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Foreign students have some avenues for aid

They may be nominated for financial assistance from school community, grassroots or welfare organisations. -ST

Sat, Dec 26, 2009
The Straits Times

By Jennani Durai

SCHOOLS can consider extending financial help to foreign students who may have trouble paying the higher fees, but aid schemes managed by the Education Ministry are for Singaporeans only.

For the help schemes managed by the ministry, school fees and standard miscellaneous fees are waived, and primary and secondary school students get free textbooks and school uniforms.

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» School fee hike reasonable to most

So where do foreign students go to for help?

Bright permanent residents (PRs) and other foreign students may be nominated for financial assistance from the school community, grassroots or welfare organisations, said a ministry spokesman.

Some schemes, such as the Methodist Welfare Services Bursary Programme, have no restrictions on the nationality of the recipient.

Bursary awards of between $300 and $600 are given to needy students from the primary to the pre-university level.

Several other institutions offer help to PRs but not foreigners. This aid includes bursaries from the Management Development Institute of Singapore, the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, the Singapore Buddhist Youth Mission and the Singapore Indian Education Trust.

Schools may also use part of the funds raised by their school management or advisory committees to provide some assistance to needy students who are not citizens, as and when the need arises, and to subsidise examination fees.

Principals The Straits Times spoke to gave the assurance that they would lend a hand to existing students who run into financial difficulties.

Said Hong Wen Secondary School principal Ngoh Choon Ho: 'It is hard to tell the immediate impact but the fee hikes will take place only two years later, so there is time to prepare.

'If our students have any problems paying school fees, we will definitely help out.'

Some principals, such as CHIJ Kellock's Mrs Clara Lim-Tan, are reviewing the various schemes available and exploring the possibility of extending certain programmes to help non-citizen pupils.

The school is considering options such as tapping the school management committee fund or setting up a separate fund for foreign pupils.

She said: 'We recognise that not all PRs or international pupils come from well-to-do families with high incomes. They may be the ones feeling the pinch most.'

CHIJ Kellock has about 100 foreign pupils, forming 10 per cent of the school's pupil population.

Still, she said, financial aid for non-citizens would be limited as the school had obligations to its other pupils.

Government Parliamentary Committee for Education chairman Josephine Teo said that scholarships were available for deserving foreign students.

She said: 'Financial assistance schemes are for those who really need it, primarily our citizens.

'We are a small country with limited resources so we have to be practical and targeted with help provided.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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