No S’porean student displaced because of foreign students: Ong
Budget 'overwhelmingly' spent on local students
No Singaporean student is ever displaced from an institute of higher learning (IHL) because of a foreign student, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.
He told the House the number of places in IHLs is planned with Singaporean students in mind. After admitting all Singaporeans who meet their standards, the IHLs "raise the bar by a few notches" and admit a "small minority" of foreign students.
Mr Ong gave this assurance in response to Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, who asked about government spending on foreign students.
The minister said the annual education budget of about $13 billion is "overwhelmingly" spent on local students, through subsidies and financial aid to make education affordable. Such financial aid, in the form of assistance and bursaries, is for Singaporeans only, he added.
Annual government spending on scholarships and tuition grants for foreign students has fallen by about 50 per cent over the past 10 years, Mr Ong said.
Spending on such scholarships comes up to around $130 million a year, while expenditure on tuition grants amounts to about $108 million.
However, these are nominal figures, Mr Ong said.
VALUE OF SCHOLARSHIPS
Those amounts are the value of the scholarships and tuition grants awarded to foreign students, but do not reflect the cost to the system as a whole, he added, noting that overhead costs such as buildings and manpower will be incurred even without foreign students.
Highlighting the advantages of admitting foreign students into local IHLs, Mr Ong said they give Singaporean students opportunities to build bonds and networks with students from other countries - "an increasingly important aspect of education because we are working in a globalised, multicultural world".
International students are also "a catchment" of people who can contribute to Singapore, he said, noting that those awarded scholarships are required to work here for at least three years after graduating.
Even if they leave after fulfilling their obligations, they can "be part of our valuable global network of fans and friends".
He also pointed to reputable universities around the world that admit international students and provide them with financial support, such as Oxford and Yale.
Mr Perera asked if the Ministry of Education (MOE) tracks the proportion of government spending on foreign students in other developed countries, as a percentage of their education budget.
Mr Ong replied: "The aid given by universities in other countries comes from the university... In our system, it's a bit different. Ours is a much more public and centralised system."