Reasons to reconsider school fee hike

I share Ms Jolene Tan Siyu's feelings about the increase in local school fees for non-citizens ("School fee hike may have divisive implications"; last Saturday).

I am one of the "returning Singaporeans". After 21 years in the United States, I took a hefty pay cut to return to Singapore in 2006. My parents were ageing, with my mother in declining health.

While I remained a proud citizen of Singapore during the two decades abroad, I have two sons who are equally proud to be American.

I enrolled both of them in my alma mater for primary school.

In 2007, my older son's fees cost $131 a month. The school fees for my younger son at the same school are now $500 a month.

Next year, I will have two sons in local secondary schools. At Secondary 4, one son's fees will be $800 monthly, and the fees for Secondary 1 will be $1,500 a month.

So, why not convince both sons to take up Singapore citizenship? That would mean giving up their US citizenship, a choice that should be made by them when they are older.

I ask the Government to review the new move for several reasons:

First, returning Singaporeans frequently have foreign spouses and foreign-born children.

A way of encouraging overseas Singaporeans to return home includes looking at the cost of education for the non-Singaporean offspring.

Second, diversity is an excellent teacher. Schools celebrate Racial Harmony Day, so why not encourage Singaporeans to befriend classmates of different nationalities?

Why wait till Singaporeans join the workforce or travel overseas to experience different cultures?

Third, foreign students who live and study in Singapore might learn to appreciate and respect our culture. When they return to their own countries, they could befriend and better support Singaporeans who move abroad to study or work.

Finally, perhaps we could learn from other institutions that actively support international students.

In my final two years at the University of Georgia, I was awarded a "waiver of out-of-state tuition".

As a foreign student, I was, thus, paying the same school fees as US citizens from the state of Georgia.

Ten international students were picked for this award yearly.

The selection criteria were based on how the international student had contributed to university student life and diversity. I was a fortunate recipient twice.

I urge the Government to rethink its policy.

Wong Ting Yean (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Reasons to reconsider school fee hike'. Print Edition | Subscribe