By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the National Day Rally speech about ‘Singaporeans First’ in the universities (“At a glance, key points from Prime Minister Lee’s speech“, ST, Aug 15). Calls have been made in the past for the Government to continue monitoring carefully the proportion of foreign students in our educational institutions to ensure that the proportion matches the present and future needs of the country, and that Singaporeans are the main beneficiaries of our education policy.
I applaud the change in policy to reduce the first year admission of foreign students from the previous 20 to 18 per cent.
How many foreign students?
Despite years of debate and analysis on this contentious issue, the obvious question to ask has never been asked or answered. The question being, “What is the percentage of non-Singaporeans in the total student population of the three public universities?”
Presidential candidate Tony Tan recently said at a lecture in Singapore Management University that the Government should “continue to monitor carefully the proportion of foreign students in our educational institutions”. Not only the Government, but also every engaged citizen should be able to monitor this mix of Singaporeans and foreigners in our tertiary institutions. Having said that, how are we to monitor this mix when we don’t even know how many there are?
More than 40% non-Singaporeans?
I estimate the current percentage of non-Singaporean students to be more than 40 per cent, because 20 per cent of undergraduate admissions were reserved for foreigners plus perhaps about 10 plus per cent of permanent residents (PRs), and I understand that about three-quarters of the post-graduate students are non-Singaporeans.
Funding to foreigners vs Singaporeans
What percentage of foreign students receive some form of financial aid, like the Education Ministry tuition grants, scholarships exclusive to foreigners, etc?
How much funding a year in total to non-Singaporeans?
In this connection, how much direct funding in total is given to Singaporeans – scholarships and bursaries?
No increase for 20 years?
In this connection, I was surprised to learn that the household income criteria to qualify for bursaries for Malay students is only now being raised, after 20 years – why did it take so long, when the cost of living has been rising for the last two decades?
Is there any country in the world, which has more than 40 per cent of its students who are non-citizens, in its public universities?