Monday, July 20, 2015

Scholarship for foreigners – How many and how much have been spent?

Mr Heng Swee Keat: The annual number of scholarships awarded to international students at the undergraduate level has come down in recent years. Since 2012, about 900 such scholarships are awarded each year.

The scholarships include school fees, and typically include accommodation and some allowances. The annual cost per scholarship is about $25,000 on average.

The questions were to get an update from data I had obtained when I first entered parliament. In January and February 2012, MOE had revealed then that it awards 170 and 900 scholarships at the undergraduate level each year to ASEAN and non-ASEAN students respectively, making a total of 1,070 new international scholars a year. Budget per scholar then was between $18,000 and $25,000 a year….

At $25,000 per year per international scholar and with a scholarship lasting typically 4 years, the annual budget on international scholars would be $25,000 x 900 x 4, giving a total of $90 million a year (this figure excludes the amount spent on pre-tertiary and post-graduate scholarships, as well as that spent on tuition grants). The expenditure on an international scholar would be $100,000 over the 4-year time period to obtain his/her first degree. I believe this figure excludes tuition grants of typically $10,000-$20,000 per annum per student which almost all international students will get.

The above was from a post in the TRE titled, ‘Review scholarship framework for Intl Students’. Heng Swee Kiat was reply to Yee Jenn Jong in Parliament on the number of scholarships that were given to foreigners. The numbers given were sketchy and neither here nor there. It would be good if Heng Swee Kiat could provide a comprehensive picture of the number of scholarships given out in the last 20 years and the amount of money spent for the people to understand whether there is any problem on this generous offer by the govt. The statistics should include Asean and non Asean students, from secondary to post graduates. And if scholarships are given to primary schools as well, then it should also be included, though I think this is not the case. There should be a breakdown as to school fees and living allowances including accommodation.

The figure will give the people a good feel of how much have been spent on foreign students and a comparative data on the number of govt scholarships given to Singaporeans in the same period. The minister can also explain the objectives of this generous offer, what the govt tries to achieve and how effective is the result. Please explain to the people why spending so much money is for the good of Singaporeans and how it benefits the Singaporeans.

Please also explain why taking away a thousand places annually, or more before the cut back, from Singaporeans to give to foreign students is good for Singaporeans.

Another question to ask is whether spending so much public money needs the approval of Parliament or any minister is good enough to authorize such expenditure? What is the approval limit of a minister without having to go through Parliament?

PS. The Singaporeans, especially the parents, and the undergrads of non nobles and aristrocrats would be wondering how the money spent on the foreigners could benefit them and other Singaporeans if this scheme is scrapped altogether, or if we are to do charity, let it be on a more humble scale that is more akin to the thinking of peasants. The generosity of nobles and aristocrats in spending public money is difficult to accept by the workers and peasants who would love to have a bit of it to make it easier on their pockets.

No comments: