[Education] Beneath token changes, where is the substance?

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By: Kheng-Liang Tan

In a Facebook post on Monday (19 Sep), acting Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung said that he is “very encouraged” by the success of the Polytechnic’s Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) that was introduced earlier this year.

This scheme seeks to “recognise a broader range of merits’ [beyond] academic achievements” where polytechnics will make provisional admission offers to students based on their “aptitude, interests and skills”

Currently, the polytechnics can admit up to 12.5% of their total intake under this scheme, although selected courses are able to assign up to 50% of available places.

In this exercise, 8000 students are understood to have applied. Of these applicants, the Minister said that about 3680 (46%) “O”-level students have received a provisional offer. Of such offers made, 2650 (72%) were offered their first choice of courses.

While this is a right move, feedback amount the ground there are several obstacles facing the aspirations of polytechnic students and graduates. As Minister Khaw has said “You own a degree, but so what? That you can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.”

Earlier in May, MOE reported that 34% of university places were given to polytechnic graduates. However, such figures includes UniSIM as well which is not widely regarded by the man on the street as being on par with institutions such as NUS and NTU.

If we were to take the 2011 figure (which only involves NUS, NTU and SMU), the figure is closer to 24.7% against the backdrop of scholarships lavished on foreign students. Times Higher education has also placed the number of International students at NUS at 34% which is against the earlier promise by the PAP to cap the figures at 18%.

While statistics show that the average graduate has a student loan of about $20,000 in Singapore. By contrast, it was revealed in 2012 that $36 million was spent on scholarships to foreigners while additional grants may have taken the figure to as high as $400 million.

What do you think?