By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond
Yesterday, AGO released its 2016 reportrevealing lapses in a number of government ministries. Among them is the Ministry of Education (MOE).
AGO found that NUS, NTU and MOE did not maintain adequate oversight over scholarship recipients who failed to serve their bonds. These are students who have studied at NUS and NTU. In essence, NUS, NTU and MOE have failed in their enforcement of the scholarship bonds.
“Without proper oversight of the monitoring and enforcement actions on fulfillment of the scholarship bonds, there was no assurance that the scholarship grants were used optimally for the intended purpose,” said AGO.
AGO did not say who these students are in its report but in an ST report today, ST has identified that these are in fact, foreign students who were given Singapore scholarship (http://www.straitstimes.com/
ST reported, “The Ministry of Education (MOE) did not do enough to ensure that foreign students who received scholarships but failed to serve their bonds were reminded of their obligations and paid up liquidated damages.”
In the financial year 2014/2015, some $40 million was disbursed to the scholarship schemes for foreign students, AGO noted.
AGO checked that in 30 cases of foreign scholars who chose not to serve their required bonds, the universities did not do anything about it for almost half or 14 cases. They did not send letters to remind the foreign students of their obligations, or impose liquidated damages in cases which warranted it.
In any case, most of these students would have left Singapore and it’s not known if the universities or MOE would be able to contact them.
In two other cases, the letters were sent after a lag of about 1.5 and 2 years, which means the bond-breaking foreign students could be residing anywhere else in the world by the time the letters were sent.
AGO also noted that MOE could have done more, given that the universities submit yearly reports on the bond status of its scholarship winners. “MOE could have followed up with the universities on cases where actions had not been taken,” it said.
“50% of my schoolmates did not serve bonds and return to China”
Few years ago, China media was able to catch up with some Chinese scholars who had studied in Singapore universities (http://www.chinanews.com/
One of the reasons for returning home without serving bond is because the foreign students were no longer given PR automatically upon graduation from Singapore universities, according to the students interviewed. They are supposed to serve a 3 year bond working in Singapore after they graduated.
26-year-old Weng Kang (翁康) who graduated from NTU with a Masters, told the reporter, “In the batch of schoolmates together with me, half of those who graduated after 1 year have gone home (我身边的那批同学，有一半在毕业一年后就陆续回国).”
Another student Dong Zhi Hong (董志鸿), 24, was also given scholarship to study Masters in NTU. Speaking to the Chinese reporter in Singapore, he said, “About 50 percent of my schoolmates did not serve their bonds with the government and return to China. They won’t be coming back in the future either (大概50%的同学没有履行合约就回国了，
Mr Dong had tried to apply for PR but was rejected. He told the reporter that he would try one more time. If rejected again, he would simply leave Singapore and the scholarship bond would not be able to stop him to do so. It’s not known what happened to Mr Dong.
It’s also not known if any of the foreign bond-breakers paid any monetary damages before they left Singapore but judging from the AGO report, it appears they did not.