20 PRC students from Shandong province alone were awarded the MOE Scholarship on 23 May 2019 (Photo: TaiAn No 1 Senior High School)

TaiAn No.1 Senior High: 4 of 20 MOE scholars for Shandong province from our school

Shandong Tai An No.1 Senior High School, located in the city of Tai An in Shandong province of China, issued a press release 1.5 months ago (23 May 2019), congratulating its students for being awarded the MOE scholarship to study at universities in Singapore.

This year is the 18th year that MOE has awarded scholarships to senior high school students in China to study at Singapore’s local universities, under the MOE’s Senior Middle School Scholarship (SM2) programme. This scholarship programme only targets at PRC students.

(Photo: TaiAn No 1 Senior High School)

Shandong Taian No.1 Senior High said that 4 of its students were awarded the MOE scholarship on 23 May after passing the written tests and interviews with flying colors.

They would be leaving for Singapore on 24 Jul this month, going to Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS) or Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) to study. In the first year, they would be focussing on studying the English language before proceeding to undertake their undergraduate study.

The senior high school also revealed that for this year’s SM2 scholarship, 20 students in Shandong province were awarded the scholarship (there are 22 provinces, 4 municipalities and 5 autonomous regions in China). It also said that amongst the 20 scholarship winners from Shandong, 4 were from their school.

The school also revealed that in Shandong, only 8 senior high schools in the province are qualified to recommend students to apply for SM2 scholarship. Each year, each school will send 6 to 8 of their students for the scholarship written tests held at the provincial capital in March. Shortlisted candidates will then proceed to the interview round in May.

For 2019, 58 students from Shandong province participated in the written tests in March. Twenty-nine (29) were selected for interviews. Five were from Shandong Taian No.1 Senior High and the above 4 students were eventually awarded the MOE’s SM2 scholarship.

AG flags lack of oversight in MOE on enforcing scholarship bonds of foreigners

According to Baidu, PRC scholars under SM2 programme would receive an annual allowance of S$6,000. This does not include school fees, food and lodging which are fully paid for by MOE.

And according to NUS’ website, the annual cost for the tuition fees in the school will cost about $39,736 to $48,836. As a student will typically take three years to complete the programme which means a sum of $119,208 to $146,508 will be paid by MOE for the scholars studying in NUS (not including the annual allowance).

However, SM2 scholars would need to “serve” a bond by working in any Singapore registered companies for 6 years. They do not necessarily need to be located in Singapore as long as they are employed by a Singapore registered company.

Baidu also noted that there are a lot of SM2 scholars who would want to go abroad for their graduate studies but couldn’t do so due to the bond restrictions, unless, of course, their family is willing to pay off their bond.

In any case, it has been reported that many of the PRC scholars ended up absconding from Singapore without completing their bond and MOE had a hard time getting them to pay back.

Three years ago, the Auditor-General Office (AGO) criticised MOE and the universities for lack of oversight on enforcing scholarship bonds. It said that MOE did not maintain adequate oversight of NUS and NTU on the monitoring and enforcement of scholarship bonds for a scholarship scheme that disbursed $36.52 million in financial year 2014/2015.

In 16 of the 30 cases that it checked, AGO found that the universities did not take prompt action on foreign scholars who failed to serve their required bonds. “As a result, there was no assurance that the scholarship grants were used optimally,” it said of the grants, which are given to foreign students.

In response, MOE said it has tightened and enhanced processes in monitoring and enforcing scholarship bonds of foreign students.

“For scholars who intentionally default, we will recover liquidated damages with interest from them, failing which defaulters will not be able to work or reside in Singapore,” said MOE.

It’s not known how MOE is going to go after the defaulters given that they could be anywhere in the world. Also, it’s not known how it would go after the parents of the defaulters in China too, who presumably acted as guarantors for their child’s scholarship. Note that Chinese laws are different from Singapore’s.

Meanwhile, it was recently reported that local Singaporean Lim Koh Leong, 60, was not allowed by the CPF Board to fund his daughter’s education despite having more than enough money in his CPF account. He had revealed that he currently has more than $70,000 in his CPF account and he only needs $15,000 for his daughter’s school fees. Mr Lim ended up getting help from his family members to fund his daughter’s $15,000 school fees and would not bother the CPF Board anymore.