Should I send my son for an overseas degree? – How to reframe the intent

Dear Ian,

My son is an above-average student. He completed his polytechnic diploma in information technology last year and is now in NS. He has told me that he wants to further his studies in Australia but I have found out that it will cost a total of about $150,000 for 3 years. I don’t have that amount of money but am willing to take a study loan for him. But I am wondering if I should do that or not. What do you advise? PS: He is the eldest of 3 children aged 21, 19 and 16.

Still Wondering

Dear Still,

I can commiserate. With grade and qualification inflation in Singapore, many people feel that they need to get a degree to move ahead. The government has been taking pains to delink qualification and career advancement, but ultimately, getting a degree is more than just career advancement and salaries. So while we can sit here and discuss about the merits of doing a degree or not, I will not. Instead, I would like to use our Strategic Decision Making process to help you discern your intent, and from there, to help you make the right decision.


In all strategic decisions, we need to be clear about what we are trying to do. In this case, it is probably more than “sending my son to university”. Perhaps, it has to do with providing for your children? As a parent, I would view this decision in light of my ability to provide for my children and in this case, it would be to all my children. Hence, I would have to ask myself if I had the wherewithal to take out a study loan for all three of my children. When faced with that, I might defer this question for something else.

Wording your intent correctly

With respect to intent, I would like to propose using the words, “What is the best way to…” So let’s assume for a moment that it was indeed about providing for your children, then I would state it as “What is the best way to provide for my children’s higher education…”

But that’s not all. I would need to premise this decision intent with the current reality. The current situation is the question of sponsoring your son’s $150,000 Australian university studies. So, this should somehow be written into the intent, using the joining words “given that” or “providing that”. So let me write it out here, “What is the best way to provide for my children’s higher education given that it costs $150,000 per child.” (And we are not factoring in inflation, which might even put that figure on the low side!)

A strategic intent reframes your thinking

Notice how this now reframes your thinking. And how it reframes how you answer this question. Suddenly you will see that the issue has been enlarged and you would have to look at your decision more strategically. You would have to clarify your own definition of providing for your children, your concept of what is fair and right, your own ability to manage both your financial needs and the needs of your children. In short, by framing your intent in the way that you have, you would have started to become more strategic in your thinking. And the options that you generate from this become much more varied, much more meaty and much more effective.

In other words, this will lead you to making the right decision every time.

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