I have not been following this matter closely. But my understanding is that this year, many Singaporeans haven't been able to secure a place in our local universities. This is despite scoring A-level grades which, in previous years, would have enabled them to do so quite easily.
The question then arises - should Singaporean citizens get priority for university admission? After all, a high proportion of university places now go to foreign students.
I was rather surprised by these two bloggers' opinions on the matter - Bart JP and Aaron Ng. They didn't seem to think that citizens should get priority for university admission.
But of course citizens should get priority.
Let's take it one simple step at a time.
Should a country and its government provide education opportunities for its people? Certainly.
That's a big reason why citizens pay taxes. So that the government can build kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools, universities etc.
After all, we want our citizens to be well-educated, don't we? Our economy needs a skilled workforce, doesn't it? (Duh. That was so self-evident that it's absurd I even have to point it out).
Next question. When is a Singaporean citizen good enough to deserve a place in our local universities?
Well, if you had access to the relevant data, you could simply check the "market rates" from previous years. They would be a good indicator.
For example, if you looked at data from the past five years, you could say: "To get a place in NTU Engineering, you should score at least ____. To get a place in SMU Business, you should score around _________. To get a place in NUS Law, you must usually score _________." Etc.
Check with your junior college principal. JC principals usually keep track of such things. The "market rates" may vary a little from year to year, but typically they wouldn't fluctuate that much.
But apparently, this year the "market rates" did jump wildly. Like the Shanghai stock market, the market basically went mad. Previous years' rates no longer apply. Everything went haywire. University places are sharply short; and at least part of the reason is that local universities are absorbing an ever-increasing number of foreigners.
The basic point still remains. It is the responsibility of the government to provide adequate education opportunities for its citizens.
And right now, it seems that the education opportunities are simply not enough.
So it looks like we just might be beginning to revert back to the 1970s, when Singapore was a 3rd world country and many citizens didn't have a chance for higher education.
So much for progress.
Anyway, how did this rather surprising turn of events come about - that students scoring quite decent grades are simply not able to get a place in our universities?
Heh. Actually there's nothing surprising about it. Look at our property market. Look at our residential rental rates. Look at the crowds on our MRT trains and in our food courts. Look at the endless jam on the CTE.
And then look at our university situation.
See the pattern? Due to a massive intake of foreigners in recent years, our resident population has exploded. We've become the 2nd most crowded country in the world. And our current infrastructure just can't cope.
To their credit, both the URA and the LTA already saw this coming and they've been scrambling to make the necessary changes.
But the Education Ministry didn't see it coming. Neither did the local universities.
And that, simply, is that.
Ask not what your country will do for you. Because in Singapore, the answer is - not much.