My speech at Hougang by-election rally (19 May 2012)





I will now speak in English.

One of our important functions in parliament is to raise questions that are important to Singaporeans. One of the issues I had raised as a new member of parliament is about foreign scholarships. I have long wondered about how many foreign scholars we have, how we integrate them into our society, and how they have contributed to Singapore.

In January this year, I asked a question in parliament about the number of foreign scholars we have and their academic performance. The answer I received was that each year, Singapore gives 320 scholarships to ASEAN students. I was puzzled. I checked my question again and it clearly asked about the number of foreign scholars and not the number of ASEAN scholars. Why was the complete information not given to me?

So I asked again in February. This time, they disclosed that MOE gives out another 1,700 scholarships to scholars from India and China. When you add up these numbers, we have more than 2,000 new foreign scholars each year. A scholarship is usually for 4 years. This means that at any time, we could have around 8,000 foreign scholars, sponsored fully by our Singapore government. Based on an average of $18,000 spent per scholar a year, I estimate our government could be spending about 144 million dollars each year on foreign scholarships. This figure excludes foreign scholars sponsored by government linked companies.

I asked further and found that one third of universities’ foreign scholars graduate with worse than 2nd upper honours degree, the typical standard expected of all scholars. Scholars are supposed to be the cream of the crop so I am disappointed that a large percentage of MOE foreign scholars are not getting the minimum results.

Many of our pre-tertiary foreign scholars go to other countries for their university studies, never to return as they are not bonded to work in Singapore. The university foreign scholars are bonded but there are those that do not complete their bond or leave as soon as their bond is over.

So I seriously question how effective our foreign scholarship policy has been, given the huge amount of money spent each year in this area. Our foreign scholarship policy has been in place for over 3 decades. That’s over 30 years, a long period of time. I think we may have given out too many foreign scholarships too easily in the past, without ensuring all scholars are of the right academic quality and more importantly, to try to integrate them into our society so they will want to be part of us and contribute to our long term growth.

The government has set a quota for the number of foreign students in our local government funded universities. We pride ourselves that our universities are highly ranked in the world. I do not understand why is it then that we need to give so many scholarships to attract foreigners to study here. Since we have world-class universities, people should pay money to come to Singapore to study. After all, most of us will have to fund our children to study either in our local universities or overseas. And we all know that the cost of tertiary education in Singapore has been constantly rising. Our universities, polytechnics and ITE just had fee increases this year. Every single one of them.

The Workers’ Party will continue to question the PAP and hold them accountable for the policies they have put in place, to ensure that our resources are well used and that Singaporeans as a whole will benefit.

I know that if elected, Png Eng Huat will add strongly to our voice to check the PAP. I look forward to having him as my parliamentary colleague. Your vote is important. Every vote is precious to us. Vote The Workers’ Party! Thank you!


2 comments on “My speech at Hougang by-election rally (19 May 2012)

  1. Thanks for highlighting the 8000 foreign scholars we spent our 144m of taxpayers money on. I am shocked and equally angry, and I’ve followed this on/off.
    However, as an NCMP in the parliament, why didn’t you continue to follow up these hard questions? Why do you let MOE (Heng or Sim Ann) get away, then raise it here in public? Did the press give you a fair coverage? If not, did you follow up on your own personal blogs? There are still many questions unanswered, so I really hope you don’t squander your opportunity in Parliament and truly go after these MIW until you get to the bottom of answers for us. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of having more voices from 1 party.

    • Thanks for your comments, Chew. This is one issue that I feel needs proper accounting and better transparency as it is an important matter to many Singaporeans. I have raised the issue on 3 separate occasions through question time and once during Committee of Supply debate. I need to respect the parliament processes on the rules for engagement.

      By asking for data and raising the issue publicly, it is also for Singaporeans to debate if they feel if what the government is doing in this area is justifiable. At the moment given a parliament highly skewed towards the ruling party, public pressure may help make the government review and change a policy.

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