Teaching Faculty + Students!
Can Knowledge Economy be Built only with Non-Singaporeans?
I have zero respect for The Straits Times. It consistently undermines the Singaporean intellect with mediocre reporting and rudimentary writing. It is a newspaper that revels in writing about the evils in alien societies than its own.
Newspapers do not have to take up cudgels against the Government to establish their credibility. But they represent the intelligentsia and have a responsibility to challenge questionable policies and guard the interests of the country and its people first and foremost – not just be the mouthpiece of the Government!
But today it carried a report on the dearth of local talent in universities in Singapore with particular focus on the social sciences faculty. Citing an example, it points out that the political sciences department at the National University of Singapore (NUS) is made up of 18 foreigners and seven locals, In other words, 72% of the faculty are foreigners!
Neither Original nor Investigative:
This report, however, is neither original nor the result of any investigative journalism carried out by The Straits Times! It is purely based on a debate that was triggered by a local MP that was featured in an online portal.
Even in the prestigious NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, 44 of the 82 faculty members are foreigners. The situation is not very different in the other important faculties of the university and of other institutions in Singapore. Foreigners hold key leadership positions as well.
They come in with different accents and diverse cultural backgrounds which are inevitable in cities embracing globalisation.
And I do not believe the influx is because of a dearth of local talent! It is just that their hiring policies are slanted towards non-Singaporeans and foreigners are able to tap that by leveraging their academic networks.
Knowledge Economy and Challenges Locals Face in University Admissions
Even if it was because of a talent shortfall, it can only be blamed on the government’s failure to remove roadblocks to higher learning for Singaporeans. How can locals be equipped with the knowledge to face the challenges of the future when they are not given easy access to university education?
Per a recent report, the government had spent $400 million to get foreign students to study in Singapore – 52% of them on scholarships. All this while Singaporeans struggle to find admissions in local universities!
Around 18% of the students at the NUS, NTU and SMU are foreigners. But in critical courses such as engineering, science and computing, 26% of the students are foreigners. All this without including permanent residents in the calculations as to the government they are also locals!
If we factor in the scores of private institutions such as the MDIS and Kaplan as well as foreign universities with a campus here (James Cook, Curtin, etc) the foreign intake will be significantly higher. For foreigners, it is cheaper to study here than in Australia, Europe or North America.
Common Entrance Test
The “A” level evaluation system in countries such as India is way too lenient compared with the one that Singapore has! If a common entrance test is held in Singapore for all then at least there will be a level-playing field. Without that, Singaporeans are handicapped
Of what use is persistent hyperbolic harping of a knowledge economy and meritocracy when most locals are effectively prevented from joining the university with admission policies that are hardly transparent?
Those with the ability to afford overseas education are able to find admissions in universities that are ranked higher than the local universities? How will the government explain this anomaly?
Clamour for Foreign “Talent”
Those Singaporeans who are foolish enough to return to Singapore after their overseas education (after spending a few hundred thousand dollars there) have to face another challenge – finding jobs. Foreigners get them more easily than locals!
Still the government and employers tirelessly talk of how labour shortage is a serious problem for the country! All to justify their clamour for so-called “foreign talent”!
Everything that Singapore initiates appears to be with an eye on boosting the country’s population and the government’s revenues! A Government of Singaporeans, but for foreigners?
G Joslin Vethakumar