Singapore’s government university, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has been ranked by Times Higher Education fourth for having the most international presence in the world. Ranked by anonymous “international scholars”, the survey ranked NUS by the number of international students it accepts, international staffs it hires and international publications made. It is understood that NUS’s rule of reserving a minimum of 20% of its places for foreigners as a major factor behind the survey’s strong standing.
Most of NUS’s foreign students come from Malaysia and China, whose population including permanent residents outnumbered National Service-mandated Singaporeans.
However the survey is not an indicator of the school’s capabilities. Rather the survey ranks how “internationalised”, or foreign, a school is. In recent years, Singaporeans are discouraged by the government from pursuing degree qualifications. The ruling party government claimed that such “paper-chasing” do not translate to employment and opportunities.
In 2013, Minister Khaw Boon Wan said: “If they cannot find jobs, what is the point? You own a degree, but so what? That you can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.”
While Singaporeans are discouraged from pursuing degrees, foreigners with university degrees are welcomed into the country as “foreign talents”. Foreigners from third world countries with unaccredited degrees like Philippines, India and China are also widely accepted as Employment Pass holders commanding a minimum wage of S$3,300 a month.
The primary purpose of discouraging Singaporeans from pursuing a higher education boils down to emigration. Equipped with a degree and the command of English, a Singaporean can relocate and settle comfortably in any western countries like Australia, Canada, UK or United States. Already facing the lowest birth rate in the world, Singapore’s brain drain problem has already become an acute issue. There is already insufficient Singapore-born males to serve National Service, which annual intake is steadily declining around 5% a year.
The Singapore government aims to position Singaporeans as non-graduate middle-low class, with insufficient resources to emigrate but yet remain gainfully employed. An lower-educated population is also easier for propaganda to be easier-digested, with not many critical thinking questions asked, as seen from the majority of the ruling party supporter base who are largely elderly and uneducated.