SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Education (MOE) has become the latest government agency to invoke the so-called “fake news law”, over several Facebook posts by opposition politician Lim Tean.
In a statement on Monday (16 December), MOE said that it had directed the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulations (POFMA) Office to issue a correction notice against the People’s Voice Party chief, as his posts on 12 December contained “false and misleading statements”.
This means that Lim is required to place a correction notice at the top of the posts, as well as a link to Factually, the government fact-checking website.
In his posts, Lim addressed the issue of scholarships for foreign students and compared them with bursaries and grants for local students. He claimed that “the total pot available to Singaporean students (is) $167 million compared to the $238 million that is spent on foreign students”.
Lim added,“PAP spends $167 million on Grants & Bursaries for Singaporeans, but $238 million on foreign students??”.
In response, MOE asserted that Lim’s statements “imply that MOE spends less on Singaporean students than on foreign students. This is false and misleading.”
The ministry noted that its annual budget is $13 billion, almost all of which is spent on Singapore citizens.
“The $167M 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 of $167M and $238M are therefore not comparable,” it added.
MOE said that a more appropriate comparison should be the nearly $13 billion spent on Singaporean students to provide subsidised education for all Singaporean students at all levels, as compared with the $238 million attributed to foreign students, which is less than 2 per cent of the total education budget.
The ministry stressed that the school admissions system here 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,” said MOE.
‘Cry Baby’ legislation: Lim
Responding to the correction notice, Lim posted on Facebook on Monday morning, calling the move a “pathetic demand by a government that is obviously nervous about public reaction” over the “obvious fact” in his earlier post on grants and scholarships for foreign students.
“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,” he said, adding that he would be seeking legal advice over the notice.
Calling POFMA the “‘Cry Baby’ legislation”, he said it “must be repealed on the very first day a non-PAP government is elected into office”.
As of 1pm on Monday, not correction notice was put up with regard to Lim’s offending posts.