Why does the MOE spend $350m on foreign students?

There are online questions asking why the Ministry of education spends $350 million a year on foreign students in Singapore’s education system.

Is it true the government cares only about foreigners, and ignore the welfare of Singaporeans?

The MOE’s operating budget

MOE’s budget for 2014 is $11 billion. This is for the sole purpose of advancing Singapore and Singaporean’s education.

$350 million spent on foreign students represent less than 3% of the budget a year. Is that a lot or is that too little? Let’s see…

 

Schools are larger with better facilities

The number of schools, ITEs, polytechnics and especially university places have increased significantly.

Facilities have improved significantly. For example, ITEs have spacious and state of the art campuses offering a diverse range of equipment and courses. (Even in industries you’d never thought of – spa, hairdressing etc)

50% of each cohort of Singaporeans now eventually enter universities. That is about 20,000 a year. Comparatively, the number of international students make up 18% of total under graduate intake. (See breakdown by faculty here: http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/parliamentary-replies/2011/10/number-international-students-local-universities.php)

This shows we do have the capacity to grow the base of students.
Diversity adds to education also

Foreign students add to a education experience for Singaporeans. Our own students get to know foreign friends, learn their culture, their thinking, establish regional and worldwide contacts.

This is also the reason why top universities like Harvard, Yale, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge all receive significant numbers of foreign students and scholarships. With diversity, we broaden the minds of our students and provide a better education.

 

Foreign students are diplomatic assets

Foreign students who have studied in Singapore and returned to their country are still assets. How?

When students eventually become successful and influential, there is a bond they have shared with Singapore. This is helpful in both politics or business.

 

Other countries know we have invested heavily in Singaporeans

Foreign countries are always trying to attract Singaporean students to go to their universities to study. They know Singapore has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars per child to develop them.

Another country gets our students over, persuades them to stay on to work and voila – that country reaps the benefits of the years of nurturing we have invested in our children.

That, is international competition.

Whilst they do that, should we not also do the same? Not excessively of course. Projects need people. Businesses need people. People need people.

 

Is it healthy to squeeze out foreign students?

Admitting (and even funding) a suitable number of foreign students is a sensible policy in the real world, where there is international competition. To you and me, this looks unfair. The foreign student got a place over the Singaporean!

But we want our education system to be credible and it costs more than just money to do this, and yes – foreign students add to our international credibility.

There is a lot of PR, marketing, diplomatics and international recognition – all this to maintain the credibility of our Singaporean diplomas and degrees.

You can’t bubble our students up and not expose them to competition, the world does not work like that.

In the grander scheme of things, $350m on foreigners is a good investment as compared to the $11b that is invested into Singaporean students. It helps us in:

a.) Keeping the credibility of our education system,

b.) To keep valuable relationships with international students on our side,

c.) Create for a diverse learning environment for our students

 

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About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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