Fri, Sep 25, 2009
The New Paper
Hwa Chong scores breakthrough to top China unis

By Bryna Sim

WHEN Singaporean students think of pursuing a medical degree abroad, prestigious universities in the UK and US are usually top of the list.

Few would rank China's universities among their top choices for an undergraduate medical education.

Not so for Hong Kong-born Singaporean student Chan Yu Fung, 20, who is currently doing his final year in the six-year Hwa Chong Integrated Programme.

He wants to go to China's Tsinghua University to study medicine.

Now, with the Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) through-train programme to top China universities such as Peking, Tsinghua and Fudan, Yu Fung may see his wish come true, and with monetary aid too.

The details for the through-train programme were finalised last week in Shanghai and Beijing respectively.

It sees the three China universities recognising not only the HCI diploma, but also awarding up to nine scholarships to selected diploma holders.

The HCI diploma was introduced last year, and is awarded to students ranked within the top 30 per cent in the school's preliminary exams, and to those who have fulfilled either scholastic achievements or community service requirements.

According to a HCI spokesman, after the school selects the 30 per cent, it is left to the students to decide if they want to enrol for the programme.

HCI then processes the applications and recommends them to the China universities.

There is no cap on the number of students who can be enrolled.

The final selection and scholarships will be determined by the China universities.

Once selected, these students will be exempt from the China universities' highly competitive entrance exam for international students.

Their A level results are also not considered.

According to HCI principal Ang Wee Hiong, this programme was launched to allow students to further experience and appreciate their cultural inheritance, learn about China, and understand contemporary Chinese developments.

Grooming leaders

Added Mr Ang: 'The scholarships from the three universities will further boost our efforts to groom effectively bilingual and bicultural leaders - leaders who have a global perspective, yet are culturally aware of and have a deep appreciation for their Chinese origins.'

He also believes that this programme serves as a good alternative to Ivy League universities in the UK and US.

Yu Fung is definitely among those keen to go on this route less travelled.

He feels that studying medicine in China will expose him to a blend of both Chinese and Western education.

'China universities have lecturers from Western countries teaching certain modules,' he said.

He also believes that China's large population makes it a 'lucrative market for doctors to serve in', as he foresees a surge in the demand for medical care.

But he plans to return to Singapore, since his family is here.

General sentiment

He agrees that the general sentiment among his peers is that universities in the UK and US are better known for pursuing a medical degree, but he will still choose to do so in China.

He said: 'If the experience proves insufficient, I can always go to the West to further my studies later on.'

Fellow final-year student Ang Li Shian, 18, agreed.

She, too, hopes to be accepted into HCI's through-train programme with the China universities, but would consider doing her master's in the West later.

She wants to pursue a degree in business and public relations, either in Peking or Fudan University.

Her parents and friends are supportive of her decision, although the latter sometimes tease her about it.

'They ask, 'Do you think your Chinese language standard is good enough?' she said.

Good enough or not, she will find out if she has been accepted into the programme next March, when HCI reveals the list of selected students.

The first batch will start their undergraduate studies in China next year.

For now, Li Shian is concentrating on getting good grades for her prelims.

'So that I can get into the programme,' she said with a laugh.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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