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President Tony Tan denies making ‘ITE and Poly education is “bad rubbish”‘ comment

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President Tony Tan has denied allegations by the brother of a former Senior Minister of State of Education, Tay Eng Soon. He was referring to Mr Tay’s younger brother, Tay Kheng Soon’s comment made at an opposition party forum. MrTay Kheng Soon is an adjunct professor at NUS Department of Architecture School of Design and Environment and is also the founding member of the independent think-tank, Future of Singapore.

Mr Tay at a public Forum organised by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) titled, “Stealing My Lunch – Keep Calm and Get Organised”, said:

“As you all know my brother, the late Tay Eng Soon, was the Minister of State for Education, he fought for ten years within the cabinet to increase the funding for the ITEs and Polytechnics, and his career prospect within the party was actually truncated by it. The reason was – he never told me what actually happened, loyalty to the party, right? After he died, his wife told me the real story. All the time, Tony Tan, that’s why I have no respect for Tony Tan at all. Tony Tan said to him all the time, all through the ten years, ‘Why do you want to throw good money after bad rubbish?’ I cannot stand this. This is the inherent elitism. You have to break that.”

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday (3 Aug) after a visit to Spectra Secondary School, President Tan said: “The claim is very hurtful because when I was Cabinet Minister, the education of our children was very close to my heart. For that reason, when I was Education Minister, I increased support for the education of all our students, with particular focus on our children in the polys and ITEs, or what was then the VITB (Vocational and Industrial Training Board).”

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The Ministry of Education (MOE) too had come out to support President Tan, and said that Dr Tan oversaw major developments in the polytechnic and ITE sector when he was the Education Minister. An MOE spokesperson said:

“In anticipation of increasingly larger cohorts of post-secondary students and growing manpower needs, Temasek Polytechnic and Nanyang Polytechnic were set up in 1990 and 1992 respectively, and the Vocational and Industrial Training Board was upgraded and rebranded in April 1992 to become the Institute of Technical Education, a full-fledged institution dedicated to technical and vocational education for post-secondary students. Beyond these, there was also an increase in both enrolment and expenditure per student at the polytechnics and ITE during this period. From 1986 to 1992, the Government’s recurrent expenditure per student in the polytechnics and ITE increased by 48 per cent and 58 per cent respectively, while enrolment at the polytechnics and ITE increased by 68 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.”

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