A Facebook post by “The Singaporean Times” (whatever that means) about a man having to sell his house to allow his daughter to study medicine overseas made its rounds last night. Drastic?
The veracity of the story not withstanding (yes, such things can be easily fabricated), the daughter applied to the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at NUS with her ‘A’ level results of AAB (frankly, it’s a good set of results) but was unfortunately unsuccessful.
Now, does it come as a surprise that rejection took place?
Not at all.
Why? NUS Medicine is one of the most competitive faculties locally; it is elite, and many know that even a full bag of ‘A’s might not even secure you a place simply because there are limited vacancies. Thus, based on results alone, she does not make the cut. Furthermore, there’s no need to ask daddy to sell the house and go to Australia. Have you heard of the new medical school at NTU?
The point of this post is not to give alternative education recommendations (even though necessary). What lies at the heart of this (doubtful) post is a mentality of self-entitlement that is bubbling in Singapore with increasing effervescence. I think this is dangerous and entirely toxic because we place ourselves on a pedestal.
In the post, the man claimed that he did NS and now the Government is not taking care of him, or in this case, his daughter (“our own people”, he says). While NS gives you a good reason to claim something against the state, it is not a blank cheque with which you could do so. After all, to claim a 5 to 6 year medical education for your daughter after a 2.5 year stint in the SAF is simply striking an asymmetric bargain. So, no, NS does not give you the right to claim anything and everything from the state.
Another point of course deals with foreigners, the new F-word in town. The angry man assumed that her daughter’s “rightful” place at medical school was robbed by a foreigner. While it is true that NUS accept foreign students, there is a strict limit of 15% in place for all local varsities now, down from 18% (http://www.nie.edu.sg/newsroom/media-coverage/2012/lower-foreign-university-student-ratio-can-better-promote-exchanges-and-expand-contacts). Furthermore, the foreign student would have to meet the high standards set by the School. As such, to jump the gun and conclude that a foreigner has definitely robbed the vacancy is a conclusion that reeks of bullshit. Really, is the man so blinded by his anger to realise that a more competent and sterling Singaporean student could have gotten the coveted spot at Yong Loo Lin? Don’t just blame everything on foreigners; it shows how much responsibility you actually take for your own actions when you blame it on others (oh, how convenient).
I had an interesting discussion with my friend on this issue over Facebook last night. He suggested that the Government discriminates in favour of its own local students and lower the bar for admissions. Sounds sexy, right?
That’s the kind of self-entitlement I am talking about. It’s disgusting. Yes, being a citizen does come with its privileges but there is a line that ought to be drawn when it comes to admissions into university, especially if we are compromising standards. Lowering the bar for locals and setting a higher bar for foreigners is like smoking opium: you are deluding yourself and you will one day wake up to find yourself in deep shit.
Let me explain. Firstly, it is not even feasible. A limited number of vacancies will still allow natural selection to take place and the University will still have to pick from the crème de la crème. Secondly, even if it was possible (through sheer dumb luck), accepting more qualified foreign students to compete with our local students will inevitably place our local students at the bottom rung of rankings since you set the bar higher-than-usual for foreigners and lower-than-usual for locals. Our students will not benefit from this. What you are doing is deluding them into thinking that they “can make it” when they are really not up to the task. Should they languish in medical school as a result of this self-entitled mindset embedded in the policy, it will be ultimately cruel and Singapore as a whole will not be better for it because we might end up with lesser doctors than the cohort admitted. Hence, it is far better to compete on an even keel, not just for medicine, but for all faculties and courses of studies. Policies with a smack of self-entitlement are not only populist, they are foolish, inefficient and erode the meritocratic foundation in our society.
That said, I am not going to let the Government off that easily as well. The numbers and percentages of foreign students in our midst should be released and the policymakers should account for these statistics ie why they are the way they are. This is to aid public understanding and end this acrimonious and increasingly mind-numbing riposte against foreigners. Secondly, the Government should review its scholarship policy towards foreign students. While the need for them is understood, to give them free scholarships without bonds and without requiring them to pass a basic standard of English is unacceptable. The rationale is simple: you want to come to Singapore, you better know how to speak English because that’s our working language and that’s the medium of instruction. It’s as simple as that. And really, why bond-free? It’s inexcusable to give such scholarships to students who do not intend to contribute back to Singapore. After all, there’s no such thing as a free meal.
Before I conclude, I would like to borrow one of the many sensible comments that have ensued from this shit-stirring post: “The government is in no way obliged to give this girl a place in NUS. If you think that just because her father served NS, or because she is Singaporean she will get a spot, then we would be seeing >90% of applicants getting in. Secondly, you cannot expect the government to solve all your problems. Just because your daughter does not get into a university course she wants, you curse the government? Think about all the other applicants who didn’t get accepted as well, there are probably hundreds of other hopeful students who did not get an interview, and nobody is complaining about it.” (John Tan)
My parting words? You want to stir shit but Singaporeans ain’t that dumb as to swallow your bullshit lock, stock, and barrel. Your actions, by masquerading to be pro-Singapore and pro-Singaporean, simply demean the essence and spirit of being Singaporean and make slogans like “Singapore for Singaporeans” ring even more hollow. Grow up. No one owes you a living.