Singapore – On July 26, Workers’ Party member Yee Jenn Jong wrote a blogpost on accommodating more local graduates. This came after a comment made by Minister Lawrence Wong, who said that the nation can increase the number of local graduates as we move forward.
Throughout Singapore’s history, Mr Yee stated that there have been constant calls for an increase in spots in local universities. However, there have been some difficulties in gaining approval for this.
He wrote: “I recall reading Mr Chiam See Tong’s occasional battles in parliament with different Education Ministers over education places, and for the establishment of the then-third university. He was told “No”, each time. Gradually though, the number of university places and the number of universities rose till today when we will soon have our 5th and 6th universities.”
The concerns in increasing the number of graduates lie in the worry of degrees being cheapened, which would lead to both unemployment and under-employment of graduates.
Mr Yee shared his own experience as an employer and his hiring process.
He shared: “As an employer, I hire based on assessing their skills and attitude, regardless of where their qualifications came from. Experience and qualification may mean a different starting point. However, once they have entered, their qualifications didn’t matter to us anymore. We looked at their work performance. I have shared previously that some who were promoted fastest were not the ones that started with the best qualifications nor from the better known institutions.”
Mr Yee highlighted that if there were 3,000 more places, “many of the borderline cases who previously would not have qualified for our autonomous universities would now be able to do so and receive government support.”
Additionally, he stated those who don’t make the cut in entering local universities are not lacking in ability compared to those who do. The traditional college route, which is to take the GCE A-level Examinations (measuring academic ability), does not account for late bloomers and those who excel at practice-based courses.
Likewise, for those who sat for the A-level Examinations but did not attain a spot in a local university, Mr Yee assured that “Having done less well at GCE ‘A’ levels may not mean they are also not capable of doing well in universities and in their jobs.”
Mr Yee also noted the importance of having an education system that fosters an attitude that encourages constant learning.
With technological disruptions, “it is hard to accurately plan for what the economic and jobs scenarios will be for a current primary school child who will only start work 10-20 years later.”
Mr Yee wrote that our current education system “may have focused too much on testing, sorting students out and planning for their future much like running a manufacturing plant.” Instead, Mr Yee believes that “for our people to succeed in the new world, they must have creativity, innovativeness, adaptability and a desire to constantly relearn.”
Ultimately, he concluded: “The emphasis should not be just on knowledge and skills, but also on developing the right attitude to life, such as confidence, resilience, character and love for learning. That can help our increasing pool of graduates stay relevant in the changing economy by the graduates themselves being adaptable to changing environments.”
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