Monday, 3 June 2013

Too many graduates in Singapore

Update 7 Dec 2013: Downplaying varsity degrees

With thousands of unemployed graduates, the government plans to cap campus enrolment. It is clearer now why the government had been discouraging Singaporeans from depending too much on university degrees.

The reason is that the pool of unemployed graduates is expanding in this wealthy city, despite a general shortage of workers. Almost by the week, new cases are being reported about well-educated professionals struggling to find jobs or being retrenched.

The latest example: A 29-year-old accountancy and finance graduate wrote of his failed job hunt for two years, saying: “I am deeply worried”.

related: Too many graduates

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The Education Conundrum


Many are of the view in Singapore that the people are her only resource. There has been much emphasis on education and some would say not always with best results. There is a feeling that the tinkering with the education system is unhelpful. Others believe the system encourages rote learning and should be abandoned in favour of a more creative one to teach the children to be articulate and think for themselves.

Amidst this education conundrum, PM Lee Hsien Loong, speaking at the National Day Rally, announced what many hailed as welcome changes.

We need more changes in our country – that is for sure. Still, PM Lee should be commended for taking new initiatives and moving in the right direction. These are measures which should have been taken years ago, sparing generations of students the agony of the stressful Singapore education system. But the burden is somewhat being eased at last. And perhaps, I can leave the readers with a food for thought – why not scrap the PSLE altogether?

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Of Singapore, Private Tuition, and Aung San Suu Kyi

It was a leading question posed by a journalist to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her first visit to Singapore: what aspects of the Lion City might “The Lady” like to recreate in Myanmar? The question seemed fairly innocuous, albeit arguably loaded. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate dodged the bullet and fired a salvo of her own.

“I don’t think ‘recreate’ is the word, ‘learn’ yes,” said Ms Suu Kyi.

Singapore’s “work-oriented” education system, for example, leaves something to be desired.

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Singapore leaders start to talk about the importance of having multiple skills rather than just obtaining a degree

A NUMBER of political leaders have appealed to Singaporeans not to place too much faith on university degrees in an apparent effort to manage public expectations.

This is the clearest sign yet that the authorities are expecting a sustained period of relatively low economic growth and slower employment opportunities.

Singaporeans, especially parents, who have long regarded the university degree as a key to a good life will likely be shocked.

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University degree 'not vital for success': Khaw Boon Wan

Singaporeans do not need to be university graduates to be successful, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Saturday.

What is more important is that they get good jobs after leaving school, Mr Khaw told some 160 students and young adults in an Our Singapore Conversation dialogue.

"If they cannot find jobs, what is the point? 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," he added.

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PM Lee: Polytechnics a jewel in our education system

Getting a degree is not the only option for polytechnic students after they graduate, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Working for a few years or even starting their own business can offer important life lessons and help them go further in life, he said today as Ngee Ann Polytechnic celebrated its 50th anniversary.

"You will gain experience and understand yourself better and then be better able to decide what the next step will be. These life lessons will complement your polytechnic education and help you to go further in life," he said.

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Accepting broader definitions of success: Heng Swee Keat

"A good qualification alone does not guarantee a career, let alone a job". 

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat last Wednesday called on Singaporeans to rethink what constitutes success in life so that the education system can have meaningful reforms.

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Poly students should have no fears about job opportunities: Chan Chun Sing

"It is not the degree or diploma that is most important for graduates, but the ability to learn a different set of skills."

“The soft skills in life have to be acquired and have to be continuously refreshed. If not, even with the best degree from the best universities in the world, we may find ourselves obsolete one day.”

There are sufficient opportunities for graduating polytechnic students who want to work and for those who want to further their studies. Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said this to the first batch graduating Singapore Polytechnic (SP) students this year.

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Singapore leaders seek to reduce local graduates as mass intake of foreigners led to excess supply of degree holders

Malaysia Star, 25 May 2013

Having a large number of graduates, once thought crucial for Singapore’s prosperity, is now considered not conducive to the changing manpower market, at least in Singapore.

However, none of the political leaders – the Prime Minister and three ministers – has mentioned another reason for the excess of graduates – the mass intake of foreigners.

Led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, the leaders are now advising Singaporeans to consider non-university routes to success.
Khaw said: “You own a degree, but so what? You can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.”

Then it was the turn of Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who said that a good qualification alone does not guarantee a career, let alone a job. 

Thirdly, Acting Minister for Social and Fa­mily De­ve­l­opment Chan Chun Sing said it is not the degree or diploma that is most important for graduates, but the ability to learn a different set of skills. Full story

Related: Dumbing of Singaporeans have been a great success - Sammyboy Forum

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Is This Why Our Ministers Are Trying To Discourage Singaporean Students From Local Universities? 

Because our local universities are going overseas to recruit foreign "meritorous" students?  Are these "meritorous" students being admitted based on the same GCE A level exam results like our local students? If a degree is not important for success in Singapore, why are our local universities going overseas to fill up its places with more foreign students?

The Hindu, 2 Jun 2013
May 16, 2013, will be an unforgettable day for a Chennai girl. On that date, the Madras High Court intervened to enable her to secure a seat for a course in Astrophysics in the National University of Singapore before the deadline.

The girl’s mother, after obtaining divorce, had remarried. At the time of school admission, the stepfather’s name was given in the records. She completed Class XII in a city school which had an arrangement with the National University of Singapore to select meritorious students for placement in the university

The university staff came to the school and interviewed meritorious students, analysed their grades in Standard X. She was provisionally selected for admission to the Astrophysics course. Full story
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Felicia Chin heeds Khaw Boon Wan’s advice, quits NUS

Thousands of males from NUS have tendered their resignation to the dean to quit their studies.

This after sexually-attractive female thespian Felicia Chin announced her decision to quit NUS to go back to MediaCorp, where she would prance around for the camera once more having left three years ago to go to university to expand her intellect.

But apparently, her intellect has expanded enough.

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“Become hawkers”

A revised first quarter GDP shows a rise of 1.8%. Gone are the days of double-digit growth, probably never to return. 

So what work can non-graduates do? One suggestion from Prime Minister Lee is: “Become hawkers.” 

Singapore plans to build 10 large hawker centres.

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What having a university education really means

Is a degree no longer that important?

That has been the subject of some debate recently, after four ministers spoke in quick succession on how a degree is not the only path to success for young Singaporeans.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who started the ball rolling in a recent speech to polytechnic students, spoke of the many good options available to poly grads besides a degree, such as working for a few years or starting their own business.

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More to university than getting a degree

Do you need a university degree for a good career?

This has been hotly debated in recent weeks after four ministers - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat - spoke on similar themes of how academic qualifications are not a sure ticket to success.

Indeed, Asia "is a bit hung up on that piece of paper", Singapore Management University (SMU) president Arnoud De Meyer tells Insight. A degree helps get a better salary, but it is the experience of learning that is more important in today's age, says Professor De Meyer, who has held top posts at Insead and Cambridge University's Judge Business School.

Is a degree really all-important?
What having a university education really means

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Why go to university?

This is going to bug many parents and the children when going to university is being played down as something not really necessary.

In the past, going to university is very simple. A degree will mean a good life, getting a good job to earn bigger pay and to bring up a family with all the trappings of wealth and comfortable things. It was so simple then.

Many people are still going to university for exactly this reason and nothing else. Getting a degree is for a practical reason, to land a better job and a better life. When this is no longer a valid reason, when the outputs, in monetary terms, time and resources, do not make up for the rewards of a university education, would people start to stop thinking of going to the university? Must study hard is losing its meaning.

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Totally Ignored

For a few months now, several government ministers in the Singapore government have commented that the once-sacred university degree is no longer the key to a good life. No less than 3 different ministers had said so;

-          National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said: “You own a degree, but so what? You can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.”
-          Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said that a good qualification alone does not guarantee a career, let alone a job.
-          Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said that soft skills, not a degree, are the most important thing for young people to learn.

I totally agree. With the massive influx of foreigners with degrees coming into Singapore, having Singaporeans getting degrees is no longer necessary for Singapore. However; good luck to the government trying to convince Singaporean parents of this!

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Has education become a religion in Singapore?

AFP News - Singapore students are seen here using their iPads during a language arts class in Nanyang Girls' High School. Apple's iPad and other tablet computers are replacing traditional note pads in some Asian schools and making the lives of thousands of students a whole lot easier 

Go to school. Study hard. Get good grades. Get a good diploma or degree. Get a good job at a good company (or become a lawyer, doctor, accountant or engineer).

Sound familiar?

This is the kind of story you probably heard when you were growing up. It’s also the kind of story we continue to tell young people today.

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Future of University Education here

Our local universities are public universities. In order to identify the creme de la creme among its students, they have set up elite Scholars' programs and coveted departments. This has now evolved further with the new Yale-NUS college.

The competition for a place in a top college is relentless and becoming more intense. Just study the reinforcing loop. Such is the outcome when the ladder of success is too visible and alternative paths too risky. The society that can break this cycle and add useful diversity will have an edge over others (NaviMap not shown here)

It is a farsighted government which refused to turn out graduates like elsewhere into high status joblessness. By definition the elite will always be a tiny group but it is imperative that all who make university must have acquired a valuable education that leads to interesting jobs or business opportunities. It would be best if the alternative paths to success forged by highly educated non-elites produced out of this reinforcing loop would create an alternative elite for all our long term sake. Every society needs to regenerate itself. Birth, death and rebirth should not be prevented or avoided. I am glad some of the top O levels students chose to go to the Polys instead of a path leading to a university education.

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Every school is a good school
Our SG education
Tweaks in Our SG education
Mad About Tuition: The Singapore Dilemma
Too many graduates in Singapore