Accessing Quality Education: A Boost for the Last Leg

As a follow-up to our last story, we now take a look at children as the next generation, and how we can empower them through philanthropy to be further educated.

Education is the great equaliser, as the old adage goes. Coined by American public education pioneer Horace Mann in 1848, education was seen as the tool for the disadvantaged to basically find better jobs and lift themselves out of poverty. For the last almost 200 years, that has remained largely true.

However, when an individual’s educational journey begins, factors such as the quality of education received and extracurricular resources have resulted in education itself being a source of inequality in society.

Which brings us to the maxim that “one has to spend money to make money”. In Singapore, preschool education, extra tuition, coaching lessons and post-secondary education all cost money (Dollars and Sense, 2022 and MoneySmart, 2022). Not every family will be able to afford that for their children.

The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) supports programmes which boost the pre-, primary and secondary school education of children and youth from challenging backgrounds. It is important, however, that these minds continue to be nurtured as far as possible; not just for the sake of the youth and their families, but also for the sake of society, in which these youths will hopefully become contributing members.

For the families, the primary reason is that the higher an educational qualification one has, the stronger one’s earning power (Ministry of Manpower, 2021), enabling them to break out of the poverty cycle.

At a societal level, Singapore needs to maintain its highly skilled and educated workforce, which is what helps to keep our economy so competitive on the global landscape (EDB, 2022). To do this, it is imperative, as maintained by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, that the relevant skills are imparted, including through tertiary and continued education (The Straits Times, 2022).

It is heartening to know that many donors with CFS have chosen and continue to support the tertiary education of youths: from financial assistance for living expenses for Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students and study grants at polytechnics to awards and scholarships at universities, and more.

The late President Mr Nathan himself was a staunch supporter of helping tertiary students in need. The S R Nathan Education Upliftment Fund (SRNEUF) was set up 11 years ago and has supported over 1,600 students since, including students from ITE, various polytechnics, the National University of Singapore and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).

“The SRNEUF believes in supporting youth from under-privileged backgrounds, giving them the chance to continue with their higher education so as to better realise their potential,” says Mr Bobby Chin, Grant Advisory Committee Chairman of the SRNEUF. “We are happy to have supported hundreds of youths over the years to further their education.”

One such SRNEUF beneficiary is SUSS student Iqbal, who aspires to be a social worker focusing on helping youth-at-risk or supporting the medical field. He shares that the study grant benefited him tremendously, helping his family with household expenses and allowing him to be more independent.

His cohort mate Pearlyn, also a SRNEUF beneficiary, reveals her dream to extend her help to society, after being inspired by the help from others that her family received during a crisis in 2020. On top of studying, she is tutoring primary school children to relieve the burden on her parents. She too expresses huge gratitude for the financial assistance from the SRNEUF.

Another CFS donor, who prefers anonymity, has been supporting ITE students with financial assistance for tuition fees, essential living expenses and even provided laptops. They also continued their support for ITE students who have gotten into polytechnics.

Jonathan Siong, one of their beneficiaries, shared: “When the pandemic hit, times were hard for many foreign students like myself, and my family was struggling. However, the donors helped me when I needed it the most. Without them, my education path would have stopped right at ITE.” He says that words cannot describe how thankful he is for their support and he hopes to become successful and in turn give back to the community.

Expressing her personal thanks to her benefactors, ITE alumna Chow Ying Shu, appreciates their contribution to her education as it helps to reduce her financial burdens, which in turn allows her to focus on her studies. She is currently pursuing her diploma in Hotel Management with their support. “This makes my goals that much more reachable,” she says, adding that their generosity will motivate her and serve as a reminder to always give back to society whenever she can in the future.

CFS appreciates all donors who are supporting youth from disadvantaged backgrounds in achieving their dreams and maximising their potential. Thanks to them, the future of the students as well as the Singaporean community looks a lot brighter.

To find out how you can support tertiary students from challenging backgrounds rise above adversity, please visit

This article was written CFS Principal Consultant Reutens-Tan. He is an experienced sustainability advocate and practitioner, working closely with charities to build thriving communities, which he believes is key to a sustainable Singapore.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CFS or its members.


Dollars and Sense. (12 January 2022). How Much Do You Need To Afford A Full-Time Polytechnic Course In Singapore?  

Ministry of Manpower. (June 2021). Median Gross Monthly Income from Work (Including Employer CPF) of Full-Time Employed Residents Aged Fifteen Years and Over by Highest Qualification Attained, Age and Sex. 

MoneySmart. (15 June 2022). NUS, NTU, SMU & Other Singapore University Degrees – How Much Do They Cost in 2022? 

Singapore Economic Development Board. (1 July 2022). World-class talent. 

The Straits Times. (27 April 2022). Skills training must improve on 4 fronts for S’pore workforce to stay competitive: Chan Chun Sing.

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