Sunday 19 February 2012

Foreign scholars closely tracked

By Lin Zhaowei, The Straits Times, 18 Feb 2012

AROUND 800 pre-tertiary and 900 undergraduate students from non-Asean countries are awarded scholarships to study here each year, with these scholarships covering tuition and accommodation.

These study awards cost $14,000 for pre-tertiary students and between $18,000 and $25,000 for undergraduates.

The figures were disclosed by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Sim Ann in Parliament yesterday in response to a question from Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong.

He had asked how the Ministry of Education (MOE) tracked the performance of the scholarship holders during their studies and whether they fulfilled their obligation to work here after graduation.

Ms Sim replied that the academic performance of each scholarship holder is tracked, and if their performance is not up to scratch, the scholarship is withdrawn.

She said most scholars serve out their bonds; the few who default on their obligations are made to pay liquidated damages.

Last month, in another foreign-student-related question raised by Mr Yee in the House, the MOE had said in a written reply that 150 scholarships are given to Asean students at pre-tertiary level every year, and 170 to undergraduates.

Yesterday, Mr Yee also asked if the quality of foreign scholarship holders from fast-growing countries like China had fallen, given that people there were now richer and could choose to study elsewhere.

Ms Sim replied that the quality of scholars has been maintained over the years, and that this was an issue the ministry viewed very seriously.

This is because scholarship holders are here mainly to augment the country's manpower pool; they anchor investors and employers, who can in turn offer good jobs to Singaporeans.

She offered an indicator of how well foreign scholarship holders perform: Around 45 per cent complete their undergraduate studies with a second-upper class honours or better; only 32 per cent of Singaporeans do as well.

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