Sylvia Lim: Increase size of cohort entering local universities

Currently, the proportion of Primary One cohort admitted into the local subsidized universities is targeted to rise to 30% by 2015, with the new university and institute coming up. I would like to ask if MOE will review this 30% target with a view to increasing it.

This was a speech in Parliament on 10 March 2010 by NCMP, Sylvia Lim,during the Committee of Supply debate, on the budget for the Ministry of Education (MOE). Read other Workers’ Party speeches and statements at wp.sg.

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Currently, the proportion of Primary One cohort admitted into the local subsidized universities is targeted to rise to 30% by 2015, with the new university and institute coming up.
I would like to ask if MOE will review this 30% target with a view to increasing it.
I note MOE’s concerns that we should not have sudden increases in graduate numbers which may leave many unemployed or under-employed.
However, since Singapore is prioritising innovation and greater productivity, the population as a whole has to raise its game, and the jobs of the future will require different educational qualifications from currently. We are also trying to encourage the growth of entrepreneurs to find their own niches. With globalization, Singaporean graduates also have more opportunities overseas, which will still benefit their families and Singapore, directly or indirectly.
As a matter of interest, according to the OECD Factbook 2009, the 25 OECD countries were expecting to graduate on average about 37% of an age cohort from Tertiary-Type A (typical degree level) education in 2006. It was stated that there was a strong trend in increasing their cohort participation rates in the last 15 years in line with producing highly-skilled labor forces.
I agree that we need to maintain standards in university admission. However, over the years, many students who were rejected by our local universities were admitted to reputable foreign universities and did well. But this route is available only to those whose parents could afford it.
I hope the Ministry will look into revising the cohort participation rate at our local subsidized universities beyond 30%.

Currently, the proportion of Primary One cohort admitted into the local subsidized universities is targeted to rise to 30% by 2015, with the new university and institute coming up.

I would like to ask if MOE will review this 30% target with a view to increasing it.

I note MOE’s concerns that we should not have sudden increases in graduate numbers which may leave many unemployed or under-employed.

However, since Singapore is prioritising innovation and greater productivity, the population as a whole has to raise its game, and the jobs of the future will require different educational qualifications from currently. We are also trying to encourage the growth of entrepreneurs to find their own niches. With globalization, Singaporean graduates also have more opportunities overseas, which will still benefit their families and Singapore, directly or indirectly.

As a matter of interest, according to the OECD Factbook 2009, the 25 OECD countries were expecting to graduate on average about 37% of an age cohort from Tertiary-Type A (typical degree level) education in 2006. It was stated that there was a strong trend in increasing their cohort participation rates in the last 15 years in line with producing highly-skilled labor forces.

I agree that we need to maintain standards in university admission. However, over the years, many students who were rejected by our local universities were admitted to reputable foreign universities and did well. But this route is available only to those whose parents could afford it.

I hope the Ministry will look into revising the cohort participation rate at our local subsidized universities beyond 30%.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

8 thoughts on “Sylvia Lim: Increase size of cohort entering local universities”

  1. Of course, the PAP would not want a more educated population because this would erode their sense of elitism.

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  3. My neighbour, who is from overseas, received scholarship from her JC all the way to her PhD in Singapore, no string attached, no bond upon completion of her studies. I am not against giving international scholarship for the talented few (if there is a quota like what most countries have, e.g 3 per year). However, PAP does not seem to have any limit to that, or has high quota, if any.

    The worse is that tuition grants (amounting to $10,000 or more per year per student) are given to ALL international students studying in Singapore universities. Singapore is the only country in the world that is soooooo generous towards international students and ungenerous towards her own Singaporean students. In other countries, international university students will have to pay about 3 to 4 times the fee for local students. But in Singapore, international students and Singaporean students pay almost the same fees because of the free gov. tuition grant given to all admitted students. As such, many Singaporean students have to pay huge some of money to study overseas because their A level results are considered “not competitive” to study in Singapore universities, yet they have been accepted in other more prestigious universities overseas.

    According to the Education Statistics Digest 2010 – MOE, Singapore(http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/education-statistics-digest/files/esd-2010.pdf )

    Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

    Percentage of P1 cohort 42,489

    GCE ‘A’ Level
    at least 3 H2 passes
    (with a pass in GP or KI) 24.6 24.6 25.2 25.0 25.5 25.3

    Polytechnics 38.1 39.8 39.7 41.3 42.9 42.9

    Universities (NUS, NTU, SMU) 23.2 23.7 23.8 23.9 24.8 25.4
    (i.e. only 10,792 Singaporean students admitted to local university in 2009)

    University Intake / Enrolment / Graduates in 2009
    Total 15,264 / 53,579 / 11,947
    (i.e. 28.5% Singaporean students, 71.5% internationanl students)

    Read Sylvia Lim’s speech (http://geraldgiam.sg/2010/03/sylvia-lim-increase-size-of-cohort-entering-local-universities/ ):

    “the proportion of Primary One cohort admitted into the local subsidized universities is targeted to rise to 30% by 2015, with the new university and institute coming up….I agree that we need to maintain standards in university admission. However, over the years, many students who were rejected by our local universities were admitted to reputable foreign universities and did well. But this route is available only to those whose parents could afford it.”

    So why give tax payers money to 71.5% (i.e. 38,315) international students? Total tuition grant amount given out to international students is at least 38.315 millions per year.

  4. My neighbour’s daughter who is from China, is receiving scholarship to study accountancy in NTU, without bonds. She told me her goal is to migrate to Australia. When I asked her why she is not considering taking up Singapore citizenship? Her reply was, Singapore is an expensive place to live in. Medical is expensive, one can’t afford to fall sick. However in Australia,there is Medicare to ensure that all Australians have access to free or low-cost medical, optometrical and hospital care while being free to choose private health services.

    I wonder what is the rational behind providing free education to foreign talents? Singapore is just a springboard for them to another place, in this case!

    Shouldn’t our government nuture our own younger generation to become ‘talents’ instead? Afterall, it is Singaporean that is contributing to the nation coffer!

  5. Very sad indeed! My Pharmaceutical scholar neighbour mentioned above did stay in Singapore after her PhD studies. But guess what she worked as? She joined a MLM company in Singapore as business agent for a year and planned to move her business to her home country. What a waste of tax payers’ money to train a pharmacist only for her to become a short term business agent in Singapore then return to her home country.

    Ironically, 68.3% of Singaporean P1 cohort have either passed A level exam or Poly exam and meet the minimum (or higher) criteria for university entry. However, 39.8% of these university places were taken away from them and given to international students instead, where 90% or more of them won’t remain in Singapore after graduation (our minister said he only hopes for 10% to stay).

    So no matter how many more universities Singapore is going to have, all new places will still go to Singapore gov sponsored international students.

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