Hokkien group expands student bursary scheme

It started two years ago with giving $3,000 a year each to 40 needy students from Singapore's five public-funded universities, to help them complete tertiary education.

This year, Chinese clan association Leong Khay Huay Kuan has spread its gift to polytechnics and increased beneficiary numbers at the universities. The clan's Education Trust Fund is offering similar bursaries to 30 students annually from the five polytechnics.

Six students from each institution - Singapore, Ngee Ann, Temasek, Nanyang (NYP) and Republic Polytechnics - will get $1,500 a year, as an extension of the bursary scheme.

The fund - which doubled to $20 million last year, from $10 million when it was set up in 2013 - increased the number of undergraduates receiving the bursaries from 40 to 60 from this year.

Twelve students from each of the five universities - the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University (SMU), Singapore University of Technology and Design and Singapore Institute of Technology - will benefit, up from eight before.

But two-thirds of the university and polytechnic bursary recipients must have at least one Hokkien parent as the 78-year-old Leong Khay Huay Kuan is a Hokkien clan group whose members trace their roots to a city in China's Fujian province.

The rest can come from other Chinese dialect groups or races.

The clan association's education fund chairman, Mr Ko Oon Joo, 63, said that, with the changes, the clan association would give out more than $250,000 a year, including scholarships and bursaries awarded to members' children.

He said that the association set up the education trust fund - probably the largest of any Chinese clan group here - after making a profit from the investment and sale of properties in Geylang and Serangoon areas over the past 10 years.

Mr Ko said that the association had left the selection and definition of "needy students" to the individual universities and polytechnics.

Most of these tertiary institutions, such as SMU and NYP, tied the definition to the students' per capita household monthly income of under $1,900.

NYP's director of student care and guidance, Mr Chai Kuek Heng, 46, said: "The bursaries from the clan association are welcome as it will help to reduce our needy students' cost of education."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'Hokkien group expands student bursary scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe