MOE 'actively monitoring' foreign students' bond challenges

International students should approach their universities for help if they have problems fulfilling bond requirements. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is "actively monitoring" the situation faced by foreign students, who have difficulties securing jobs after graduating from local universities.

"The MOE is cognisant that international students have to fulfil their tuition grant obligations, and we work with the institutes of higher learning and other public agencies to help facilitate their application for the necessary work pass arrangements while keeping to the Fair Consideration Framework," said a spokesman, referring to the Manpower Ministry's policy of ensuring that employers do not discriminate against Singaporeans in their hiring practices.

MOE said that international students should approach their universities for help if they have problems fulfilling their bond requirements.

It declined to say how many foreign students are under the scheme currently and what happens to those who are unable to find jobs after repeated attempts.

The Tuition Grant Scheme was introduced by the Government in 1980 to help subsidise the cost of tertiary education for students enrolled in full-time diploma or undergraduate courses.

Unlike their local counterparts, international students and permanent residents who accept the offer of a tuition grant are contractually obliged to work in a Singapore-registered company on a full-time basis for three years upon graduation.

They are expected to secure employment on their own after graduation, and can work for different organisations over three years in any sector, even if it is unrelated to their degree or diploma.

If they do not fulfil their work service obligation, they are liable to pay liquidated damages that include 10 per cent annual interest, compounded, which can range from $80,000 to more than $100,000, according to students The Sunday Times spoke to.

If they have not found employment after a year, they must inform MOE and provide evidence of their job search, including all job applications submitted and rejection letters received.

In a reply to a parliamentary question in March 2016 about what action is taken against international students who knowingly decide not to fulfil their grant obligations, then Education Minister Ong Ye Kung had said: "Where liquidated damages cannot be recovered, defaulters face serious adverse consequences if they subsequently apply to work or reside in Singapore."

The consequences include being barred from obtaining a work pass or long-term visit pass.

Wong Shiying

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 20, 2020, with the headline MOE 'actively monitoring' foreign students' bond challenges. Subscribe