PM Lee pretentiously 'celebrates' with us local university rejects in Australia

By Conned Singaporean Student

I am a Singaporean studying in the University of Queensland in Australia and I can’t help feeling betrayed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's recent visit to us Singaporean students here after his G20 Summit.

PM Lee came here and spoke about how we should be celebrating SG50 next year even though we are overseas and he highlighted how successful Singapore has been over the past 50 years and how it has become “prosperous” and “respected”.

While I understand that he wants to celebrate, I think he doesn’t actually understand why many of us are forced to go overseas to study.

University of Queensland is quite a reputable university, perhaps not exactly on par with NUS but it is still ranked top 50 in the world. If I am able to secure a university spot in UQ and many other Australian university, why am I unable to get into NUS or NTU? (FYI, I got A B E for my GCE "A" levels and not a single course in NUS/NTU accepted me)

For me and many others here that I have talked to, it is because we have been rejected by local universities in Singapore.

Despite the Singapore society putting a huge emphasis on the need for a degree and the obvious pay gaps between degree holders and non-degree holders, they have not made an effort to ensure that there are enough university places in Singapore for students who actually want to study.

When I was entering university, Singapore only had about 26% of students entering locally funded universities. Now, I think the government has tried to expand this to 30% or 40% but it is still well short of the 50%+ seen in other countries like Finland and Denmark. Worse still Singapore university places are currently filled with an obscene number of foreigners: "45% of university students are not Singaporeans?"

But the reality is that when only 26% of a cohort can enter a local university, despite going through the A Level and obtaining reasonably okay results, many students are still rejected by local universities are forced to pay large amounts of money to go overseas to study.

This is because the government in the past has placed so much emphasis on an university education. Even recent surveys showed that parents die die want to send their kids for university: "82% of parents will consider sending children overseas for university studies: Survey"

I come from a middle income family and the total cost for my overseas education easily exceeds $200,000 after factoring in both tuition fees and living expenses; just compare this figure to the $30,000 that many Singaporeans typically pay to go to a local subsidized university.

My parents had to borrow money from relatives to send me here and they insisted that it was worth it because non-degree holders faces salary caps and much more hardship in Singapore.

Living here, I have come to understand local Australian students are able to get into university as long as they pass everything or get something like straight Ds for their A level equivalent exams.

If the government is also truly sincere in its efforts to ensure ITE and Polytechnic graduates turn out to be as good as university graduates, then they should do what the Australian government has done, such as making the pay of construction workers and plumbers the same as that of fresh university graduates. I even found out that miners here can up to S$300,000 a year!

You don't just simply tell Singaporeans to stop getting a degree, you have to do things like ensuring ITE and Poly graduates earn paychecks comparable to their university graduate peers; only then will parents not feel the pressure and need to give their kids lots of tuition to ensure that they are able to secure at least a university degree when they grow up.

Other Singaporeans here that I have spoken to also shared that they weren’t able to get into the course that they wanted at a local university so they came here to pursue that same course. Some here are in good courses like dentistry when they were only offered access to science or business related disciplines back home.

I just feel cheated and betrayed that most of us are here, spending hundreds of thousands to get that coveted degree because Singapore’s system rejected us. Now, PM Lee comes here and tells us that Singapore is prosperous and there are lots of opportunities when a huge portion of these opportunities are actually given to foreign students with bad university grades.

Where were those “opportunities” when we were applying for local university places in the first place?

Anyway, not daring to sign off with my real name here just demonstrates how fearful towards the PAP government that many Singaporeans still are.

This was reproduced with permission from editors of The Real Singapore.


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