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Govt directs opposition member Lim Tean to correct falsehoods on education spending

SINGAPORE — The Government has directed opposition member Lim Tean to correct two Facebook posts which it said peddles false and misleading statements about the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) spending on foreign students here.

In his posts, opposition member Lim Tean had said that the MOE spends more on foreign students than local ones.

In his posts, opposition member Lim Tean had said that the MOE spends more on foreign students than local ones.

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SINGAPORE — The Government has directed opposition member Lim Tean to correct two Facebook posts which it said peddles false and misleading statements about the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) spending on foreign students here.

In a statement on Monday (Dec 16), the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office said that Education Minister Ong Ye Kung had instructed it to issue a correction directive to Mr Lim in relation to the posts he made last Thursday.

In his posts, Mr Lim had said that the MOE spends more on foreign students than local ones. 

The directive would require Mr Lim to carry the full correction notice at the top of both Facebook posts.

This is the fourth such directive the Government has issued since the fake-news law kicked in two months ago.

On Saturday, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) was directed to correct two Facebook posts and an article on its website that related to manpower issues. Directives have also been issued to Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer and the States Times Review.

S$13B ANNUAL BUDGET; ‘ALMOST ALL’ SPENT ON S’POREANS: MOE

Mr Lim had posted, among other things, that “the total pot available to Singaporean students (is) S$167 million compared to the S$238 million that is spent on foreign students”.

However, on the Government’s Factually website, MOE said that Mr Lim’s assertion is “false and misleading”. 

The notice said: “MOE’s annual budget is S$13 billion, almost all of which is spent on Singapore citizens. The S$167 million cited by Mr Lim refers only to bursaries for Singaporean tertiary students, and grossly understates MOE’s total spending on Singaporean citizens for education.”

The figures are therefore not comparable, it added. 

Instead, the authorities said, it would be more appropriate to compare the total budget of S$13 billion for providing subsidised education for Singaporean students against the S$238 million used on foreign students, which is less than 2 per cent of the total education budget.

MOE added that the budget also goes towards costs such as infrastructure, facilities and teaching staff, which are “either fixed or non-variable up to the medium term to provide education for Singaporean students”.

A large part of the S$238 million for foreign students comprises these fixed and non-variable costs that MOE has to incur regardless of the number of foreign students in the system, it said.

Foreign students now make up 5 per cent of the student population, MOE added.

“Our admissions system ensures that no Singaporean student is deprived of a place by a foreign student. Having a small proportion of foreign students in our schools and institutions brings diversity into classrooms and helps our students develop cross-cultural competencies, a key skill in today’s world.”

MOE added that Singaporean students, too, receive scholarships from other countries and study overseas. 

“Having some foreign students in our education system enables many more Singaporean students to enjoy similar benefits,” it said.

MR LIM RESPONDS

In a post on Facebook, Mr Lim said he is considering his legal options regarding the notice. 

Calling the correction directive "absurd", he added: "Anyone who read my post and the series of posts I made on this subject last week would have been under no mistaken impression that I was discussing the amount of money spent on grants and scholarships and not the overall spending on all Singaporean students."

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Pofma lim tean MOE

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