Thursday, 1 October 2015

Educating Singaporeans

Beware of what you wish for. Your wish may come true in the wrong way.

The PAP is the master of economic incentives and disincentives. And they often fail to consider the message they are sending.

So now they are further differentiating school fees for non-Singaporeans. This is not new.
Fee hikes for non-Singaporeans go back to 2009, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Government would sharpen the distinction between citizens and non-citizens, in a move to enhance the privileges of being a citizen.

I think the govt is sending the wrong message.

It should not simply be to "sharpen the distinction" between citizen and non-citizens. It should be to charge the full costs of education for non-citizens. In other words, does it cost $550 for secondary education in Singapore? If it costs say $800, and we are charging $550, we are still subsidising international students at Secondary education.

However, if it costs $400 and we are charging $550, then why are we charging a premium? Not saying we should not, but we should have a clear explanation for why we are charging a premium. Otherwise the message the govt is sending is, "it is perfectly okay to discriminate against foreigners just because."

And then we wonder why Singaporeans are xenophobic.

Or the alternative explanation is worse: Because Singaporeans are xenophobic and hate foreigners, to "bond" with the citizens, the govt will implement discriminatory policies against foreigners.

Which is a failure of moral leadership.

I don't disagree with the differentiation of fees for citizens and non-citizens, but it should be a rational, objective or at least a rationalised exercise.

And no. "Sharpening the distinction between Singaporeans and non-citizens" is not good enough, because the message there is, it is okay to differentiate between Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans, and that is already on the slopes of xenophobia.

Thank you Singapore Government for being hypocritical.

A more justified and objective policy would be one where MOE states that the policy now is to phase in full cost fees for non-citizens. Citizens get subsidies. Non-citizens do not. So the real cost of Secondary education is say, $1000. Fee increase will be phased in over X years until they cover the full and actual costs of secondary education.

[For Budget 2015, MOE reports that there are 457520 students for primary and secondary schools including Special Education (SPED), and Independent schools. The budget for these schools is $6.26b. This works out to about $1140 per month per student. The costs may be pulled up by SPED and Independent Schools. And likely Primary school education MAY be cheaper. But without a proper accounting for each of these category, $1000 a month is probably still in the ball park. Which means that $550 is likely still a subsidised fee for non citizens.]

A similar policy could also apply for Primary education. With one additional consideration.

Singapore is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and as part of the CRC, children have a right to education, and SG has declared that primary education is mandatory. As a concession to mandatory primary education, the fees for non-citizens would only be set to X% of the full costs of education.


One could argue that foreigners with families here in Singapore ("S" Pass holders and higher?) should be able to afford to send their kids to school even at full fees for primary school. So they should not need "subsidies".

But here's another consideration for Singaporeans who complain that Singaporeans do not have benefits: What do you think the foreigners will do?

Some who are here just for work and have no intention of settling here, will just bite the bullet, pay the fees, and when their stint here is done, leave. If they are on an expat package (rarer these days), it would include education allowance for their children and they may send their children to International Schools anyway.

Others, may just speed up their naturalisation process to become Singaporeans, so that they can enjoy some of that sweet sweet school subsidies.

So more "new Singaporeans". And don't we all just hate them?

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