1. The Facebook posts by Mr Lim Tean contain false and misleading statements.
2. Mr Lim states that “the total pot available to Singaporean students [is] $167 million compared to the $238 million that is spent on foreign students”. He further states that “PAP spends $167 million on Grants & Bursaries for Singaporeans, but $238 million on foreign students??”. These statements imply that MOE spends less on Singaporean students than on foreign students.
3. This is false and misleading.
4. MOE’s annual budget is $13B, almost all of which is spent on Singapore citizens. The $167M cited by Mr Lim refers only to bursaries for Singaporean tertiary students, and grossly understates MOE’s total spending on Singaporean citizens for education.
5. The figures of $167M and $238M are therefore not comparable.
6. The more appropriate comparison should be nearly $13B spent on Singaporean students to provide subsidised education for all Singaporean students at all levels, as against the $238M attributed to foreign students referred to by Mr Lim Tean, which is less than 2% of the total education budget.
7. Further, it should be noted that much of MOE’s budget goes towards costs such as infrastructure, facilities, laboratories, faculty and teaching force, etc., which are either fixed or non-variable up to the medium term, to provide education for Singaporean students. A large part of the $238M attributed to foreign students comprises these fixed and non-variable costs that we have to incur anyway, whether or not we admit a small proportion of foreign students (currently 5%) in the system.
8. This was explained by the Minister for Education in Parliament on 5 August 2019. [https://www.moe.gov.sg/news/parliamentary-replies/government-spending-on-foreign-students]
9. Our admissions system ensures that no Singaporean student is deprived of a place by a foreign student. Having a small proportion of foreign students in our schools and institutions brings diversity into classrooms and helps our students develop cross-cultural competencies, a key skill in today’s world.
10. Likewise, many Singaporean students receive scholarships from, and study in, other countries. We are all part of an inter-connected global ecosystem. Singapore has benefited greatly from establishing such linkages and forming people to people friendships with different countries and cultures. Having some foreign students in our education system enables many more Singaporean students to enjoy similar benefits.