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    Monday, May 19, 2008

    'Unfair to compete against older students'

    SHE had her hopes set on becoming her school's top Secondary 1 student in the mid-year examinations last year.

    But Mei (not her real name) lost out to a 15-year-old from China.

    She was then 12, going on 13.

    Mei now wants to be the top student in Sec 2, but she feels she's up against unfair competition in older foreign students.

    She wrote to The New Paper to complain that 'foreigners come to Singapore and vie for top positions with us in our schools'.

    Her argument is that the foreign students are older, smarter and more motivated.


    Mei, who is in a class of 39 boys and girls, of which one-quarter are foreigners, said: 'I feel threatened by their mere presence because most of them are older than me and their brains are more developed.'

    But her views are not shared by most local students.

    A poll of 104 students by The New Paper showed that about 85 per cent do not see foreign students as a threat and almost 70per cent say the competition from older students is fair.

    Mei, who turns 14 in October, said that eight of the 10 foreign students in her class are older than her by one to two years.

    One is her age, but there is one who is 17, she said.

    She finds it stressful to compete with the older students and suggested: 'To be fair to local students, the Ministry of Education (MOE) should ensure the age gap between foreign students and local students is not so wide.'

    She said the foreigners in her class, from countries like China, India and Indonesia, are 'highly motivated'.

    'They have to make their family members proud by doing their best, to assure them that all their efforts have not been in vain.

    'And that motivation scares the spirit in me that wants to push hard to do well for my country,' she said.

    As a local, Mei feels that she is at a disadvantage as 'foreign students are exceptionally good in mathematics and science'.

    She also claimed that they do not share their notes with fellow students, although others said that foreign students have helped them.

    Mei felt that although foreign students may be weak in English, they are motivated enough to overcome this disadvantage.

    She said: 'If we are not able to beat them in our studies, what about in the real world?'

    As for scholarships, she said that 'what could have been a chance in a lifetime for a Singaporean could be given to a foreigner instead'.

    She also feels some foreigners will leave for more prestigious universities overseas after gaining a good foundation here.

    She said: 'I know some of them who hope to study in American universities once they finish their college education in Singapore.

    'Their heart is simply not here. Our country is just a stepping stone for them.'

    When told of Mei's views, Mei's school principal said in an e-mail reply that the school welcomes talented foreign students because they add cultural diversity to the school.

    They also bring with them their unique experiences and values which they share with Singaporean students, she said.

    She said: 'Having both local and international students in the same class would thus allow them to learn from one another and spur each other on.'



    This article I read reminded me of my young schooling days. When i was young, there were foreign students in my class too, n it's not surprising they're usually a few years older than i am but in the same class as me. Usually, they're very good at Maths, but suck at the English language n science paper cos they can't express themselves well in English. That's in primary school, but the situation wasn't as bad since i was studying in a neighbourhood school juz across the street from my house..

    When I went into secondary school at Temasek in 1998, there are quite a number of foreigners in my level. Yes, n they're clever too.. Being the competitive me, i use them as a gauge, as the one to beat, but most of the time, i crashed with my face flat on the ground. Well, it doesn't really matter, since i'll owas come back up n fight again. Occasionally, I'll beat them in some stuffs, n dat gave me the extra adrenaline to go on. Of cos, being in a school like Temasek, it's not juz the foreigners are good, almost everyone in my class was as good as they can get. The rat race to become the best of the best was tough indeed..

    After the years of battling in Temasek, i told myself i've had enuff n chose my next school to be a less competitive one. I went to TPJC rather than TJC. It was a nice school with friendly people rather than people who's owas trying to beat u. I made lots of nice friends n i dare to say the 2 yrs in TPJC are my happiest days in a school in my whole life. BUT, my results took a serious dive n i almost looked like i couldn't get into a university. I couldn't find the motivation or the strength to power myself on.

    Wad i wanna say to students today facing the massive influx of foreign students is FIGHT ON. It doesn't really matter that u can't beat them. I can guarantee u dat in the midst of the battles with them, u'll find urself improving too. If there's no competition, there's no improvement. Wad's the point of being the top student with 80points in a less competitive environment when u can actually become a better student with the competition n scoring 90points but isn't the top student? Take them as a motivation, as a kind of pushing force to keep you going.

    Giving up is easy, but the true winners are those who fight on. At least u know u have a fighting chance of winning them if u carry on. If u give up totally, then u have zero chance of victory. As the saying goes, "To overcome your fear, You have to face it". If young Singaporean kids today are such a weak bunch of students who surrender upon strong competition, i really fear for their future.

    To the writer of this article, i urge her to carry on working hard. Yes, those foreigners are older n possess the more developed brain, but that doesn't mean they're immune to making mistakes or such. Trust me, if there's one day u manage to beat them, u'll feel like u're on top of the world, n u can say it with a smug dat they, with the supposedly more developed brain, lost to me of a younger age with a less matured brain. Hard work will eventually pay off one day.

    WaiZai fumbled with chopsticks @ 5/19/2008 01:44:00 pm | 0 has delicate hands