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'Singapore is a safe study destination'

June 23, 2009 12:11 IST

Following the 'racial' attacks on Indian students in Australia and Canada, of late there has been a sudden shift in students' priorities in favour of a safer study environment. After all, students are paying hefty sums as fees in foreign universities and colleges and expect not just their money's worth but a safe environment too.

Personal safety being the buzzword, Singapore has now come in to the limelight for Indian students planning to study abroad. Being an Asian country and having a large expatriate Indian community are two important factors for this.

"Our students can immediately enter the Singapore workforce on completion of their studies since the permanent residence process in that country is not that difficult," said Rajdeep Singh, the executive director of Angad Info Overseas Communication Consultancy, experts in Singapore student visas, in an interview with RMS Atwal. This is another reason why students are seriously considering Singapore. 

Excerpts from the interview:

Currently, Indian students are bit scared from the security point of view. How safe is Singapore for Indian students?

Singapore is hailed as a highly favourable destination to get a competitive degree. The country's cosmopolitan environment and global connections offer a safe environment -- the best of the East and the West -- making it a compelling destination for international students to live, interact and work together. Among the many expatriate nationalities in Singapore, there are a large number of Indian nationals, particularly in the info-communications industry.

Today, Singapore has a thriving Indian community. Indian Singaporeans play an integral role in the social, economic and political fabric of that country. Of the four main national languages of Singapore, one is Tamil. Indian students will find Singapore a welcoming nation which incorporates many facets of Indian society, from food and culture to religion, thus making it a safe destination.

Where would you place Singapore education in comparison to that of the USA, the UK and Australia?

Last year, more than 100,000 international students registered themselves with various Singapore schools that provide education in a variety of streams like science, arts, management, tourism and hospitality, information technology and business development.

The syllabus structure and academic systems in Singapore are similar to the ones followed by our Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE). Hence, Indian students easily adjust to studies there. After passing Class XII, one can opt for a Bachelor's degree in vocational subjects like tourism development or hospitality management.

Our students seem to be happy with the education standard there. Travelling to Singapore for education is easier than it is for the UK or the US. The visa is a just formality. Singapore being quite close to India, our students can reach there within six hours.

Singapore now offers The Integrated Programme, also known as the "Through-Train Programme", a scheme which allows the most able secondary students in Singapore to bypass "O" levels and take "A" levels, International Baccalaureate or an equivalent examination directly at the age of 18 after six years of secondary education which makes it a very practical system of education.

Moreover, fees for tertiary education are very low, as the Government heavily subsidises a substantial portion of the full tuition fees, in the form of a tuition grant, for students studying in Singapore universities and polytechnics.

How soon can a student get permanent residency (PR) in Singapore?

The process is similar to that for a foreign worker. Once a student completes his/her education in Singapore, they are required to obtain a work permit or pass from the local employer which allows them to work with the employer till the time the work pass is valid and after that the same student can apply for permanent residency. Students who have to undergo practical training in organisations in Singapore as part of their course curriculum will also get a work permit and subsequently the same can lead to a work pass and permanent residency as well. Thus, a student can immediately, on completion of studies, get into the workforce.

How has the current economic slowdown affected job prospects in Singapore?

Singapore's economy shrank 12.5 per cent in the last quarter of 2008 from the previous period, causing the trade and industry ministry to lower its growth forecast for 2009. The ministry now expects Singapore's economy to shrink up to 2 per cent, with only 1 per cent growth at best. Previously, it had expected up to 2 per cent growth. But the slowdown is a global phenomenon which means noone can hide from it. The economy is bound to bounce back eventually and if one is there at the right time he or she would stand to gain in the long term.

There has been a huge shortage of skilled and semi-skilled people in Singapore and it remains a preferred destination still for the workforce. South Asian economies have always been stronger and continue to offer good prospects to fresh migrants. Usually, professionals move to Singapore on obtaining a valid work pass which ensures that when s/he lands there s/he has a job offer in hand.

What about the living and studying expenses?

The cost of education and living in Singapore is at least 30 per cent less than that of the UK or US. All this makes it a very attractive destination our students. Studying there is not exactly a costly affair as there are a number of state-run or aided schools. These schools are cheaper than their international counterparts. The annual fee may range between S$3500 (approx Rs 1,16,000) and S$15,000 (approx Rs 4,96,000).

When it comes to buying books and stationery, be prepared to spend between S$30 (approx Rs 900) and S$100 (approx Rs 3,300), depending on the course of studies. The state-sponsored colleges and universities in Singapore are also more economical than the private ones. Having said all this, the cost of living really depends on how you choose to live.

Apart from MBA, which other courses are in high demand there?

Singapore is considered one of the most business-friendly economies in the world. Its economy boasts the presence of all the top global companies. To run this billion-dollar economy, multi-national companies employ thousands of foreign expatriates. If you have the skills, then there is no shortage of employment possibilities. Degree and diploma courses in engineering, trades and polytechnics are in huge demand in Singapore. Polytechnics offer a wide range of courses in various fields, including engineering, business studies, accountancy, tourism and hospitality management, mass communications, digital media and biotechnology. There are also specialised courses such as marine engineering, nautical studies, nursing, and optometry.

Due to its large expatriate community, Singapore is host to many international schools and universities catering to a varied student base.

IT is a field that offers tremendous career opportunities. How valuable is an IT degree from Singapore if an Indian student decides to return to India.

Singapore universities have signed formal Memoranda of Understanding with top Indian institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology, Bangalore (IIT-B), Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (IISc), and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi. These agreements have facilitated the exchange of academic and research personnel and students, as well as joint research collaborations. This fact alone would answer your question to a large extent.

In addition, as mentioned earlier, Singapore is the hub of quite a lot of foreign universities whose offshore campuses are now in Singapore, starting from USA, Australia and UK to name a few, so the courses taught and offered are of the highest international standards which hold a very high level of acceptance in India and abroad.

What advice would you give prospective students?

For any prospective student, the advice is simple and clear: most important is always choose the right course and country before you decide to take admission. One has to define one's goals in life before opting for further education. Going abroad for further studies by spending your parents' hard-earned money is easy but these are the most important years of life which will frame your future career course. It might be the most important decision of your life probably. Also make sure your consultant is the right one as her/his advice and guidance would be very crucial in providing the right career path. The career counsellor needs to identify your needs and interests and guide you properly so as to select a proper course and curriculum. We make sure that students get the best of advice and guidance through our professional and trained counsellors who have been engaged in this field for a long time.

We offer a double benefit to students: we not only help them choose a course that will help their careers but we also help them get settled in the right career in their field of interest and education. We have helped many students, skilled and semi-skilled persons settle around the globe including Singapore. For further information, log on to www.angadinfo.com

RMS Atwal is a freelance journalist and can be reached at rajatwal55@yahoo.com.