,000.

So, what you need to know is the number in each of the last five years.

$36 million for just 1 year?

I believe the $36 million funding is only for a year.  As a typical degree program is about four years, does it mean that in a year, we may be funding four cohorts of foreign scholars.

So, does it mean that the funding in a year, may be about $144 million ($36 million times four years)?

What about post-graduate students?

Since the reply does not mention post-graduate students, and as I understand that about 20 and 70 per cent of undergraduate and post-graduate students are foreigners, respectively, how much is the funding for post-graduate foreign scholars?

If we include the above, could the grand total be more than $160 million?  In contrast, how much funding do we give to Singaporeans scholars?

Comparing foreign scholars to ordinary S’poreans?

As to around 45 per cent of foreign scholars complete their undergraduate studies with a second-upper class honours or better while only 32% of Singaporeans do as well, this may not be an apple-to-apple comparison, as we are comparing foreign scholars to ordinary Singaporeans.

A series of questions that we would want to ask on this;

  • What percentage of Singaporean scholars get second-upper class honours or better?
  • How many bond breakers?
  • How many foreign scholars broke their bonds?
  • How much could not be recovered from these bond breakers?
  • How many fee paying foreigners?
  • What is the percentage of foreign students who pay full fees versus foreign students on scholarships?

Education system – bad example?

It may be somewhat ironic that the subject reply was from the Ministry of Education (MOE).  If this is the kind of learning that gives such vague answers when students ask questions, then I think we may have a problem in our educational system.

I hope that students who read this article may find it educational.

What’s missing may be more telling?

What this example may illustrate, is that sometimes, the “missing” statistics may give a hint as to how interesting the whole story may really be!

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