NCMP Yee Jenn Jong from the WP asked in parliament how many scholarships were given to foreigners and how these scholarship holders are tracked to ensure that they fulfil their obligation. He also asked if the quality of foreign scholars has fallen given countries like India and China are more affluent today and can choose to study elsewhere.
Here's a part of a report on answer from Sim Ann who is the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education:
"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." - Straits Times, "Foreign scholars closely tracked", 18 Feb 2011.[Link]
She was trying to say the foreign scholars we attract are of some quality in her answer to MP Yee - actually not too reassuring since 55% of foreign scholars get 2nd lower or worse . Actually there are better ways to answer Vee's question. Since he was asking about whether foreign scholars fulfil their obligation to work locally, all she needs to do is give us numbers to show that most of them do stay in Singapore to work after they graduate. If she can't give the numbers, it shows that the govt doesn't bother to track these scholars. In terms of scholastic performance, all she needed to do is show us the GPA of these students in the past few years to show there is no fall in standard and what GPA is required for them to retain their scholarship.
However, she chose to use statistics that show that foreigners are better than Singaporeans to answer the question. Maybe she is not aware of the sensitivities that exists among ordinary Singaporeans or the deep unhappiness over using tax payers money to fund the education of foreigners or the persistent suspicion that our elites have this elitist belief that their grand vision is held back by the untalented ordinary Singaporeans whom they don't appreciate.
What is she trying to say? Having foreign scholars is okay so long as SIngaporeans do worse than these scholars? It is a good thing Singaporeans cannot compete? Surely, a foreign scholar with an all expenses paid scholarship, competing against Singaporeans who sometimes have to take up part-time jobs like giving tuition[Like this feller] to make ends meet has an advantage and the difference in outcome merely reflects the unlevel playing field the PAP govt created. What about the NS men who had to run around in the field for 2 years before they restart their rusty academic engines - surely this looks very unfair to them. Even if they are really better, Singaporeans are suppose to thank the govt for making their lives more difficult by this artificially induced competition? What does this say about our education system at the primary, secondary, JC level? We put our children through such a tough education system with a complex chessboard style streaming system and the much celebrated "Singapore maths" only to have them lose to the competition at the tertiary level?
There are various interpretations of what Sim Ann is trying to say....and most of them are negative and running down Singaporeans wasn't even necessary to answer MP Yee's question....it doesn't even answer Yee's question since the foreign scholars are not affected by NS which takes half the Singaporeans away from their studies then put them back after a 2 year break. This is a lesson on how not to answer a question. The answer comes with a lot of emotional baggage, shows the bias in govt for these foreign scholars and deepens the resentment for what the PAP govt is doing.