TWO years ago, the Government announced an expansion of university places to give 40 per cent of each school cohort a shot at university education right here at home by 2020.
It translates to 16,000 places yearly and the additional spots will be provided mainly by the Singapore Institute of Technology and SIM University which will have a more applied, practice-oriented focus and produce a different type of graduate.
Parents and students no doubt cheered the move, and the promise of a better future for young Singaporeans. But now with the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (Aspire) committee recommending pathways in which Institute of Technical Education and polytechnic students can work and further their qualifications, some parents and students are left confused. “Why this flip-flop?” asked businessman Terence Koh who has two sons studying engineering in the polytechnic.
"I was very happy that the Government was providing more places for polytechnic students and a more applied pathway that is suited for poly students like my sons. But now it looks like they are saying a degree path is not for them.
"They are better off going to work and furthering their qualifications through work," said the 46-year-old, after reading the recommendations.
But as Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday, his ministry is not changing its stance. Neither is the Aspire panel trying to dissuade ITE and polytechnic graduates from pursuing degrees.
Rather, it is pointing out that for some students at least, a diploma plus deep and relevant skills may pay off better in the long run. As Mr Heng stressed, it is about having the “right and relevant type of learning experiences that will enable an individual to build deep skills and expertise”.
Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah, who chaired the committee, stressed that the recommendations must be seen against a backdrop where there is growing demand worldwide for workers with deep skills. “The employers tell us this, OECD reports point this out and our study trips abroad confirm this,” she said, adding that students and parents must also be mindful of the changing nature of jobs and how technology is disrupting jobs.
She is right - the jobs that are in demand today may not exist tomorrow. These are important issues that students and parents must consider."
The article we’ve been waiting to read from Sandra Davie