Parliamentary Questions for the Minister for Education

Hazel Asks the Education Minister

Data Security on Mobile Guardian

8 May 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) how many parents and staff respectively have had their data leaked in the data security breach incident concerning unauthorised access into the user management portal of Mobile Guardian; and (b) what are the steps being taken to raise the security level on such portals.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: This question has been addressed by Parliamentary Question Nos 28 to 31, as published in the Circular for Written Answers on 7 May 2024. [Please refer to “Probe into Recent Mobile Guardian Data Breach Incident and Impact on Cybersecurity Measures for School Apps”, Official Report, 7 May 2024, Vol 95, Issue 135, Written Answers to Questions for Oral Answer not Answered by End of Question Time section.]

Character and Citizenship Education Lessons on Gaza Conflict

2 April 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) whether he can make public the content and materials of the Character and Citizenship Education lesson on the Israel-Hamas conflict; and (b) whether any teacher has declined to deliver a lesson and, if so, how is such a situation dealt with.

The Minister for Education (Mr Chan Chun Sing): Mr Speaker, Sir, may I have your permission to take the next three Parliamentary Questions together, please?

Mr Speaker: Please proceed.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Speaker, Sir, these questions have been addressed in my response on the Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) Lesson on the Israel-Hamas Conflict at Ministry of Education’s (MOE’s) Committee of Supply (COS) Debate on 4 March 2024, which can be found on MOE’s website.

I understand that Mr Leong was absent during my speech and our subsequent discussion, while Ms Hazel Poa was around. So, with your permission, Mr Speaker, Sir, may I ask the Clerks to distribute the transcript of my response. Members may also access these materials through the MP@SGParl app.

Mr Speaker: Please proceed. [A handout was distributed to hon Members.]

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Speaker, Sir, if I may continue, Ms Hazel Poa may refer to paragraphs 40 to 41 in the handout, on making the lesson materials public; and paragraph 9 as well as paragraphs 18 to 21, on the response of teachers and how we are supporting our teachers to deliver the lessons. Mr Leong Mun Wai may also refer to paragraphs 13 to 16 on how the lesson materials are customised for different levels of students.

Mr Sharael Taha may refer to paragraph 36 on how teachers ensure a safe space for discussion of such issues, and paragraphs 28 to 31 and paragraph 51 on the lesson’s intent for students to learn how to maintain our religious and racial harmony.

Ms Hazel Poa (Non-Constituency Member): The Minister has said that instead of releasing the slides, MOE would prefer to explain directly to the parents. Can the Minister let us know, how many schools have organised such dialogue sessions?

And secondly, I understand that the CCE materials were curated with the help of the other agencies, like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), can I ask the Minister whether there were any prior consultations, given the context of this issue, with community and religious leaders, as well as prior consultation with the teachers who are to deliver these lessons?

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Speaker, Sir, on the first supplementary question, the offer stands. All our schools are prepared to engage parents who are concerned with the material. And so far, some schools have received such requests. Most of them have not received these requests. For those schools that have received these requests, they have engaged the parents.

On the second question about consultation, yes, indeed, MOE consult various stakeholders, but I think we have to be clear when we use the word “consult”, what do we mean? Do we mean to consult to do or not to do, or do we mean to consult on the content of what to do? And I can be sure, we all in this House can be sure, that in any consultation there will be a diversity of views of to do or not to do. Ultimately, consultation does not take away the leadership responsibility for us to decide what is right and necessary to do for our own society and our children. So, yes, we consult but, ultimately, we need to make that leadership decision. And that is our responsibility.

Second, on whether we consult on the content, as I have said, in my parliamentary explanation on 4 March, this is not a history lesson and we welcome suggestions from all Members on how we can make the material more targeted, more suitable. But I will be the first one to admit that I think none of us, none of us, not even historians, will be able to come up with what would be considered a fair representation from everyone’s perspective – and that is not our goal.

As I have mentioned before, in my media interview, we are not here to adjudicate between the right and wrong of a conflict that has happened for many years, decades, if not centuries. Each and every one of us will judge the material from our own perspective and come to our conclusion to what is fair or not.

If there are constructive suggestions on how we can simplify the material to make it simpler, better, we welcome that. But I would caution against thinking that any one of us can come up with a set of materials that will satisfy everybody. And that is not our goal.

Our goal is to understand that such differences exist and they have an emotive pull on different segments of our population in different directions. And our goal is to ask ourselves how to help our children navigate through these challenges, come to their conclusions, but, most importantly, not lose the peace and harmony that we have in this land. And it is a work that is in progress, a work that is very much in progress.

Fees and Subsidies for University Students

2 April 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education for students studying all types of degrees at our local universities in 2023 (a) what are the total fees paid by local and international students respectively; and (b) what are the total subsidies including allowances and stipends given to local and international students respectively.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Tuition fees in our Autonomous Universities (AUs) are differentiated by citizenship, with international students paying higher fees than Singapore Citizen students for the same course. The annual tuition fees can be found on the AUs’ websites. Students pay fees to the AUs and the total amount of fees paid is dependent on the student enrolment in an academic year. The Ministry of Education (MOE) does not collect this data.

The bulk of MOE’s $2.65 billion budget for AUs in FY2024 will go towards supporting the education of Singapore Citizens. International students at the AUs receive lower subsidies than Singapore Citizens. International students also form a small proportion of the total undergraduate student population (about 10%¹ ) at our AUs. [Please refer to “Full-fee Paying vs Tuition Grant-receiving Non-Singaporean Students in Government-funded Autonomous Universities”, Official Report, 12 September 2022, Vol 95, Issue 67, Written Answers to Questions section.]

Note(s) to Question No(s) 24:

¹ The Member can refer to the reply on the proportion of international students enrolled in our AUs (at the undergraduate level) at the Parliamentary Sitting on 12 Sept 2022.

Separate Sittings of National Examinations

6 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) whether students are able to combine results from separate sittings of (i) GCE O-level examinations when applying for admissions into educational institutions like polytechnics and junior colleges and (ii) GCE A-level examinations when applying for admissions into universities; (b) whether the same arrangement will apply to the planned Secondary Education Certificate examinations from 2027; and (c) whether the same arrangements apply to international students.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Under the current Joint Admissions Exercise, applicants from the Ministry of Education (MOE) schools may combine results from two separate sittings of the GCE “O” level examination when applying for admission to Junior Colleges (JC), Millenia Institute (MI), polytechnics or the Institute of Technical Education. This arrangement will continue under the Singapore-Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate examinations from 2027.

For admission to Autonomous Universities, applicants from JCs and MI are required to use the results from their H2 content-based subjects and General Paper/ Knowledge and Inquiry taken at the same sitting of the “A” level examinations. They are allowed to combine these results with their results from Project Work, Mother Tongue Language and H1 content-based subjects from a separate sitting.

These arrangements and requirements apply to local and international students from MOE schools.

Students Admitted to ITE

6 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) in the past three years, what is the annual number of students who apply to ITE; (b) of these, what is the number of students who gain admission to ITE broken down by (i) O-level qualifications (ii) N(A)-level qualifications (iii) N(T)-level qualifications and (iv) other qualifications.

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education with regard to admissions into Institutes of Technical Education (a) how is the allocation of places between O-level and N-level students decided; and (b) how are the grades on subjects taken at the different Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) levels taken into account when computing the points for admission.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Between 2021 and 2023, around 12,700 secondary school students from all streams applied to Nitec and Higher Nitec courses at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) each year. Subject grades taken at different levels are converted to ITE aggregate points, which are then used for admission. Each year, around 10,900 students enrolled in ITE. Most of the students who did not enrol in ITE were Normal (Academic) students who progressed to other pathways, such as Secondary 5 or the Polytechnic Foundation Programme.

The Ministry of Education will continue to cater sufficient post-secondary places for all secondary school students across the different pathways.

Noise Regulations in Public Schools

10 January 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) whether there are noise regulations relating to public educational institutions for both during and after their operating hours; and (b) if so, what are these regulations.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Public educational institutions follow the same regulations and guidelines for noise as other entities.

Integrated Programme Students Taking GCE ‘O’ Level As Private Candidates

7 November 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education whether students in Government, Government-aided and independent schools, such as (i) students on the Integrated Programme who wish to sit for GCE O-level examinations and (ii) students who wish to register for subjects not offered by their schools, are allowed to register for GCE O-level examinations as private candidates.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Students in Government, Government-aided, independent and specialised schools are not allowed to register for the GCE O-Level examinations as private candidates, as they will already register as school candidates. However, schools have the discretion to register students as school candidates for the O-Level examinations in subjects not offered by the school. Schools exercise this option judiciously and consider the overall curriculum and assessment load, aspirations and well-being of their students.

For students in the Integrated Programme (IP), we encourage them to pursue broader learning experiences using the time freed up from preparing for the O-Level examinations. They are allowed to take the O-Level examination as school candidates in some instances, such as to fulfil the national policy on mother tongue language, if they are in the Third Language Programme or in the Art/Music Elective Programmes. Beyond this, allowing IP students to take the O-Level examinations as private candidates would go against the intent of the Integrated Programme.

ITE Students Proceeding to Polytechnics

3 August 2023

Ms Hazel Poa (Non-Constituency Member): I would like to seek a clarification from the Minister. Given that the GPA has been increased from 2.0 to 2.5, each year, how many ITE students with a GPA of between 2.0 and 2.5 enrol in the polytechnics? Was there a study done into how they fare in their polytechnic studies? For example, what percentage was able to successfully complete their polytechnic course?

Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman: The group of students with a GPA of 2.0 to 2.5 is very small. As it is, they apply to get in and, based on the number of places available, most who get admitted would already have gotten a GPA of 2.5 and above. Those with a GPA of 2.0 to 2.5 do complete their polytechnic education, but we notice that their completion rates may not be as good as those with a GPA of 2.5 and above.

But I just want to say that those who have a GPA of 2.0 and above have access to other diploma courses. Today, ITE provides diploma courses in the form of a work-study diploma as well a technical diploma. These are diplomas provided by ITE and these are more hands-on.

We notice that for some of these students, they do better in hands-on-related courses that are offered at the diploma level for our students in ITE. The employment outcomes for the technical diploma as well as the work-study diploma are equivalent to the outcomes of students who receive a diploma from our polytechnics.

18 September 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education for each year in the past five years (a) how many ITE students attained a Grade Point Average of between 2.0 and 2.5; (b) how many of these students proceeded to enrol into polytechnics; and (c) what percentage of these students successfully completed their polytechnic courses.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: In the past five years, around 300 Higher Nitec students with a net Grade Point Average (GPA) of between 2.0 and 2.5 progressed to the polytechnics yearly. The performance and completion rates of ITE graduates in our polytechnics generally correlate with their GPA obtained, with students obtaining a GPA above 2.5 doing better than those below.

Starting Salary of Foreign Graduates

9 January 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) in each of the last 20 years, what are the numbers and percentages of foreign graduates from local universities and local polytechnics who entered our workforce respectively; and (b) what is the median starting salary of these foreign and local graduates respectively.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: The proportion of international students in our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) has been 10% on average. Their employment outcomes and wages are similar to the local students.

Citizens Who Apply To Read Medicine But Are Rejected

7 November 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) in the past five years, how many Singapore Citizens applied to study medicine in our local Universities but were rejected due to (i) not meeting the entry requirements (ii) meeting the entry requirements but there were not enough places in the University and (iii) other reasons, and what are these; (b) what are these entry requirements; and (c) how do these requirements compare with those of foreign universities whose qualifications we accept for medical practice in Singapore.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Admission to Medicine programmes in the Autonomous Universities (AUs) is a rigorous process based on merit. Applicants are required to meet minimum academic prerequisites as stated on the AUs’ websites, and present personal portfolios with positive referee reports. Shortlisted candidates are required to undergo interviews, where they are assessed not only on academic ability, but also attributes, such as care for others and good communication skills.

The medical schools at NUS and NTU attract applications from many highly-qualified Singaporean students. Of the Singapore Citizens who applied to Medicine in NUS and NTU in the last five years, about 2,400 applicants per year, on average, were rejected. About two-thirds of those rejected did not meet the admissions criteria as determined by the respective medical schools.

The list of foreign medical schools whose qualifications are accepted for medical practice in Singapore is governed by the Medical Registration Act, which is publicly accessible. We do not track admissions criteria in overseas universities.

To meet manpower needs in the medical sector, the Government has increased the pipeline of locally-trained doctors over the last 10 years by raising the combined intake in the medical schools by about 60% from around 320 in 2010 to 510 in 2019.

We will continue to balance and cater to the manpower needs of the various sectors across the economy. To ensure a fair share of talent to meet the diverse needs of the various sectors, all manpower planning must be considered holistically as a system in totality and not in isolation.

SkillsFuture Training and Job Offers

7 November 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) how many Singaporeans and Permanent Residents have received SkillsFuture training to date; and (b) of those who receive training, how many have been offered jobs, broken down by age group and sectors, respectively.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) publishes the number of Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who benefited from SSG-supported programmes each year. In 2021, the number was about 660,000 individuals and, in 2020, the number was around 540,000.

SSG-supported training goes towards fostering upskilling and reskilling for the broad swath of Singaporeans across ages and career stages. This includes workers who are in-employment and picking up skills that are relevant to their current jobs, as well as individuals who are looking to make career transitions and hence picking up skills for the job they aspire to move to.

Individuals who were offered jobs are, typically, those who make career transitions. For this group, the SSG-supported Train-and-Place programmes are designed to equip individuals with industry-relevant skills coupled with employment facilitation. During the pandemic, these were ramped up as the SGUnited Skills (SGUS) and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme – Company Training (SGUP-CT) to support jobseekers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 26,000 Singaporeans and Permanent Residents participated in the SGUS and SGUP-CT programmes as of end-March 2022, that is, FY2021. Around 64% of those below aged 40 and 56% of those aged 40 and above found employment within six months after course completion. The largest number of placements were in the Information & Communications, Healthcare, and Professional Services sectors.

With the recovery of the economy, SSG has transited the SGUnited programmes to the steady state SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme which was officially launched in April 2022. These courses will continue to support mid-career workers in transitioning into in-demand sectors. As courses are ongoing, data on placements are not yet available.

Student-initiated Learning

4 October 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education since the introduction of Student-Initiated Learning (SIL) (a) how many schools have implemented SIL; (b) how has it been implemented; and (c) what has been the outcome of the implementation.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: At the end of May 2022, more than eight in 10 Secondary schools and pre-University institutions have implemented Student-Initiated Learning (SIL) as part of regular Home-Based Learning (HBL) days. SIL is a component of HBL days where time is set aside for students to pursue their own interests and learn outside the curriculum. This is to encourage students to be more curious and self-directed in their learning.

Schools have the flexibility to implement SIL in ways to better support their students’ interests and needs. For example, some schools have facilitated the grouping of students with similar interests, so that they can explore their interests together. Some schools have provided students who needed more guidance with suggested activities or resources at the start and will reduce the scaffolds over time.

Students have responded positively to SIL, pursuing interests such as learning foreign languages, learning to play musical instruments, programming, cooking or serving the community. Preliminary feedback indicates that SIL is valued by schools and students. We will evaluate the outcomes when the initiative is fully implemented.

Training for Foreigners

3 October 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) whether there are any Government-subsidised training schemes available to work pass holders, long-term visit pass holders and dependant pass holders; and (b) if so, what are these schemes and what is the amount of subsidy spent on each group in each of the past three years.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Continuing Education and Training (CET) schemes and subsidies provided by the Government primarily benefit Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents. These schemes seek to support our local workforce in upskilling and reskilling to improve their employability, as well as to meet the industry and enterprises’ skills demand.

Training subsidies for MOE/SSG-supported modular courses and Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) courses that Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents enjoy are extended only to Long-Term Visit Pass Plus (LTVP+) holders, who are eligible foreign spouses of Singapore Citizens, in recognition that they are likely to remain in Singapore, contribute to the financial support for their families and contribute to our economy.

Since October 2021, the expenditure on CET subsidies for LTVP+ holders enrolled in modular courses and WSQ courses is less than 0.02% of the total CET subsidies that SSG provides for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents.

Non-Singaporean University Students

12 September 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) what is the current number of non-Singapore citizen students in each Government-funded autonomous university; (b) what are the absolute number and percentage of non-Singapore citizen students who are paying full fees versus those receiving tuition grants; and (c) whether the Ministry has similar data on autonomous universities in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and, if so, how do the data compare with each other.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: The proportion of International Students (ISes) enrolled in the Autonomous Universities (AUs) at undergraduate level has remained at around 10% in recent years, while the proportion of Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) has been less than 5%.

The proportion of ISes in the AUs who are paying full fees has been around 20%. The remainder are recipients of tuition grants, which require them to work in Singapore for at least three years upon graduation, as part of their service obligation.

The proportion of international students and fees that they pay varies across other countries, and some may also administer financial aid. We do not track the data.

Discriminatory Statements by HCI School Counsellor

2 August 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education with regard to the staff in Hwa Chong Institution who delivered discriminatory content (a) what are the duties that he is retaining; and (b) what safeguard is in place to ensure that such incident does not happen again.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Following the incident, the school counsellor, who is an employee of Hwa Chong Institution (HCI), has been suspended from all duties, pending further investigation by the school personnel board.

Parents and students have been given the assurance that the views expressed by the counsellor do not reflect that of the school. The school has also emphasised the importance of respect and care for everyone in the school community.

The school has been watching out for students who may be affected by this incident. Teachers have been vigilant in monitoring their students’ well-being, and students who have concerns or require support have been encouraged to approach the School Leaders or a trusted adult in school.

The school is reviewing its processes to ensure alignment with MOE’s curriculum and guidelines.

Home-Based Learning

4 October 2021

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education whether the Ministry will consider moving schools to HBL in view of the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.

The Minister for Education (Mr Chan Chun Sing): Mr Speaker, Sir, can I have your permission to take Question Nos 21 and 22 together?

Mr Speaker: Yes, please.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: MOE’s approach has been to keep schools safe so that they can remain open as far as possible. We recognise that home-based learning (HBL) cannot be a full substitute for the school-based learning experience. On a prolonged basis, it comes at a cost not just to students’ learning but also their socio-emotional development and mental well-being. It also imposes a burden on families and society. Moreover, not all students have a home environment conducive to HBL.

The past few months have given us greater confidence that we can strike a balance by taking a more targeted approach to ringfence cases and their close contacts. For example, rather than resorting to full HBL across all schools, or the entire level, we would only place affected classes on HBL in response to a confirmed case, if there is a possibility of transmission within schools.

To reduce the possible disruption to the PSLE cohort and as an additional precautionary measure for Primary schools, we had placed all our Primary schools on HBL from 27 September to 6 October. Subsequently, when the national posture tightened, this was extended by a day to include 7 October, effectively covering Term 4, Week 3 to 4, or two weeks, given that Children’s Day on 8 October is already a school holiday.

Schools mitigate the impact of HBL by using technology to minimise disruption to curriculum coverage and maintain social connections. Teachers use online platforms and resources to ensure that students who are away from school can continue learning and conduct regular check-ins with these students to monitor their well-being. Schools have sufficient computing devices and Internet-enabling devices to loan to students and remain open for high needs students and those without alternative caregiving arrangements during HBL.

We will continue to review the need for further periods of HBL, based on the prevailing COVID-19 situation and national posture.

GCE ‘A’ Levels in Integrated Programme

1 March 2021

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education (a) in 2020, what is the number of Integrated Programme students; (b) what is the average class size; (c) how many of them took the GCE “A” levels in 2019; and (d) how many of them could not meet the entry requirements for local universities.

Mr Lawrence Wong: Around 4,000 Secondary 1 students enter the Integrated Programme (IP) each year, which is roughly 10% of the PSLE cohort. The average class size in IP schools is similar to that of other secondary schools (for IP Years 1 to 4) and JCs (for IP Years 5 and 6).

IP students may obtain the GCE A-Level certificate, International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma, or NUS High School Diploma at the end of the six-year programme. About 3,300 IP students sat for the 2019 GCE A-Level examination, with similar numbers doing so in 2020. Of the IP students who sat for the GCE A-Level in 2019, more than 95% qualified for our local Autonomous Universities.

Private Candidates

16 February 2021

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education whether any financial assistance is available to students not attending Government, Government-aided or Government-funded schools but who are preparing for national examinations like the PSLE, GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels as private candidates.

Mr Lawrence Wong: MOE’s financial assistance schemes are available to eligible Singaporean students studying in government and government-aided schools, specialised schools, independent schools and special education schools. In addition, fees for the four national examinations (i.e. PSLE, GCE N-Level, O-Level, and A-Level) are waived for all Singaporean students studying in these schools.

Students not enrolled in these schools and who require financial support can approach their nearest Social Service Office or other community organisations for assistance.