A: As Medicine is his only passion, his only route at the moment was to do it at NUS Medical School, but unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut at the final (interview) stage where only about 260 students were selected. Therefore, that leaves him with no choice but to do it overseas.
Did your son try to apply for the local unis at all and were there any reasons for the rejection?
A: Yes, he applied to NUS but failed to make it past the interview stage. No reasons were given as the interview was very subjective – at the mercy of the interviewers.
How are his grades like?
A: A-level As for Maths/Chemistry/Physics at H2 and A for GP at H1.
How much do you think you will need to spend on his overseas study for the next few years?
A: We were told it could need some S$100,000 for each year of study in Australia, so for the 6-year duration, some S$600,000.
Last year, 60% of doctors who registered with Singapore Medical Association were foreigners, what is your opinion on this?
A: I find this very ironic: on the one hand, so many highly qualified students were denied the chance to study locally (on subsidised basis) but on the other hand, the government has to “import” 60% of the requirement from overseas (how stringent the screening process notwithstanding). I really have serious doubt on the quality of leaders at MOE and MOH as this is clearly a problem of lack of foresight and poor planning - and mind you, this has been brought up many times in the past (by me and others), not that this is a very recent problem.
Do you think that our local unis should expand it’s intake of 300 medical students (for NUS medical faulty)?
A: Definitely yes, although they are already in the process of adding additional intakes at Duke-NUS (graduate level) and NTU-Imperial. Still, with the additional intakes, it may not be enough to meet the demand annually, we we may continue to see the government “importing” foreigners to fill the gaps while our very own highly qualified students are still denied the chance to study Medicine locally.
What are the chances of your son staying on in a foreign country after graduation and why so?
A: I would say, very very high as I understand the working conditions and general living condition/standard is much higher in Australia, besides the better opportunity to specialize. As an aside, it has been reported that he may be better off returning to Singapore as a “foreign talent” given the perks accorded to them as compared to citizens.
If you are the education minister, what area would you like to see revamp and why?
A: I have written to the government (as well as having my article published in the Straits Times) since 2003 (almost 10 year ago) that in a globalized world, Singapore citizens (I deliberately use citizens as Singaporeans include PRs as far as the government is concerned) not only have to compete against local citizens but against the rest of the world (against the likes of China and India where their graduates with at least a degree run into tens or hundreds of millions, many times the population of Singapore), so one of my first priority will be to increase the percentage of each cohort with at least a local university undergraduate degree (from around 20-25% now) to perhaps 50% or more (even 80%). Like I said, Singapore’s only resource in their citizens, and the only way forward for its citizens to have a better life and compete with the upcoming behemoths – China, India and other BRIC (Russia and Brazil) and TIMS (Turkey, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa), fellow Tigers (South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong) and traditional first world countries like USA, UK, EU countries, etc.. – is to provide sufficient opportunities for them to at least have an undergraduate degree locally (as getting it overseas is an expensive affair). This is one area the government must spent.
Another area of focus is entrepreneurship – the universities must equip each graduate with entrepreneurship skills as mass employment opportunities with decent salaries are a thing of the past, so it is important that each Singapore citizen is equipped to come out on his or her own to start up a business to survive in a globalized world.