The prime minister and Muslim affairs minister of Singapore have stepped out to address the public in an attempt to justify the new Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy (TTFS) scheme.
Set up in 1991, the TTFS was implemented to help needy Malay households that could not afford to send their children to tertiary educational institutions. Muslim Malays in Singapore are a minority group, and the Malays’ underachievement in education has been a concern within the Singaporean Malay community. That, together with the Malays’ poor socio-economic standing in Singapore, has prompted the Singapore government to adopt schemes such as the TTFS, which closely resembles that of an affirmative action policy.
Under the current TTFS, Malay students from households with a monthly income of less than $3000 qualify for subsidies between 70 and 100 percent. The criterion of the new TTFS will be a per capita household income of $1,500 and below, based on a three-tier system.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong believes that more Malay students will benefit from this.
He tells Channel NewsAsia:
“At the same time, those families who are able to support their own children in tertiary education would be able to do it by themselves, so that the resources can be freed up for the more needy members of the community through Mendaki’s projects.”
Muslim Affairs Minister Yaacob Ibraham reiterated this belief as well:
“We will revise the TTFS so that it remains relevant to the needs of the community and allow for more Malay families – including the larger families – to benefit from the scheme.”
Changing the criterion is bound to have some significant and tangible effect on needy Malay households; however, there is still some lingering doubt whether this will benefit more Muslim Malays. Is there specific data to show that this number will increase in time to come? How is it measured? I think it’s positive that there are revisions made to this scheme, reflecting the adaptability of the current government, but the effect of this change still remains to be seen.