Non-citizens’ school fees up 200% = 10-year high new citizens/PRs?


To what extent has the up to 300% increase in foreign students’ fees “forced” them to hit at least 10-year highs in new citizens and new PRs granted last year? 

I refer to the article “School fees for non-Singapore citizens to go up” (Straits Times, Oct 18).

It states that “School fees for Singapore permanent residents and international students will go up over the next three years, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Tuesday (Oct 17).

From 2018 to 2020, primary, secondary and pre-university school fees will increase by $25 to $60 a month for permanent resident students, and by $25 to $150 a month for international students.

This means that permanent resident pupils will see monthly primary school fees increase from the current $130 to $155 in 2018, $180 in 2019 and $205 in 2020, while international pupils from non-Asean countries will pay $750 a month by 2020, an annual increase of $50.

Secondary school fees for permanent residents will nearly double from the current monthly fee of $200 to $380 in 2020, with an annual increase of $60 in monthly fees.

The release of the fee schedule for the next three years is to provide greater certainty and enable parents to plan for the financing of their children’s studies in MOE schools, the ministry said.

Today so different from Straits Times?

In contrast, the same news story in Today had very interesting remarks – “Earlier this month, Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling told Parliament that about 1,800 applications from international students to enter Primary 1 this year were rejected in the 2016 Primary 1 registration exercise.

TODAY had also reported that figures from the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) show as of end-August, there were about 76,000 international students on Student’s Pass who are enrolled in private and government-run schools and institutions, including the polytechnics and universities in Singapore. In 2008, the number stood at close to 100,000, previous reports stated. The ICA issues the Student’s Pass for foreigners applying to study here.

Ministry can’t answer a simple question?

Asked previously whether the ministry had turned away more applicants in the last few years and about the intake of foreign students, MOE would only say international students form about 5 per cent of the total student population in the last few years.”

No answer – so we guess lah?

In view of the non-disclosure and non-transparency, despite being asked by the Today journalist – we may for arguments’ sake – try to look at the possible “worst-case scenario” statistics as follows:-

… “1,800 applications from international students to enter Primary 1 this year were rejected in the 2016 Primary 1 registration exercise” – maybe prior to this year – 0 applications were rejected?

… “international students form about 5 per cent of the total student population in the last few years” – maybe the percentage is now at an all-time high? (In this connection, it has been estimated that about a third of the total public universities’ students are non-Singaporeans, which is possibly the highest in the world for public universities)

How much increase in revenue?

What is the estimated total additional revenue from this fee increase?

In this connection, the estimated total additional revenue was about $98 million a year, in the January 2013 fees increase for non-citizens.

Increase in non-citizens’ fees, but no decrease for Singaporeans?

Whilst the principle of further differentiating fees by citizenship is a valid one, why is it that when fees are increased (be it school fees, university fees, healthcare fees, etc), the fees for Singaporeans were also invariably raised (increase in schools’ miscellaneous fees in January 2013)?

Why not keep Singaporeans’ fees at the status quo, or better still, reduce them?

Since so much more may be collected from increasing fees for PRs and foreigners (about $150 million (worse-case scenario estimate since there is no transparency and disclosure)) – it  does not make equitable economic sense for Singaporeans not to benefit from such increases, and indeed may have eventually end up having to pay more too (like in January 2013).

And of course – university tuition fees for Singaporeans have been increasing almost every year too, despite the huge increase in revenue from the increase in fees for non-citizens.

150% increase in fees?

As to the fees increase – I understand that compared to 2011 – for example, the annual fee for a foreign JC and secondary student has increased by over $10,000 and $7,000 respectively, or over 150 per cent to $17,400 and $11,400 respectively, from 1 January next year.

300% increase in fees by 2020?

By 2020 – the increase for foreign JC and secondary will be a whopping over $14,000 and $12,000 respectively, or over 200 to almost 300 per cent, to $21,000 and $16,800 respectively.

“Forced” to become new citizens/PRs?

So, did these huge increase in fees contribute to the at least 10-year highs in the number of new citizens and new PRs granted last year?

Ministry’s message to students?

By the way – what kind of message are we sending to our students, when the Ministry is arguably, non-transparent when it was apparently asked a simple question on the statistics by a Today journalist?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.