Don’t get into university, blame government? Siao bo?

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% ( 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.


86 thoughts on “Don’t get into university, blame government? Siao bo?

  1. Selfishness written all over this chap…
    Emotion jerking stories like this are from selfish folks who are out there to instigate. The story lines can be sold based not on proper prospectives but on selfish emotion jerking tractions. There are probably others with better results than her daughter who cant get a place too.

  2. My understanding of the father’s post was that he was upset about more foreigners being recruited as doctors, not being admitted into NUS Medicine. Thus, his rationale might have been, why not train more Singaporeans as locals instead?

      • I think people fail to understand that the resources required to train medical students are severely limited in Singapore. Medical students require access to real life patients through institutions eg. hospitals which are limited and already saturated as it is with the two current Medical schools. Unless there is a significant increase in the number of hospitals and teaching stuff etc, the annual number of medical students is already saturated and cannot increase further. As to the 15% of foreigners suggested in this article, personally i find this to be untrue in the case of medicine. I know of only one PR in my cohort, and none of my cohort hold overseas passports. Hence, i feel neither the “train more doctors” argument nor the “proportion of locals” argument can be considered valid in a practical sense


        – Medical student

      • Hi Medical Student! The 15% was taken from the NIE source and I vaguely recall PM mentioning the reduction in percentages. I was hard-pressed to find anecdotal evidence about foreigners studying medicine in Singapore while I was writing this. Thanks very much for your comment; now we have a clearer picture! 🙂

    • hello 🙂 i agree with you. hence the need to highlight that he could have applied to ntu-imperial. there are still options, and AAB is really good also. what i am calling out is the irrationality in blaming the govt for this non-admission. as explained, even a straight bag of As cant guarantee you a place. agree on need to train more local docs too. but quality must not be compromised.

  3. I did my NS and completed all my ICT without fail. In fact I went through much more tough training than most Singaporeans have gone through. At the end of the day I thought I have benefited from it. It is an experience many people in other countries didn’t have a chance to try or experience it. But till now I don’t ask how or what the government or the country should repay me? I think the greatest reward we are getting here is the peace and security we are enjoying. That in turn give us high employment rate, good living environment and many other good things in life. How well do in life a lot depends on ourselves. The government has given everyone a fair chance to excel in life. So don’t blame the government or the country if we failed to get a place in the Uni, or the job we wanted. The best person will get it.

    • Well said, Desmond! Why should we ask for something in return when the greatest reward, as you said, is the peace and security of our land? To blame the government for our own shortcomings is childish and immature. But I am worried that a lot more people are thinking this way.

      • Granted, the article written by the father does not make any sense. So we shall ignore it accordingly.

        Nonetheless, with regard to your statement about self-entitlement, perhaps Singaporeans do have unrealistic expectations. However, there is no smoke without fire. There might very well some merit in their grievances (in general and not about the named article)
        After all NS is a good 2 years of being stagnant in life (unless you intend to be a regular/professional soldier.) No doubt, NS is vital as safeguards the peace that we have. That’s from a macro perspective. Yet looking at it from a micro/individual perspective, it would be hard to argue that NS offered lessons that cannot be learnt elsewhere, hence the feeling of being stagnant. The soreness is further exacerbated when one enters university and find that the foreigners are further ahead in life even though they of the same age. Safety, after all, is a public good and the foreigners cannot be discriminated from enjoying it. In addition, serving NS has its risks of physical injuries and fatalities. Such risk is undoubtedly inherent in all militaries. This is a further cost that has to be borne by locals.
        An argument that NS teaches intangible lessons like leadership and teamwork is tenuous at best. These are lessons that can be readily learnt elsewhere. Moreover, in the civilian context, leadership and teamwork does not hinge on a threat of being charged for insubordination. Hence, the lessons of leadership and teamwork that are learnt in schools or the civilian world are much more analogous to the corporate world.

        In short,based on a cost-benefit analysis, locals who are obliged to serve NS are arguably receiving the shorter end of the stick. And this understandably leads to frustrations, which results in this sense of self-entitlement. While the sense of self-entitlement is unwarranted, it does not mask the fact that there might be some valid grievances to be addressed.

        On a side note, does anybody know the criteria and the selection process that these foreign scholars are subjected to? I am curious to know. While I have met and respect many foreign scholars for their acute intellect, there is also a substantial number who seem to have a comparable intellectual level as the locals.

    • NS one day will be gone, but not today nor in 10 years. maybe 50 years time when there is less political turmoil all over us. when south east asia prospers maybe we can finally not have NS. Just don’t see it happening anytime soon

      just look, recently got sabah and sulu nonsense -_-

  4. i agree with your point of view. it’s quite sad that he is willing to sell his house and live with his parents for the sake of financing his daughter’s education (and for taking up her father’s offer she better do damned well in Australia) but yeah there are other solutions to this problem rather than going overseas. For instance, the NTU medicine course that you raised – she could always take a gap year working in the healthcare sector for invaluable working experience (that could also give her an edge if she were to apply to NUS again the following year). And we have a graduate medical school as well – she could always do a science-related course and go into medicine later. (Like me.) I think the government is trying to increase the number of doctors through the setting up of these programs and institutions but in the short term they need foreign doctors maybe to fill the gap. this is probably due to a policy failure a few decades back but yeah… i don’t think it’s fair to blame everything on the government too.

    i totally agree with the part about giving scholarships to foreigners though. I’ve read comments and heard the frustrations of fellow schoolmates about it and I completely concur. A lot of these foreigners aren’t even grateful for the scholarships. They don’t even intend to work in Singapore/contribute back after they graduate.

    • Hello there. I am an ex-foreign scholar and I can testify that most of these so called ‘bond-free scholarships’ are actually not bond-free. To help you understand, we can try looking at the Undergraduate ASEAN scholarships that have been bashed and condemned by many in the various alternative forums (read: TRE, Singaporean Times, The Real Singapore, et cetera). These ASEAN scholarships is also, from what I know, one of the most common scholarships given out to foreign students.

      The Undergraduate ASEAN scholarships in themselves are ‘bond-free’. However, in order to qualify for the scholarship, one needs to take up the tuition grant provided by the MOE as the scholarship only covers the school fees net of the subsidies provided by the tuition grant. The tuition grant comes with a three-year bond. I do not know why it is marketed in this way (as ‘bond-free’), but this is definitely untrue.

      Indeed, there are also ASEAN scholarships given out in the secondary / pre-university level and these are truly bond-free. However, having graduated from this program myself I can say that most of the scholarship recipients actually end up studying in local universities, be awarded the Undergraduate ASEAN scholarship and be bonded by the above mentioned tuition grant. In my cohort, the ones that did not go to the local universities mostly did so either because i) their grades were not good enough and thus their scholarships were terminated; (note: you need at least 3As in your A level to qualify for the Undergraduate ASEAN Scholarship) or ii) your parents were rich enough to send you to supposedly ‘better’ universities in other countries (which was uncommon considering the nature of scholarships). However, we need to note that for the latter case, it would also mean that ordinary Singaporeans would have had the chance (if they choose to) to build a deep relationship with someone from an influential family in neighbouring regions.

      Of course, there are also other scholarships that are truly bond-free (e.g. Singapore Scholarships). However, these are really few and far between. In my four years of undergraduate life, I only met one such Scholarship holders and I can testify that he was truly exceptional (he was a coding prodigy of some sort who won numerous coding competitions in his high school / university days; he co-founded a software company while he was still in university).

      Aside from these, there are also some foreign students; who despite not being a scholarship recipient; think of themselves as one and tell others that they are one. This is because; in some countries, the tuition grant (which is actually available to all students who manage to enroll in the local universities) is marketed as a scholarship provided by the Singapore government (which in some sense is actually accurate). However, as the school fees net of tuition grant are not covered for, they usually have to take up loans from one of the local banks to cover both the school fees and their living expenses. As a result, most of them will have to graduate with 50-80k++ worth of bank debts depending on the course of study and whether or not they need to also borrow money to cover their living expenses in Singapore. Do also note that this was in my time. With the continuously rising school fees; undergrads who are just enrolled this year will have to pay much more than this (perhaps north of the 100k mark).

      Definitely, there would also be other things that I would miss (and you can ask me anything and I will try my best to answer). But, do rest assured that your government (at least in my view) is and has always been putting Singaporean first. If you doubt this, you can try downloading the scholarship list from any of the local universities and you will see that most of these scholarships are reserved only for Singaporean (I think the problem is that you do not usually hear from them; you can’t expect them to go around boasting that they get a scholarship).

      Hope this help.

  5. Reblogged this on Opinions: ihavem and commented:
    Self-entitled Singaporeans are self-entitled. Glad to hear a voice of reason amidst the chorus of self-entitled whining – several in fact, if you look at the comments. This entire trend of calling for the Singapore government to give undue favour to locals / citizens is starting to reek of something our northern neighbour has been doing for years. Let’s look at how successful their bumiputera policy turned out, hmm?

    Yeah, that’s what I thought.

    • You’re so right. The sense of entitlement that is growing here among Singaporeans is appalling. Like spoiled children whining to their Mommy and Daddy, they want the government to protect them from the world — no foreigners, no globalism, no competition please. Shelter us, pamper us, feed us, give us low taxes but lots of welfare, give us cheap cars but no traffic jams, give us cheap labour to do the dirty jobs we don’t want to do but keep the dirty foreigners out of our MRTs.

  6. I have doctor friends. I have family members who are doctors. Doctors are being worked to death today. The system is fucked up. It’s very difficult to expand the enrollment and allow more people into medical school? The system will piss off people who can’t get in for the above reasons. It will also piss off the people who get in because they are being over worked.

  7. Pingback: Daily SG: 11 Apr 2013 | The Singapore Daily

  8. What the government should do is raise the school fees for PR and raise it even more for foreigners/international students as oppose to lowering the bar for locals and setting a higher bar for foreigners.

      • Not sure if you intended to be frustrated with your having to pay twice the amount of tuition fee as a foreigner, but let it be known that foreigners have to pay seven times the tuition fees locals pay in Australian universities.

      • Australian pay lower because they are taxed more. Try to get your fact right. If you do a survey, without subsidies or tuition grand local U tuition fees is almost the same or probably only slightly cheaper than any university in Australia or UK.

  9. Great piece, but there is one place I disagree. Unfortunately, it is this line “… but Singaporeans ain’t that dumb as to swallow your bullshit lock, stock, and barrel.”

    It is shocking how many Singaporeans do not possess the critical thinking required to navigate through all the anti-foreigner BS online. I look at my FB feed most days and find people I know – mostly graduates and professionals – sharing and applauding the most awful vitriol.

    • To be fair, not everyone is as familiar with the kind of grades needed to get into NUS Medicine – especially the older generation if they don’t have children who are in a JC or university. They could be easily convinced by the original post and think that AAB is a reasonable set of results (which it is) and should warrant entry into Medicine.

    • OMG I TOTALLY AGREE WITH THIS. I was like… really, Singaporeans ain’t that dumb? Look at the sheer amount of idiots nodding their heads in agreement and mindlessly echoing each other in the comments of the original post, without any sense of their own to think about what they’ve just read and make a proper discernment. Gosh.

  10. Isn’t the point of the government to represent the people? So if this is what the people want, this is what they should get. I don’t understand how you are drawing all the blame away from the government. It has already been made quite clear that we Singaporeans do not want so many foreigners in our country, yet the ICA is still giving citizenships out by the thousands. Where else in the world do you see governments paying foreginers to come study in local universities while their own people are forced to contend with studying overseas?

    • This father wants his daughter to get into NUS Medicine. I’m not sure if this is actually what the rest of Singapore wants. I am personally unhappy with the lengths the government goes to to attract foreigners, but as far as this particular incident is concerned and based on what he has written, it seems more like a case of an individual expecting the government to provide whatever he wants. There are lots of other more worthy examples and case studies to support the view that the government is letting in too many foreigners.

    • For your info, I voted for opposition because I believe human beings are fallible,,, that being said … I think many have not considered the other side of the argument: what if the government did not give scholarships to foreign students, will they even come here? The sad truth is that Singapore is still a tiny backwater when compared with emerging superpowers like China. Is this a perfect solution? Of course not. I think that if one in ten of these top students decide to stay in Singapore and contribute to our economy, it would be a good outcome. When I studied overseas, I also received a scholarship from the university there. I did not get into NUS because I had lousy grades in Pre-U. Singaporeans should up their game and not get caught in some entitlement mentality.

      • Hi Mr Loo, as long as you have a good rationale for your vote, that’s perfectly legit 🙂 My concern is if we are sifting for the right students, the ones that are genuine and not just those who intend to take us for a ride.

    • “Where else in the world do you see governments paying foreginers to come study in local universities while their own people are forced to contend with studying overseas?”

      Answer: Simple. China is an example. I have SG friends who have been offered bond-free scholarships to study in universities like Tsinghua and Beijing University by the Chinese gov’t. You can choose to not compete with the world today but this choice cannot be made forever unless you want to be phased out someday

      • Cool stuff. I guess if the bond-free scholarships are reciprocal and not asymmetric between the participant countries, I’m okay with that.

  11. Pretty enlightening post. Which kinda leads me to the next question, why would Singaporeans like him have this sense of entitlement? Or is he just trying to stir and ride on the growing anti-authoritarian mindset of the netizens to make a point?

  12. The government needs more doctors and has no transparent policy on picking medical students. I’ve known people (sons of rich people) getting into medicine at NUS with BCC, so AAB and cannot get in, unless your father is in opposition party.

    Singaporeans are at disadvantage if government fails to plan. Many jobs are gone as manufacturing and engineering jobs goes overseas as government shifts gears to bring in casinos and tourism.

    Then population growth without much infrastructure planning. When the country needs more doctors, why not have more medical students?

    • This has got to be the biggest bullshit I’ve ever heard. Medicine student with BCC? If you’re planning to stoke anti-foreigner sentiments, at least use something more concrete than a statement that defies common sense.

  13. So when we are sick and offered a choice between a Singaporean doctor who was admitted to medical school with lower grades because she was a Singaporean vs a foreign doctor who had top grades, who would you choose? This is really a ridiculous sense of entitlement and yes, throw in some xenophobic anti-foreigner sh*t into that simmering pot of resentment.

    • You sure a foreign doctor has better grades when he comes from a third world country’s unknown med school? Then you should seek treatment only from government-run polyclinics where many of these foreign docs practice.

      What I really want to know is, are those universities that accepted his daughter lax in admission standards? Will she be a sub-par doctor when she finishes med school that Singapore will not admit to practice here?

  14. Probably one of the more succinct and well-thought articles I have read these few weeks. The articles that I have been reading recently have been, quite frankly, myopic in their arguments. This sense of self-entitlement is truly a dangerous mentality to adopt; sure, I do not agree with our government’s generous attitudes regarding citizenship(or PR, for that matter), but expecting the state to meet your every petulant wants, is honestly, silly and idiotic.

    Kudos to the author for some common sense!

    • Thank you for your kind remarks 🙂 I was compelled to write after a debate with my friend last night. Thought that the self-entitled mentality really needed a public dressing-down. Feel free to suggest topics for future posts. Thanks!

  15. I am unemployed & go find job at SAF for an Officer & ME4(A) positions. The recruitment officer say I do not have leadership because I ORD with the rank of LCP. However during my NSF time, the highest rank I can go is LCP because I only have a Nitec (NTC-2) cert. They do not look at my performance as NSman which I have been promoted 2 times & now a 3SG leading 70 NSmen. The recruitment officer say my age is 30 year old which does not benefits the organization because I may not be able to perform. If I cannot perform, why am I promoted to 3SG? If I cannot perform, why am I awarded Formation NSman of the Year 2012 (Each Formation have the option to award up to 3 NSmen for each year)? I feels Qualification & Age Discrimination by SAF.

  16. Note: I’m just copying and pasting my own facebook comment (haha shameless plugging).

    Here’s a typical example of a keyboard warrior. I can’t believe that Singaporeans have sunk to the level of blaming the government (at least in part) for university admissions.

    Firstly, what is unfair about a university choosing a candidate over another based on merit? The fact that his daughter didn’t get straight As, or have a stellar CCA record boasting to the admissions committee that she has had a lifelong dream of becoming a doctor says enough for me. I’ve been a victim of local rejection, so I think I can speak from experience.

    Secondly, what does bringing in foreign, already qualified doctors have to do with ANYTHING? Can he say for certain that it’s not a stop-gap measure to help with a (note: CURRENTLY) poor Doctor:Patient ratio? I’m fairly certain that with the same breath that this man complains about foreign doctors, he wouldn’t hesitate to complain should he be admitted to hospital and have to wait for want of doctors available.

    Thirdly, the ratio of Singaporeans:Foreigners in NUS med is EXTREMELY low (confirmed by an NUS med friend), so I have no clue what this guy is on about.

    Lastly, I served NS as well, so his point is moot.

    Also, all the comments about ‘foreign trash’ on this picture, and people have the CHEEK to say that they’re not xenophobic? I’m truly appalled. Singapore has been and will always be an immigrant nation. All you have to do is go back 2-3 generations and think about where your own relatives were from, and there you have it. My own grandmother was from Hong Kong. Does that make me foreign trash? What about PRs who grew up in Singapore and served NS too?

    The reason that Singapore is going down the drain is not because of the government (whether present or future), it’s because of people like this fella, who expect to be pampered.

    In addition to that, the only thing I have to critique about this post is – that bit where you talk about how scholarships are given out without bonds. Whilst I’m not asserting this about you personally, what I don’t understand about the layman (yes, I’d go so far as to say that the man on the Clapham Omnibus in Singapore is this bigoted) complains first about foreigners getting bond free scholarships, and then proceeds to complain about foreigners working in Singapore. DOES NOT COMPUTE.

    • Hi David, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree with you. There is no link between foreigners getting bond-free scholarships and complaining about them working in Singapore. The bit about giving bond-free scholarships is a diplomatic move, but we should really consider if they should be free at our expense? I would like to see a solid rationale in justification of that before saying “alright, I support that”.

      Cheers (:

  17. i commented this in my friend’s post… hope it will help pple put things into perspective…

    1. There is nothing wrong with NUS. It is just plain competition. There are many other singaporeans that applied with equally good grades as the daughter but didn’t get in.

    2. MOM approves yes… but I would still say is the hospitals… and they are paying a price for bringing in these sub standard doctors… such as paying legal fees to fight legal battles… trust me they are paying the price… the govt is building the 3rd medical school, the lee kong chian medical school…

    3. And sorry, I am not the lucky one… I stay in a 3 ROOM HDB FLAT… unlike the 5 room mentioned in the article… my dad is sort of unemployed / retired… my monthly household income is not what u would call “lucky”… but I don’t ask my parents to sell their flat… neither do I cry all day at home… I spent one whole year to work and study so that I can get into Duke-NUS, the graduate medical school in singapore… why? because aussie medical schools are trying to rip you off… are our govts to blame becos they provide such lucrative subsidies that also bring in so much competition?

    the bottom line is… instead of crying and complaining… have u thought that maybe u are just not living up to the competition? there are many pple who are working hard to achieving their goals… and to be honest, a lot of them are your fellow singaporeans who are competing with u also… so before you plainly blame the govt… this is what you should put into perspective… i didn’t say the govt cannot help more… i’m just saying they are not entirely to blame…

    well i understand… that’s y i said the govt is not entirely to be blamed but doesn’t mean they are not to be blamed at all…

    My second reply:

    1. NUS doesn’t actually set such high thresholds to get into medicine… the QUALITY of our LOCAL students is the key to this… there is a quota and increasing this quota will be detrimental to the quality of the education our future doctors get… they are just simply too many straight As students that are filling the limited spaces in NUS… 99% studying in NUS YLL SOM are singaporeans… only a handful each year are foreigners… so what the govt do? they build new schools… there’s a 3rd one, lee kong chian som coming up accepting students this year… so this is what i am referring to as competition… NUS is ranked 2nd best in Asia btw… it doesn’t make sense for the uni to close its doors to foreigners just becos we need to protect our citizens… but yet it still protects our citizens… majority of NUS students are singaporeans…

    2. The substandard doctors come in is becos of a lack of doctors… and that is a failure on the govt nonetheless… but in general they had admitted to this mistake as a whole because of the failure of their part to effectively predict that our economy and state will recover from the recession so quickly… so they are building more medical schools and attracting back singaporeans who are studying medicine overseas… MOM is not the board u might wanna shoot ur claims at… should be MOH… for the failure to effectively plan the number of doctors we need… so the govt has a part to play for the situation we are in today but not entirely…

    No lah… no offence… what u have mentioned is legit… that’s why what i am saying is how u look at it… the perspective… i think the govt is definitely aware… and they are doing things so that our future is not compromised… but yes they made a mistake… they didn’t foresee it they didn’t plan for the shortage of doctors…

    with regards, to the article… u definitely dun want ur kid to be crying at home just becos he/she didn’t qualify for med sch and ask u to sell ur house so that u can send him/her overseas to study… so what i propose to that girl is to work harder… there are alternatives… u can take up loans even if u want to go overseas… instead of putting the burden on your parents… that’s what i want that girl to put into perspective… but no worries i understand your point of view and you got a legit point… give the govt a second chance to re plan this… then we judge them again…

    And the argument ended with the guy hating LKY GCT LHL PAP and so on… so that one i cannot fight already… cuz I dun live in the LKY GCT era…

      • oh ya btw u wrote a very good breakdown on the whole argument… i just didn’t have the statistics that’s all… the diplomatic move regarding bond-free scholarships… i dun really buy it… but i’m sure NUS and the govt are cutting down on those…

      • You made a good point about how the bar shouldn’t be lowered to accommodate locals which I fully agree with. But I would believe that what we would like to see is that the bar for the foreigners are at the same level as the locals, especially for language. This issue about medical school aside, there has been far too many reports of schools having to hire tutors for their foreign scholars (which I would expect to be mostly PRCs), and also first hand experience of PhD candidates in the universities having difficulties in conveying instructions in English to the undergrads. Do keep in mind that for locals, the moment we fail in our English in either PSLE, O levels or GP in A levels we can forget about even trying to apply for a position in the schools. Much less a scholarship. I would believe that this is the cause of concern for many locals, blown out of proportion due to fear and panic.

  18. The joke is the trained local doctors all ended in Orchard road treating foreigners and foreign doctors are brought in to treat the locals. Something is not right with that logic, don’t you all agree?

  19. That is the price this government have to pay for meddling too much into the affairs of the common people and not delivering and condoning a increasing unequal society. AKA desperate people do and say desperate things

  20. The other aspect you didn’t mention is the extent a parent will go to help a child. The intentions are good, but what are you teaching the child in terms of facing failure and disappointments in life? What’s this guy going to do when his children can’t find a job, or get laid off work in future? Selling more houses will not help then.

  21. Lol. True. If one looks at the distinction rates of our top notch jcs, its not hard to say that his girl will not have a fair shot at med.

    Look: 50% in our top JCs get at least 3As. His daughter got 2As 1 B. How to fight? That just means his daughter is already ranked very very far down the line. Also don’t compare to overseas, first they have quotas for foreigners as well and since you’re paying top dollar (full price) of university, obviously they’ll welcome you in considering the economical climate in the world. Please. Ask her to work harder, there’s more paths in life than being doctors. If everyone’s a doctor, then where are the nurses and patients?

  22. Great article, truly expresses the sentiments I felt when I read the post. I feel that some Singaporeans should in fact learn to look at situations more with multiple dimensions. Problems regarding such issues are not so simple as to suggest one solution which would entail success. To train medical students, the equipment, facilities and educational staff are integral. The limitations lie in these aspects as not all of them are readily available.

    The country serves the people, not the person. There is no country in the world which will tailor their policies to the individual needs. When it comes to issues of the state, one should detach himself from emotions and make reasonable judgement. Yes the father is angry, I feel that, but I can’t agree with the unfounded assertions he is making.

    Also I agree, increasing the number of medical students does not mean that we should lower our standards, there are plenty of straight A students out there with more impressive extracurricular records. I think this preoccupation with possibilities and ‘what ifs’ is pretty toxic as we are just finding excuses for our failures.

    With regards to this girl, a good doctor in my opinion is a person who can make critical decisions and think rationally in stressful or seemingly hopeless circumstances. Not someone who will succumb to emotions and not be able to consider other options upon experiencing failure and rejection. Hopefully she will improve herself during her studies abroad.

  23. And you all missed out something. Many doctors here do not stay in Hospital after they gotten their specialization. Most of them would leave the public sector and move into private sector. I have a number of doctors friends who chose to specialize in plastic surgery and GP. They feel that this is where the money is in. Most of these people who become doctors is not there because of passion to serve, to heal but they are there because they think there is where the money is at. And a lot of them are actively poached by the private sectors. This is part of the vicious cycle that leads to the lack of doctors in our public healthcare sector.

    Nobody owns you a living in Singapore. You fight your way up. We are a meritocratic country where the best will shine. In another words, Life is not fair; suck it up.

  24. its about time folks here decipher and appreciate that with the new social media, we are likely to have plenty of “stories created” instigate and incite emotions for political points. Once we hv discussed and recognized those with such political agendi, the responses should be strategized so as not to assist in promoting such “medicine men” and their purposes. I see this “angry uncle’s case as one with vile intentions…..minimize feeding into his story further.
    For those with genuine causes, we shall assist to direct them to the relevant authorities for resolutions.
    While we would not like to offend people with genuine causes, imho, we must be robust in telling off those bent on causing mayhem. I believe the majority of the sensible folks are quietly for the good of this nation. The small minority of obnoxious characters are currently more vocal and dominant in the social media. They should be countered more proactively and their ill-effects should be neutralized more effectively.

  25. I am a doctor in a local public hospital.

    I had 6As for A levels, many years ago. If I had AAB, I would not have chosen medicine – if I can’t handle A levels, I don’t think I’m qualified to handle human lives.

    The man’s daughter is ambitious, courageous, and determined. But I think she is young and irresponsible. I may be wrong, but I hope she will work harder to prove herself.

    • So after your many many years of practice did you ever feel your 6 As makes you a better more deserving doctor than others that didn’t? Just curious. 😛

  26. I think your article has a bit of a double standard. You must surely think that the government should favour locals over foriengers for admission to local universities, no? Otherwise, how will it work? There are six billion people in the world, a few million in Singapore. If it is all based on merit and grades, you’ll be very likely to have no local students and all foreign, espeically given the number of scholarships available.

    So clearly, no one really believe that there isn’t an entitlement for locals to study at the local university. The sense of entitlement is actually common sense. If NUS was 100% foreign students that would, I suggest obviously, be insane. So it has to be locals first. Then it just becomes a question of degree, how many foreigners and how many locals? As you say, the government have talked about reducing the amount of foreign students from 18% to 15% so clearly they too see it as a question of degree. Reducing by three percentage points is hardly earthshattering, but I digress. If medicine is over-subscribed, as you say, why have any foreigners at all? Why turn away AAA local students to accept foreigners? Is it mandatory to fill the 15% quota? Do they have better grades than AAA? I don’t know the answer to this question, but rumour has it that in medicine there aren’t any foreign students anyway, so the question becomes one not of entitlement but realism instead. AAB isn’t good enough.

    But maybe AAB should be good enough. Already we don’t have enough doctors. I remember reading recently that we have less doctors per person than Thailand. To me, for a rich country like Singapore, that is not good enough. We need to make it so that we can produce more doctors rather than rejecting them. Our highly paid ministers need to find a solution to this. I don’t know why the person in the article didn’t apply to NTU but I would imagine the option would have been taken if it were available – it certainly seems preferable to selling your home and sending your child overseas to study.

    Final point – I think one person made a comparison with bumiputera. The comparison is not really valid… All citizens should be equal, but it is not normal – in fact no country does it – to treat citizens and foreigners equally.

    • Did you graduate from local U recently?

      My AAB result got turned down from NTU Accounting and I didn’t complain because SMU accepted me. You guys are kidding that AAB can and should get into medicine???

      Last time I check we also lack accounting students that is why SMU and now even NUS accounting are recognized by the Big 4 firms. Previously only NTU Accountancy is recognized. Come on, competition people. I really have the feeling that most people here who think AAB is a good results basically are those who averaged Bs and Cs during their school years, and hence they are all steaming over an AAB. Time has moved on people, it is very easy to get straight As right now due to all the crazy tuitioning and parents kanchionging. 50 years ago BBB may be good for you to enter Uni in most courses, but now without an A your BBB can only get you into arts faculty and you end up working as a teacher anyway.

      Is the system good? I’m not commenting on that as too many As is a testatment that the grading system is screwed up. But it is very clear that AAB will not get you as far as you think it will/should.

      • I concur. However, your statement regarding people from the arts faculty ending up as teachers seems a tad too derogatory? Teaching is not that bad a profession anyway. In my humble opinion, it is one of the most noble professions, but one of the least appreciated and remunerated.

      • “Competition people” – what I am saying is if you think locals should compete purely on merits with foreigners then locals will easily be outnumbered by foreingers, probably 100 to 1, because the number oflocals is small and the number of foreigners is large. So we should accept 100% foreign students in local universities? Is that your point? Or actually, do you think locals should be favoured? it seems obvious to me …

        “people here who think AAB is a good results” – I think you are not being realistic. AAB is a good result? Do you disagree? Only AAA is a good result? You are saying only the best is good? It doesn’t really make sense. “Only perfection is good” is basically what you are saying.

        In the real world, best is best, good enough is good enough. In a country with a shortage of doctors and an ageing population on the horizon, we need to think about making AAB good enough for medicine. Certainly if we want doctors in our local hospitals we need local medicine students – a foreign student I would suggest is much more likely to move on and work overseas – and this doesn’t really solve our local problem of not enough doctors.

        If getting AAA is “easy” then that is a seperate problem (and in saying that, you don’t exactly paint your own AAB in the best light), it is not supposed to be, and neither is AAB. Both are impressive. You do a diservice to local graduates (and yourself) by suggesting otherwise.

      • Actually, you are wrong about the grading system. The greatest mistake some old timers always say is that it has become easier to get As. It hasn’t. Or perhaps, minimally. In Singapore, an A is awarded to the top ??% of students taking the subject in that year. If the paper is tough for that subject in one particular year, an A could be 60%. If the papers are dummy proof, a high 80% is possible. But what I am trying to bring across is that, today, you don’t just need to be good to get an A, you need to be BETTER THAN THE NEXT ??% OF STUDENTS WHO THEN GET Bs, Cs etc. Bell curve as we all call it. So when you see students with straight As, they haven’t just robbed you of your uni places. They have also robbed you of your As because they outcompeted you for it. And seeing how people are having so many tuition classes these days, I don’t think the actual scores required to get As can possibly drop. No way it is easier to get As in our generation.

  27. Pingback: RE: The Sell-Flat-To-Study-Medicine Saga | visakan veerasamy.

  28. First things first – if you’re talking about Medicine, AAB is nothing stellar. If you were to just look at RI, every year more than 300 students graduate with perfect score, that is to say AAAA. By contrast, YLLSOM admits 200 students every year. AAB is very remote from the standard of the average medical school applicant; more glaring than the fact it isn’t straight As is the fact that it isn’t even 4H2s, which is standard fare for about 100% of the applicants the AAB student was competing with. Her results, while good by the standards of most faculties, is unfortunately simply sub par with respect to Medicine, given that the 10th percentile of medicine students score AAAA. I’m sorry to say, she simply never deserved a place.

  29. Balancing and allocating space, time, resources (including funds) to cater for a vast array of national needs will always remain challenges which eventually would disappoint someone. This is becos in reality, while catering for the nation as a whole with the best intention, someone along the way would be left unhappy on personal front.
    Even if we have venues to reconcile and review cases, someone would still be unhappy. Do we go for more doctors, or more lawyers, or more engineers? or more fighter-jets, or better roads, rails, or more gardens, or more schools, ….etc.
    Utopia would be to have fairy godmother’s wand which could grant more than just 3 wishes.
    I understand the frustration of the uncle on his personal situation. But i venture to suggest that choosing to politicize his storyline was his real intent. I respect his rights, but not his selfishness.

  30. i suppose NUS has some autonomy in deciding their medical school intake. indeed, most of the elites are chosen because simply, who wants someone ‘less’ competent to be the difference between life and death for the common citizen?

    if i’m not wrong, not only does the potential candidate have to have 4As(which preferably should include biology and chemistry), he/she also preferably has to have a very exciting co-curricular school life like being captain of the school tennis team.

    unfortunately, although i do agree that your average doctor should be intelligent, it often results in them having a sickening god-complex. most of them are such little shits who think the world of themselves just because they have a MBBS. perhaps NUS should re-look into their criteria to include ‘not being such an arrogant little shit’. but that would mean plenty of elites failing to get into medicine. hmm.

    not sure why this fella went all the way to sell his house to fund his daughter’s dreams of becoming a doctor. is it really the only job he thinks worthy of her? why not be a pharmacist or a dentist? AAB still should be able to get in 🙂

    • Hi Jane.

      I can assure you, not being an “arrogant little shit” is an extremely important selection criteria in todays medical school selection. Perhaps, we should include “not being an ignorant petulant little shit” as part of the criterion for posting on comment thread.


  31. Hmm..the gal was not even granted an interview. N she had As for bio and chem n, by deduction, maths. I thought sg needs more doctors? So she failed GP ah?? Tsktsk.

    • Well he said 3As 1B, B for physics, A for biology and chemistry. The last subject should be a contrasting arts subject.. So I actually deduce she didn’t take maths.. Or am I wrong?

  32. I don’t think there is any disagreement about the absurdity of the man’s claim. However, I do have to disagree with your view that giving out ‘bond-free’ scholarships is unacceptable.

    The idea of giving out scholarships to our neighbours in ASEAN, China or even India is not simply an unmerited ‘diplomatic move’. It is a calculated and deliberate expression of goodwill by the government that is part of soft power. Singapore is heavily reliant on trade, and these countries form some of our biggest trade and investment partners, contributing much to the economy and to some extent, drive our continued growth and prosperity. These scholarships create a positive image of Singapore as a reliable and dependable partner, which is essential for a country like ours. Just like how the U.S and E.U. continue to give foreign aid despite their economic woes, Singapore similarly recognises the tangible and intangible benefits that these scholarships can bring. How much goodwill we generate among the youth of our neighbouring countries today will go a long way to building a generational awareness and perception (in these countries) of Singapore’s commitment to regional and common prosperity. Our fates are in some way, tied to countries in the region and beyond.

    Still, I understand how frustrating it can be when our government and the local universities, supported by public funds, appear to support so many foreigners at the expense of Singaporeans. Greater transparency and accountability, through making public the assessment criteria and how many of these scholarships are given out annually, will help promote much needed public debate. This will also give the government a much clearer sense of public sentiment and opinion on the matter, which will then be useful in crafting policies that will garner greater public support. This is an area that I think our government sorely lacks.

    Finally, I fully agree with your point about the growing (or at least, more publicly displayed) sense of self-entitlement. If that is indeed a trend, it is a major cause of concern.

    • Well said. I’m a recipient of the so-called bond-free scholarship years back. These scholarships are often offered to secondary school graduates in the region, and recipients are required to retake 2 years of secondary education before taking the Os. The scholarship is subjected to constant review, and if a scholar’s academic performance is not up to standard, MOE has the power to rescind his/her scholarship. While it is true that some students take this opportunity and use Singapore as a springboard to further their education in prestigious institutions in the US or the UK, most scholars (like me) develop a sense of belonging and stay in Singapore where they would become a bond holder. There is of course a strategic element inside as you put it, but even from a foreigner’s point of view, the government should really have exercised more control over the selection process, though from my knowledge this type of scholarship does not exist anymore.

      As to whether bond-free scholarship is unacceptable, I would say the bond-free scholarship makes more sense even than the ones with bond. Most bonded scholarship recipients have a very poor command of English, and they do not feel the need to fit in as they come in a large batch. Given their area of study, there is also little incentive for them to improve their English as they often deal with numbers and equations. Though they are ‘forced’ to commit 6 years of their life in Singapore, many of them just wanted the education and would not hesitate to return to their home country once they have fulfilled the requirement. In contrary, those bond-free scholars come at a young age, and by the point they finish their tertiary education, most of them would be indistinguishable from the locals, for both appearance and linguistic capabilities. They are more likely to convert to PR/Citizen when they graduate, and I’ve heard dozens of them starting a family here.

      The gist is, if med school can have a selection criteria to the extent that even straight-A students would have to go through a rigorous selection process, I can’t see why a fully-paid tertiary education at a prestigious university should not. There are literally millions of people in China or India looking at this opportunity, and you can’t find hundreds of them willing to fit in and stay? This screams inefficiency I would say. Many of them may be outstanding in terms of academic performance, but a large number of them have absolutely non-existent EQ (from my personal point of view), and lack even the basic interpersonal skills. That’s why they decide to hangout with themselves or even alone. Your point on greater transparency and accountability is spot on – the selection criteria should be made clear to the public so it can be improved.

  33. Fully agreed! No one owes us a living. Certain opposition parties in the 2011 campaigning had made issues like these to get votes, and it’s not helping anyone. If you think the system is flawed, u have to stand on your 2 feet to create or fight for your alternative. Bitching about it is not an option

  34. There’s always so much discussion about the criteria for getting into medicine. Well, I don’t blame anyone. In case you guys didn’t know, the “interviews” and stuff started out in 1900s USA to “legitimately” reduce the number of Jews taking up coveted courses in elite US universities. 100+ years down the road and everyone trying for medicine gets headaches.

    I have only been shortlisted so I can’t really comment, but since my early (May-Jun) JC1, my teachers had hammered into us that straight As don’t guarantee you a spot in medicine, but without anything close to that, there is no chance you are getting into medicine. Of all the people I know who were shortlisted to begin with, there are only people with 1C or 2Bs (in the right subjects) and A for everything else. Coming from a mid tier top 5 JC that isn’t at risk of falling out of the category yet (lol to those spreading rumours about the other 2), I see half my cohort graduate with at least 3 As. In my year, I think more than 30 students graduated with at least 7 distinctions (i.e. straight As + dist in H3). Now if we want to talk about the top 2 JCs, let’s scale the numbers up to 60+ to 70% with at least 3As. How’s that for “good results” being AAB (unless the rest are all As too, which is impossible since she got rejected).

    For those who don’t know, here’s how admissions work. All candidates submit their application, after which NUS medicine creates a quota of how many students to interview. They then set a cutoff for the students at the rank points where they get the required number of interview candidates. But after that point in time, your results will never be called into question ever again in any question in the interview as far as I’ve heard. It’s all up to your portfolio, general (possibly medical) knowledge and on-the-spot-reaction. With the new interview method, almost nothing can save you from being surprised.

    But don’t despair for those who didn’t get into NUS med. I have spoken to quite a few healthcare professionals and they all tell me not to go into medicine. You get paid average $7 an hour, work minimum 80h work week, get scolded by patients for things you have no control of, and at the end of the day, only an estimated 30% of cases that come to hospitals get cured. For the rest, it’s painkillers or other medication for life, or, a choice between life support for a few extra months of miserable existence or a few months of fun and enjoyment beyond the wards before they depart. Does the “angry man” know about this? Or does his daughter? I hope they know what they are paying to step into.

    As for the case of government policies, I guess part of policymaking means someone will be left out no matter what happens. That or we get into a budget deficit because money is always the easy way out. I personally do not believe that any policy can benefit all citizens/residents/etc. Protectionistic measures in university admission criteria, as mentioned by some can be popular, but at the expense of what? The quality of student population? Already, degrees are being so common that employers are becoming discriminating about the prominence of institutions handing them out. And while we can award scholarships for only locals, I believe there are merits in providing scholarships to foreign students as well. These days, many students are being trained to work in a globalised world. How does a university prepare students for that in an all local environment? Churning out graduates that are deemed less employable for the benefit of those who are “left behind” cannot be a long term solution.

    And lets look at the international politics of this. Scholarships are given to outstanding individuals to 1) forge goodwill with the government general population there, 2) make Singapore recognised (and hopefully leave behind some sentimental memories) among intelligent and capable youths who might eventually hold powerful appointments in their respective home countries. If the second is true, I guess it might be a good investment by our nation.

    Then there’s the issue of English proficiency. Yes, someone should set a standard for that since English is the language of administration here, and one of the only ways to communicate with the large majority of Singaporeans, seeing as so many of our fellow men have degenerated in dialect and mother tongue proficiency to ridiculous standards at times. But I have seen a fair share of scholars and I can assure you that many of them can write better than someone from the “citizen core”. Back in my secondary school, I was told that scholars had to hand in reflections on a newspaper article every night and the principal will be made aware if anyone skives off work. In my JC, I have seen a scholar who tops the cohort in GP every single exam without fail. Perhaps, their accent bothers you but I guess your Singaporean accent is as bothersome to a Brit as the scholars’ accents are to you. And I would say that the main bulk of foreign students in uni have actually come in through ASEAN or other scholarships awarded at secondary to JC levels and made it to uni with decent GP grades and stellar grades too.

    • Hi Mastermind (what a name to give yourself).

      For someone appearing or seemingly pretending to be enlightened and knowledgeable you seem to have a severe deficiency in your ability to cipher fact from baseless statements.

      I quote ” You get paid average $7 an hour, work minimum 80h work week, get scolded by patients for things you have no control of, and at the end of the day, only an estimated 30% of cases that come to hospitals get cured.”

      It is true that medicine in hard work. In the first year, you work a minimum of way over 100 hours a week (please 80 hours is nothing, doctors in their early thirties, eg. Registrars, work 120 hours a week) and the pay isn’t fantastic compared to what other professions earn.

      You are right to point out that many medical students or aspiring students do not have an accurate picture of what they are getting into.

      However, your next statement is completely baseless and shows a distinct lack of common sense. I suggest you report the doctor who quoted you that statement (though i highly suspect it was self concocted) to the Singapore Medical Association for being a Sham doctor.

      Unless you have definitive proof to back up such a statement, please refrain from making such ridiculous comments. If you truly want to do medicine, i suggest you start reflecting on the definition of cure.

      Getting into medicine i tough. Getting through medicine is tougher. You sound like you’re giving yourself reasons to give up even before you begin.

      Grow some spine.

      a doctor (SMA accredited)


  35. The stupid post in “Singapore Times” is very typical of egoists who feel the good life is a basic right of theirs just simply because they are Singaporeans.

    Even the most powerful and most promising nations in the world also can’t guarantee that their citizens must have a good easy life without competition or facing difficulties, what more a small insignificant little island like Singapore?

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