I Quit Singapore for my Kids

When Mr Ivan Tang was agonising over a decision to leave Singapore in 1988, he was torn between his family roots and greener pastures.

He chose to take the leap and moved Down Under. The tipping point: The education system and quality of life here.

Mr Tang and his wife later renounced their Singapore citizenships in 1995.

His reasons were similar to those cited by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean in Parliament last week. He revealed that an average of 1,000 Singaporeans gave up their citizenship every year between 2000 and 2010.

He said they did so for various reasons such as preferring a different living environment or to reunite with family members overseas.

Mr Teo, who is also Home Affairs Minister, was replying to Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC), who asked for the number of Singaporeans giving up their citizenship and also whether there were plans to address the reasons that Singaporeans emigrate.

In his written reply, DPM Teo said the Government focuses on not only developing an attractive living environment and a thriving economy that provides good jobs, but also strengthening the bonds that Singaporeans have with one another and the country.

It will also continue to engage Singaporeans studying and working abroad such as through the Overseas Singaporean Unit, he added.

Mr Tang, now 60, relocated his family to Melbourne, Australia, when he was promoted to regional marketing manager with Miles Laboratories for the Asia-Pacific region in 1988. His daughter was then 12 and his son was 10. Both his children attended primary schools here before the family left Singapore.

Mr Tang tells The New Paper on Sunday: “I felt sorry for my children as they were feeling pressure to perform well in school and I felt that they were missing out on what children should be doing. I feel there is too much of an elitist attitude (in Singapore).”

But it was a difficult decision to abandon his country of origin, he reveals.

“My children were very young at that time and I do not have any relatives or close friends in Melbourne. I also had to consider my parents who were in their 60s at that time,” adds Mr Tang, who is the eldest of three sons in his family.

Cultural differences were among his biggest fears.

But a decision had to be made and Mr Tang and his wife renounced their Singapore citizenship in 1995.

“We made this decision for the sake of our children’s future,” says Mr Tang, who now works as a sales consultant for Mazda Australia, “to keep himself occupied”.

Mr Tang feels that he would have been better off financially if he had stayed in Singapore. But, he adds, he would have missed out on a better quality of life in Melbourne.

Today, he lives in a seven-bedroom home, complete with a swimming pool, tennis court and landscaped garden.

The property in the suburbs is 3/4 acres, about the size of 3,000 sq m. A five-room HDB flat is about 110 sq m, according to the HDB website.

“I enjoy living in Melbourne. It was once voted as the best city to live in. There are many open park spaces here and I like the smell of the fresh air here,” says Mr Tang.

“I would say that our house is slightly bigger than a normal Australian home. We own two cars, one for me and the other for my wife.

“My children have grown up and moved back to live in Singapore. Otherwise, they too would have their own cars here.”

His children did not renounce their citizenship.

Adds Mr Tang: “I would not enjoy the same kind of lifestyle in Singapore. The property and car prices would be beyond my means.

“Here, I can enjoy a game of golf for just A$25.00 (S$33) at a public course. Can I get this rate in Singapore?”

Another point: “We have lived here long enough and we want to stay on and be loyal to the country which has adopted us.

“We want to make a contribution to Australia by being able to have a say and vote for a government. We do not believe in sitting on the fence.”

Unlike Mr Tang, some ex-Singaporeans who have renounced their citizenship were reluctant to speak to TNPS, saying they fear repercussions which could affect their re-entry into Singapore.

While it was difficult to get people to open up about why they gave up their Singapore citizenship, some echoed DPM Teo’s comments on why they left.

Most of the reasons revolved around quality of life and family.

One wanted to reunite with her family in the Philippines after her marriage ran its course. Another wanted to be with her husband in Prague.

Mr Tang has no regrets over his decision to quit Singapore.

He visits his elderly mother, brothers and his two children here about two or three times a year.

His daughter, 36-year-old Madam Bianca Tang married an Australian who was posted to work in Singapore four years ago.

Mr Tang says: “My children are still Singaporean, but holding Australian PR passes. After my son completed his national service, he chose to stay in Singapore. He visits me and my wife often.”

His daughter, Madam Tang, who is married with two children, aged one and three , says: “I am not sure how long we will be here. We will either move back to Australia or somewhere else.”

For the same reasons that her father left Singapore, Madam Tang admits that the education system here is a major push factor.

She completed her primary education in CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ Primary School.

She says: “I went to high school in Australia, got my degree and completed my postgraduate studies there too. The schools there focus more on soft skills. I didn’t feel the stress and I enjoyed the whole education process.”

The Government is taking steps to change things here, but Madam Tang feels it will take many years to change how Singaporeans perceive education and for them to fully accept the change.

She has no plans to renounce her citizenship. But if she has to make a choice, she would give up her Singapore citizenship.

She says: “Nothing really keeps me here. If I could bring my kids back to Australia, I would.

“There is so much space back home for my kids to run around, play in the sand, dig up the mud. There are parks all over the place.”

Sources : www.asiaone.com