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Allow more foreign students the S'pore school experience

Students at the canteen in the Singapore American School.
Students at the canteen in the Singapore American School. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is justifiably placing the needs of Singaporeans first ("More expats find it tough to get kids into local schools"; last Sunday).

Foreign students can no longer approach local schools directly for a place as it is compulsory for them to pass an Admissions Exercise for International Students first. Such measures are taken to ensure a Singaporean core in schools.

Foreign students from middle-income families are thus caught between a rock and a hard place: local schools are too difficult to get in, while international schools are too expensive to attend.

Having more foreign children study in our local schools may ease their predicament and help to broaden the Singaporean core.

I have met in local schools foreign students of Korean and Filipino origins, who have become Singaporean in the way they think and speak. These students may not become Singaporeans, but the friendships and experiences they gain here will help them to identify closely with Singaporeans.

With MOE receiving 3,000 to 3,500 applications from foreign students yearly to join local schools, this is fertile ground to broaden the Singaporean core.

While we should be careful not to open the floodgates that will dilute the Singaporean core in schools, we should also be confident enough to exercise flexibility and find ways to allow more foreign students to gain access to education in local schools ("MP calls for greater flexibility in allocating places for foreigners"; last Sunday). Such a move will serve the greater interest of Singaporeans better.

William Tan Whee Kiem

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 20, 2016, with the headline 'Allow more foreign students the S'pore school experience'. Print Edition | Subscribe