SINGAPORE - A record $45 million in tertiary tuition fee subsidies was given out by self-help group Yayasan Mendaki to the Malay/Muslim community last year, up from $43 million in 2019.
The money benefited more than 10,000 students, including 240 who were invited to reapply for the scheme even though they had not been previously eligible.
"This is important because many of their families were affected by revisions in their take-home pay," said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Saturday (June 12). "We recognised, early in 2020, that we should support our students to carry on their studies, and that their financial situation should not be a reason why they should stop."
The scheme subsidises fees for eligible Malay students pursuing their first diploma or degree at local government tertiary institutions. Asked if Mendaki expects demand for the scheme to further increase, given the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Masagos replied that this would be a "happy problem" in a way because it would mean more are in tertiary courses.
The organisation will ensure that at least two-thirds of Malay students in tertiary education will qualify for the scheme, he added. "Over the mid and long term, we are seeing a healthy trend of more Malay students participating in post-secondary education, particularly at the undergrad level."
The minister, who chairs Mendaki, was speaking to reporters following the organisation's annual general meeting on Saturday. During a virtual press conference, he gave an update on Mendaki's work over the past year, noting that a total of $500,000 was given out to more than 970 Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students as an interim allowance to offset the costs of their meals and transport.
More than 300 laptops were also loaned to students - ranging from pre-schoolers to ITE students - to help them with home-based learning during last year's circuit breaker.
On employment, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad, who was also present at the press conference, said Mendaki will be embarking on a study of employment and employability issues faced by the Malay/Muslim community.
The aim is to identify factors that influence workers' career decisions, and understand their attitudes towards topics such as lifelong learning, he said.
Mr Zaqy urged the community to embrace lifelong learning "as a way of life and a part of our culture", adding that each individual should keep themselves updated on changing needs in the job market.
Last year, continuing education and training provider Mendaki Sense provided career counselling and guidance to at least 2,699 people. Of these, 886 subsequently found jobs - among them 790 Malay/Muslim workers. It also conducted 54 workshops and courses on topics such as digital literacy, attended by a total of 1,560 workers.
This article has been edited for accuracy.