Lawrence Wong: Having FT students in univ better prepares SG students to interact with foreigners in future workplace

Lawrence Wong: Having FT students in univ better prepares SG students to interact with foreigners in future workplace

Education Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament on Tues (6 Oct) that the number of foreign students in Singapore universities getting tuition grant is less than 10% of each intake every year.

“Over the past five years, the number of international students who received tuition grant in each cohort averaged around 1,600, less than 10% of each intake,” Wong said.

Last month, it was reported that foreign students who graduated from Singapore universities are feeling frustrated in trying to secure a job in Singapore (‘Foreign student: Govt should be responsible for us too‘, 23 Sep).

These foreign students, depending on the university courses they studied, can each get as much as $100,000 subsidy in the form of tuition grant from the Singapore government. In return, they would need to work in any firms in Singapore for a period of 3 years.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the recent tightening of criteria to hire foreign graduates by the Manpower Ministry (MOM), many of the recent foreign graduates from the local universities are facing difficulties getting a job here.

A South Korean graduate from the Yale-NUS College said, “Singapore doesn’t want me it seems, but I can’t look for a job in Korea… If I look for a job elsewhere, I have to pay back a crazy sum of money.”

The South Korean has already sent out more than 200 job applications. Breaking into tears, she added, “This does not make sense at all. The Government should be responsible for us as well.”

Hence, if each foreign student can get subsidy as much as $100K, with 1,600 foreign students per cohort studying in the local universities, it would mean a total subsidy of $160 million of tuition grant per year given to these foreign students.

Wong: We will help foreign students on a case-by-case basis

In Parliament, Wong also described how foreign students are admitted to the local universities.

He said that the universities would first admit Singaporean students who are able to meet their admission standards. They then raise the bar “a few notches and admit a small number of international students” over and above the local students, he said. “As such, no Singaporean is displaced,” he assured.

He said that having foreign students in our local universities would “better prepare” the Singaporean students for the future workplace, where “they may have to interact with different nationalities”.

With regard to the current complaints from foreign students that they are not able to get jobs in current climate, Wong said that the government will give “fair treatment” to them.

“We understand that recent graduates may face challenges finding employment in the current economic climate,” he said. “However, we will also give fair treatment to tuition grant holders obliged to serve a three-year bond after graduation. These students can serve out their obligations in Singapore or overseas with Singapore-registered companies.”

“Those who have genuine difficulties finding employment, be it here or abroad, may reach out to the universities and MOE, and we will assess their situation and see how best to assist them on a case-by-case basis,” he added.


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