Photo of Ong Ye Kung from The Straits Times

In a freudian slip by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, the Minister unwittngly disclosed a state secret that the Singapore government put a cap on the number of degree holders by only allowing 30% of each cohort to enter government universities. The open admission proved that even if a Singaporean student qualifies for tertiary education in a local university, he will still be denied the right to study regardless of meritocracy.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung made the revelation today (May 4th) at a forum discussion in Switzerland, and also said the policy is to prevent degree holders flooding the market like “some Asian countries”:

“In Singapore, this means capping the proportion of graduates in a cohort at about 30 to 40 per cent, while training the rest for vocations in various industries. This approach has ensured there was no glut of graduates in Singapore, and kept graduate unemployment low, unlike in some Asian countries.”

Like throwing bad rubbish, Singaporeans who qualify for universities but are denied a place are accepted into Polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education (ITEs) – where starting pay starts as low as S$1,500 a month.

In the meantime, foreigners qualifying for Employment Pass (EP) will need to hold a minimum Bachelor Degree – even when the degree is from a village university in Philippines, China or India. EP visa holders are also guaranteed a Minimum Wage of S$3,600, while there is no Minimum Wage for Singaporeans. There is also no labour market testing or skills shortage list, resulting in the devastation of the IT and engineering industry.  Singapore employers often complain about shortage of talent and the government complains about “skills mismatch” – both entities collaborated to justify the increase in the intake of more foreign degree holders.

Foreign students are also given a minimum 20% quota guaranteed in local universities, although major local universities like NUS and NTU sees as much as 50% foreign students including Permanent Residents enrolled each year. Foreign students are also excused stringent English tests and provided with free remedial English lessons, while Singaporean students have to score at least a B-grade in Cambridge A Levels General Papers.

Each year, about 25,000 foreigners are given Singaporean citizenship and over 50% of them were former EP holders-turned-PRs. With elections held every 5 years, the ruling party enjoys free 100,000 new votes guaranteed from the new citizens. It is understood that new citizens now amount to at least 300,000 in the past 15 years, translating to an estimated 10% of the total votes already reserved for the ruling party PAP.

However, there are also Singaporeans who refuse to take local universities rejection letters as final. Each year, about 20,000 Singaporeans enroll in private universities to pursue their degrees. A degree is a basic requirement for skilled migration overseas and many young adults have since emigrated elsewhere, further worsening the falling birth rate.