Scholarships: Too many richer students?

I refer to the article “Making a Mockery of Meritocracy” (The Independent, Jan 6).

It states that “Over the years, how many government scholarships have been gifted to children of those at the top echelons of government and public service? For every one that is given out, another deserving Singaporean loses out – and that Singapore could be in dire need of a scholarship because he or she comes from a not-well-to-do family.”

In this connection, I believe that the last time that arguably – a very comprehensive analysis and commentary on the “meritocracy” of awarding scholarships, was published was in 2008.

There were media reports then, about the break-down of scholarship awardees who stay in HDB and private property.

I would like to suggest again that the percentage of scholars from HDB flats be further broken down to the different flat types, i.e. 1 – 2 room, 3-room, 4-room, and 5-room and bigger. Since the private property data was broken down to landed and condominiums, why not the HDB data ?

I understand that the statistics last reported in the media was that more than 60 per cent of scholars comes from HDB 5-room and bigger, and private property.

According to the Department of Statistics’ (DOS) 2008 Yearbook of Statistics, 69 per cent of HDB flats were 4-room and smaller.

Since more than 80 per cent of residential dwelling units are HDB flats, the proportion of scholars from private property is disproportionately high.

Even the proportion of landed property at 26 per cent is disproportionately higher, compared to the 27 per cent for private non-landed property, as only 29 per cent of all private property are landed.

Another way of looking at it may be that students from private property have about a two times higher chance of getting a scholarship, and those from HDB 5-room and bigger about a one and a half times higher chance.

In this regard, even those in landed property have about a two times higher chance than non-landed.

Clearly, at least from a statistical perspective, the odds may be stacked against HDB 4-roomers and smaller.

What is perhaps an even more important statistic is the breakdown of the household and per capita income.

The type of residential dwelling may not necessarily reflect the financial need and affordability of the scholarship applicant.

If this trend continues, it may lead to a further widening of the income gap. Singapore’s GINI co-efficient has been deteriorating over the years, and is now near to historical highs.

Route out of poverty

Throughout history, I believe the most common route out of poverty has been education.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with awarding scholarships primarily on academic achievement, the current selection criteria and system may be further skewed against lower-income households, as their children may have less in the areas of co-curricular activities, leadership track record, etc, because of their limited financial resources.

This may further stack the odds against the lower-income, who have less resources to access tuition, enrichment programmes, learning aids, etc.

In countries like the United States, many scholarships are awarded based on financial need. Those who can afford get less money, and those who are rich are given a Honour Scholarship, i.e. in name only without money.

I support Mr Philip Yeo’s remarks about his preference to give scholarships to the lower income. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that most bond breakers come from more affluent families. So, the perennial problem and increasing trend of more people breaking bonds may be diminished if more scholarships go to the less affluent.

As to the remarks that the family background of applicants are not taken into account, I would like to ask whether the selection panel are able to see such information. If so, I think those involved in the selection and interview process should not be allowed to see such information.

The issue of elitism in Singapore has been much debated in the media. Let’s try to do something more about it, in the true spirit of one of the five stars of our national flag, which represents equality for all.

 

Leong Sze Hian

 

 

 

 

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11 Responses to “Scholarships: Too many richer students?”

  • It is all politics:

    Government scholarships are based mainly on academic results. Students from better-off families are the ones who do better because their parents can afford private tuition – the norm in the education system in Singapore. So students with “richer” parents get MOST of the scholarship. They do not really need the scholarship because they can afford to pay but want it because it looks good on their resume. After completing their studies they have no plans of serving their 4-6 year bond. They ask their parents to help them buy them out. As a result, 70% of government scholars break their bond. Scholarship should be strictly need-based but it is not. Why? Because PAP wants to “co-opt” the “better students” into the “system” so they do not go against PAP. If you are serving your bond, it is unlikely you will be a “troublemaker”. You will not “rock-the-boat”. It is all politics and PAP sole objective of staying in power at all costs.

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  • Hiysyghv:

    PAppy has been giving scholarships to few group:

    1. Foreign students rich or poor
    2. Ministers civil servants children
    3. Rich people

    Reason is these people in return will vote PAPpy.

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  • See Kor Lar Wor:

    Actually to those elites, it’s not really the financial assistance that they’re after. It’s the name SCHOLAR that they crave for – President’s Scholars, RSAF Scholars, EDB scholars blah blah blah. Successfully getting a scholarship means the many children of those at the top echelons of government and public service would be called SCHOLARS and it surely carries an amount of prestige. So atas! Can yaya. Imagine children living in HDB flats are called scholars while the elites’ children aren’t, no face!

    Remember one MIW once said – “If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communication and Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discuss policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister’s ideas and proposals. Hence, a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity.”

    With the same mindset – “If the Minister of Information, Communication and Arts is a non-scholar, it may pose some problems when he discuss policies with media CEOs who were scholars because they need not listen to the minister’s ideas and proposals. Hence, being scholars will help to maintain a bit of dignity.”

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  • PAP has the mandate:

    Scholarships should be income and asset tested. Only quarter scholarships money will be given to those who parents are rich enough to afford it and full scholarships should be given to those who are poor. Unfortunately, in Stinkapore, only the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

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  • LIONS:

    ScholarSHIPS or SCHOLARSHITS?

    i beg your pardon,my engrish no good one.
    I think PAP SCHOLARS SMELL N LOOK LIKE SHITS???

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  • Full Story:

    Co-opt and parachute scholars.

    It is all politics:
    Government scholarships are based mainly on academic results. Students from better-off families are the ones who do better because their parents can afford private tuition – the norm in the education system in Singapore. So students with “richer” parents get MOST of the scholarship. They do not really need the scholarship because they can afford to pay but want it because it looks good on their resume. After completing their studies they have no plans of serving their 4-6 year bond. They ask their parents to help them buy them out. As a result, 70% of government scholars break their bond. Scholarship should be strictly need-based but it is not. Why? Because PAP wants to “co-opt” the “better students” into the “system” so they do not go against PAP. If you are serving your bond, it is unlikely you will be a “troublemaker”. You will not “rock-the-boat”. It is all politics and PAP sole objective of staying in power at all costs.

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  • Change We Must:

    PAP government focus is to make the rich even richer. Don’t forget that they are the elites, not knowing how the poor lives. How much you know the ground once you said “Mee Siam Mai Hum”?

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  • HarderTruths:

    $G’s ‘education’ system is soley about passing exams.
    Pass and kep passing well and you will be rewarded with a government scholarship, a government job job and a large pay packet for doing absolutely nothing of real value for the country.

    As such, if you are gifted naturally to pass exams or you have sufficient tuition and able to attend a private school with the best teachers you will succeed in this system. It is proven that students with a poorer and socially difficult background suffer from complexes and emotional hardship that does not allow hem to do as well. So the deck is stacked against the average $G family from day one.

    As the government is the way to wealth and riches this is what most of our exam-oriented students aspire to.

    In other countries the passing of exams is not important – you can be average in school yet become a millionaire or rocket scientist because you are tested on what you can achieve by people of experience.

    $G has had ZERO scholars of importance. Was our first generation of leaders made of scholars? They were mostly self-educated and rose from their own efforts.

    Does $G have any such as Bill Gates or Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs? No – and it never will. Real brilliance requires a country to support their talents. There is only oppression here – they would not have succeeded in $G. The system will not allow it.

    You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

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  • Even Bursary is not spared!!:

    It is all politics:
    Government scholarships are based mainly on academic results. Students from better-off families are the ones who do better because their parents can afford private tuition – the norm in the education system in Singapore. So students with “richer” parents get MOST of the scholarship. They do not really need the scholarship because they can afford to pay but want it because it looks good on their resume. After completing their studies they have no plans of serving their 4-6 year bond. They ask their parents to help them buy them out. As a result, 70% of government scholars break their bond. Scholarship should be strictly need-based but it is not. Why? Because PAP wants to “co-opt” the “better students” into the “system” so they do not go against PAP. If you are serving your bond, it is unlikely you will be a “troublemaker”. You will not “rock-the-boat”. It is all politics and PAP sole objective of staying in power at all costs.

    Have you heard of Bursary?. During my year, I went for interviews for Bursary. How sickening and demeaning the interviewers are. Disgusting to note that those with shops and landed property given bursary. I had to work my way during my univ giving tuition and cooking for my family as all is out working real hard at blue collar jobs. Despite these, i made it to be the top 10 into Hons for my cohort. Yearly I received letters from NUS calling for donation to bursary. I simply throw them away. Not even in call for president charity funds. I see and just give to those I see and felt needy not through all these sickening pple.

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  • Disgusting elites and policies:

    We have elites ruling the country and do not touch base with the ground. Did any notice the irony of the policies in place just to mention a few?
    1. Estate duty – Why is the estate duty abolished? LHL and families indeed escaped from this tax in time before the mother passed on. What is the implication? We have foreigners coming in to take advantage and create havoc to our health, housing, transportation. Instead the poor is now taxed through GST!
    2. Health Assist blue and orange card – The assessment is based on total income of all living in the same house. If one does not have enough money to purchase a HDB, then would need the mercy of relatives to house one. Yet the income of all is taken into consideration and hence would not be able to get the Health assist. However if one is rich enough to afford a flat, then with the low income, would be able to get Health Assist! What an irony!
    3. Hospital and insurance – SGH would insist on patients leaving the hospital and go into community hospital if there is no hope for the patient. Yet under the hospitalisation plan, not a single claim is allowed despite patients have been paying for decades. Why is the government so ignorant as to insist upon patients leaving the hospital and have to foot the entire cost at the community hospitals?
    4. Hospitals are restructured and each department are treated as different department. So by their protocol, a doctor can represent different departments including as visiting doctor on rounds in the morning. Effectively it means the patient is charged more than once up to 3 or more times by the same doctor! And this is happening. For $20 SGH has the cheek to call in a debt collecton agency to collect the $20 when it is more than double charging the family of the patient.
    5. Singaporeans have to move their retirement age to beyond 65 till up to 75 and beyond. Yet it does not allow any HDB loan to be beyond 65 and we are not allowed to loan from anywhere. Yet allowing CPF to hold on our funds when it is purposely to be released at age 55.
    6. It is even more difficult for true born senior Singapore citizens to even purchase a resale flat than a PR who has zero contribution for this country? Never be honest with them because they dont have the brain to think for us true borne singaporeans

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  • Less Equal:

    That star means somebody smart is more equal than the rest [?]
    More equal means more [higher] status people [?]
    More equal means ok to have more salary [?]
    More equal people means the less equal has to listen to more equal ones [?]

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