Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More stringent rules for Singapore's private schools soon
By Satish Cheney, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 10 March 2009 2128 hrs

SINGAPORE: There will be more stringent rules and regulations, including advertising, for the private education sector in Singapore soon. Authorities are hoping the new Private Education Bill will be passed in Parliament by July - under which, more than 1,000 private schools must adhere to the new rules. And once the new bill comes into effect within the next two years, a new EduTrust scheme will take over the current CASETrust scheme dealing with private schools. EduTrust will focus on the school's financial health and academic processes, as well as the student's overall happiness and welfare.

While the scheme is voluntary, the Education Ministry believes the some 350 schools currently having the CASETrust status will strive for the EduTrust mark. Chairman of Council for Private Education, Lin Cheng Ton, said: "Those schools that can get the EduTrust certification are the better schools. So in this case, the better schools are able to take foreign students."

Currently, only private institutions (PIs) with the CASETrust status can enrol foreign students. And soon, they must have the EduTrust mark when it comes into effect. CEO of Council for Private Education, Henry Heng, said: "Let's not forget that the new regime is a little different from what it is presently. The new regime has a regulatory enforcement act which requires the managers of the PIs, who are identified by name and in person, that… if they close down, they have to be able to make transitory plans for the students and failing which, it's an offence under the act itself."

The ministry will also step up efforts to check on errant private schools and employ more officers to conduct these checks. In addition, only schools with approved courses will be allowed to advertise them. There will be focus group discussions to get feedback from private education institutions and students. There will also be a public consultation exercise with industry players as well as the public from March 11 till May 6.

The above article is copied from CNA online.

What is happening is that CASETrust did not work the way it wants and the shortfalls in the private education industry are being exposed with more students falling victims to fly by night operators. The new regulations and power of enforcement have been late in coming and should be in force long ago to maintain a high standard of integrity in the education industry. A lot of pain and suffering could have been avoided if actions were taken much earlier.

We can now hope that the Singapore brand has not been tarnished beyond recognition and foreign students and their parents still have faith in our system.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Singapore International Schools doing well

While some foreign owned international schools are seeing decreasing student intakes, Singapore's own stable of international schools are gaining popularity. However, not all foreign international schools are doing badly. The premium schools like the Singapore American School, Tanglin Trust and United World College are still having very long queues in their waiting lists. The Global Indian International School and Avondale Grammar School were reported to have lost up to 20% of their students due to the economic crisis.

ACS International, Hwa Chong International, SJI International are still expanding their capacities. Nanyang Girls is planning to start a co ed primary schools to include kindergarten classes. These schools are also very popular with the local students. But the fees are relatively stiff, in the S$20k bracket per year.

Singapore is still targetting a 150,000 foreign student population by 2012.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

More students, more rooms

New hostel being built as MDIS aims to double enrolment in five years
Ong Dai Lin
DESPITE the tough economic climate, the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) plans to double its student enrolment in five years and is embarking on a bold $200 million expansion to build a new hostel and develop campus facilities.
.Under the first phase of its development plan, MDIS will build an $80 million hostel with teaching facilities that can house some 1,620 students. To be completed by 2011, it will be the largest hostel for private schools in Singapore.
.The rooms will be air-conditioned and rates are expected to be between $400 and $800 a month, MDIS honorary treasurer Chua Chen How said yesterday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the hostel.
.The other private school here that has a hostel is SIM Global Education. Room rates at the hostel, which can house over 400 students, range from $450 to $750.
.Under the second phase of its plan, MDIS will spend $20 million to build a new six-storey administrative wing by the middle of next year.
.The secretary-general of MDIS,Dr R Theyvendran, told Today that the school had brought forward the development plans to take advantage of the lower construction costs.
.MDIS will draw from its current $104 million in reserves to pay for the first two phases of development.
.After the first two phases are completed, MDIS will submit a proposal to the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Singapore Land Authority for a $100 million project to build three blocks of training rooms for its engineering students, Mr Chua said.
.He estimates that when all three phases of development are completed in five years’ time, MDIS will be able to expand its student population from the present 12,500 to 25,000.
.Currently, around 3,500 of MDIS’ students are foreigners....

The above is an extract of an article in Today Online.

Schools on alert for warning signs of strain

Their counsellorsand staff keep alookout for students with problems
Lin Yanqin

.WHETHER :Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student David Hartanto Widjaja had felt weighed down by a glitch in his final-year project, or by the loss of his scholarship, his suicide after stabbing his: project supervisor had many abuzz about how stressed tertiary students here are — on occasion, to breaking point.
.:As schools told :Today:, they have measures in place for students’ mental and emotional needs. These including counselling centres on campus, hotlines manned by students, and faculty members who look out for warning signs.:
.:In the case of the Singapore Management University (SMU), such frameworks proved of critical help in at least one instance. “Last year, we had a suicidal student who came to the centre for help,” said SMU university counsellor Timothy Hsi. “At the same time, his professor had noticed that he was missing classes and he also alerted the school administration to alert me to this student.”
.:Counselling helped the undergraduate cope with his problems and stay in school.
.The signs of a student needing help are common — those easy for a faculty member to spot include students skipping classes, and a drop in quality of work, said Ngee Ann Polytechnic student care and counselling manager Ms Ching Pui Fan. “Also, they may become withdrawn, not sleep enough and lose their appetite.”
.In Mr Widjaja’s case, he had reportedly stopped contacting friends the week before he ended his life.
.Yesterday, NTU president Su Guaning said the school would guide professors on detecting worrying signs: “We need to look very much at pastoral care for students, but you need a balance — you need to be caring without being stifling and they need to be learning to fend for themselves, without feeling that they need to take care of all problems by themselves.”
.The National University of Singapore holds workshops for faculty members, administrative staff and hostel resident staff, on identifying students in difficulty.
.International students
.Foreign students, in particular, may feel the strain more, with the need to adapt to a new culture and having left friends and family behind, said Mr Hsi. This is particularly so in the first three months of an academic year — when the number of students approaching counsellors tends to rise.
.“This is why in our student hostels for international students, we have resident seniors who are students trained in some basic counselling skills to help,” he said.
.Both the Management Development Institute Of Singapore and Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) also make an extra effort for their international students. SIM, for example, introduced a peer support programme where senior students are on hand to practical and emotional help.
.The critical final year
.For students doing their final-year projects, the pressure to meet deadlines can make even the smallest setback hard to take. Mr Bernard Tay, 27, recalled that when working on his final-year project as an engineering student: “The mentality is that after working hardand studying for something like 25 years, to trip at the final hurdle, it would mean a lot.”
.On top of that is the pressure to find a job upon graduation — not easy in theseeconomic times. “Your experiment might not be working out, and then you are not hearing anything from companies after interviews — it can be hard to take,” said Mr Low Yi Guang, 25, a final-year student at NTU.
.NTU associate professor Michael Heng, who teaches management at the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said the stress of a final-year project could also be brought on by other factors. “In the past, I had a case of two very upset students because they could not get along.”
.He added: “As professors, we want to bring out the student’s best potential, but you also need to know when to stop pushing.”
.It boils down to friends
.At the polytechnics, each student is assigned a counsellor or mentor for the entire three years at school — as the biggest cause of stress for most students is the transition from secondary school.
.“Our poly has about 15,000 students, 10 times more than a secondary school, the timetable is very different and they may start school without the support of friends,” said Singapore Polytechnic student counsellor Lee Ee Tat.
.SIM University head of programme for counselling Cecilia Soong said adult learners also face work stress and often have families as well. Students have walked out of classes and yelled, to let off steam.
.At NTU, Dr Su said NTU would review its “detection framework”. “We need to reach out a little more, because sometimes (students) don’t reach out at all, and they have a shell around them,” he said, noting that Mr Widjaja’s actions came as a shock even to his closest friends.
.Ultimately, Dr Soong felt, the first safety net should be one’s friends. “Especially during exam period, it’s easy to become oblivious to your friend’s problems, but you should always make time to reach out if you think something is wrong,” she said.
Their counsellorsand staff keep alookout for students with problems
Lin Yanqin