Presence of foreign students is beneficial: Heng

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans develop a greater understanding of the wider world by having foreigners studying here, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Monday.

He told Parliament that mixing with foreigners helps local students learn how to work with people of other races and cultures.

Foreign students who go on to work here also augment Singapore's manpower supply and help local companies seeking to expand overseas, he said.

Companies can tap these foreign students who understand the "Singapore way of doing things" and can promote the Singapore brand overseas, he said.

Citing his experience when he was a civil servant at the Trade and Industry Ministry, he noted that when he travelled in the region negotiating trade agreements, he met many people who had studied in Singapore institutions. "There is such a reservoir of goodwill and friendship and trust that allows us to do things together," he said in his reply to Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang).

The opposition MP had asked about the Ministry of Education (MOE) tightening the process for tracking foreign students to ensure they fulfil their bond obligations after graduating.

His question was among the last before the MOE's budget was passed, after a debate that had started on Friday afternoon and which covered issues such as further help for disabled students.

In his reply to Mr Png, Mr Heng also noted that Singapore was not the only country seeking to draw talented students from abroad.

China has given several Singaporeans scholarships to study in its universities.

Foreign students studying at a polytechnic or university on a MOE grant must work in a Singapore-based company for three years after they graduate.

Mr Heng said 80 per cent either start work immediately or apply to the MOE to start serving their bond at a later date. The rest are not necessarily bond defaulters, he added. For example, some could still be looking for a job.

He also said the Government tracks foreign students once they graduate and will pursue them for liquidated damages if they default on their obligations.

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