I am a Singaporean, born in India, brought up in Singapore and married to a Chinese Singaporean. I served 2.5 years of my life as a NS man. During my call of duty, I was awarded letter of commendation for my contribution and dedication to the service. I begin this note with a stand of being a Singaporean in every way except for the part of not born in Singapore. I breathe, live and eat like a Singaporean.

For the past five years, I have been contributing to the society as an educator. I am concerned about our education system in more than one ways. In this article, I would like to touch on the part of international student vs. Local student. As many of you would know, overseas student come to Singapore as the price of education (subsidized by the govt) here is cheap and the only thing that they need to do is "work" in Singapore for three years after their studies. I would like to provide and alternate solution for this.

Firstly, why I would like to explain on why I believe it is unfair for Singaporeans. For the purpose of explanation, lets consider the scenario of students graduating from the polytechnic and heading out to the work force. When they graduate, both the foreign student and the local student will be aged between 19 to 20 years old. Our boys head to NS for two years. During these two years the foreign student will have already started work and have a head start in the career. The earning power of these foreign students will be two years head of local Singaporean boys. Not just the earning power but also the experience gained by the foreign student will give them a huge advantage when comes to promotion and pay rise. This certainly puts our Singapore boys in disadvantage.

I would like to suggest a new approach to this situation. If the foreign student is subsidized or enter into education system through a scholarship, they will have to serve a year or two in a social service department run by the govt. This social service department can deploy them to places such as old folks home, Low-income tuition centers (Sinda, Mendaki), MCYS and many other local charity organizations. During these two years they will be paid the same salary as what a Singapore boys would earn in the army (NS). This system is to be applied regardless whether you are a male or a female foreign student. This would normalize the difference between a Singaporean and a foreign student. Furthermore, if the foreign student truly wants to be part of Singapore they will be more than happy to contribute to the society this way. In line with this suggestion, I would like the govt to rethink their approach on giving PR to the graduating foreign students. Currently, foreign students are offered PR once they have finished their diploma. I would like the govt to give the PR only after serving the two years social service.

My suggestion would be argued by many stating that the foreign students will have to sustain another two years of no income and this would definitely be a burden to their parents. I would like you to see it from this angle. If the burden is on their parents, and if we are so concerned about our foreign students parents having to take the burden, have you ever considered the burden our Singapore parents have to go through the two years of supporting their son?

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for taking time for reading this article. Let’s continue to welcome foreign students who are willing to root themselves by contributing back to this fabulous society of ours.


David Bala

*The above was first posted as a note on Facebook