June 22, 2017

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Photo By Shawn Danker
Multi Layered Burger.

by Jonathan Tan

So PAP Community Foundation (PCF) pre-schoolers are going to get a lesson on how to use smart phones and tablets “responsibly”. ST reported today that the Inter-Ministry Cyber Wellness Steering Committee is funding non-profit group Touch Cyber Wellness to run such a programme. The programme touches on the dangers of excessive gaming, as well as “good online etiquette”.

It’s a good start, and an early one for the kids who get to be in the programme. But is that enough?

Maybe not. A few pages after, ST carried a piece on teen cyber-scam victims. Teenagers are being tricked into becoming loan shark runners, getting raped, or molested – numbers all on the rise. Clearly, even the older kids need some guidance on more discerning use of online media.

Of course the needs of the different age groups are different. But, it seems more needs to be done to bridge this gap between education, and the technologies we use every day (the internet, smart phones, etc).

So it’s good that kindergartens are getting started on it. But what of the primary schools, secondary schools, junior colleges? After all, ST reported that victims of rape from cyber-scams ranged from ages seven to 19.

It’s time for the schools to get ahead of the internet.

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Photo By Shawn Danker
The Ministry of Manpower building.

by Kwan Jin Yao

Singaporeans who wish to attend international schools are finding it difficult to do so, ST reports, and the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) has had to stop accepting applications. What is clear is that these applicants must first obtain an approval from the Ministry of Education. What is less clear is whether these schools – or the MOE – have set a quota for the number of Singaporean students admitted.

An officer from UWCSEA was informed that a “significant level” had been reached. An interviewed parent was told “the school had reached its quota of Singaporean students”. A spokesperson for the college said that “there is no quota”. If there are no limits or restrictions, then what sparked the UWCSEA decision to not accept more Singaporeans?

Very confusing.

A quota might be understandable for different reasons. The local education system has its merits, and since schoolchildren would benefit tremendously through interactions and learning, the MOE would want to encourage kids to attend the local schools. The foreign schools might want to maintain a healthy distribution or representation of students.

4 per cent of the 40,000 students (1,600) enrolled in international schools are Singaporeans. Not exactly a significant number, given that overall student enrolment in the government-aided schools (primary schools, secondary schools, and the institutes of higher learning) stands at around 600,000 in 2011.

The popularity of international schools has not abated in recent years. The G, aware of the waiting lists in the schools and continued demand for places, allotted 4 new sites in 2012 for these institutions to expand their campuses. A ST report (“4 new sites for foreign schools”, 4 April 2012) noted that the Economic Development Board had conducted similar exercises in 2008 and 2010. In addition, the Stamford American International School along Upper Serangoon Road opened to much fanfare in August last year.

And since sociologist Tan Ern Ser contended that the interest in international schools will rise as more Singaporeans marry foreigners, the MOE should clarify these uncertainties. The National Population and Talent Division reported that 40 per cent of citizen marriages in recent years were to non-citizen spouses (around 11,000). There were close to 27,300 marriages in 2011.

It would also be meaningful to understand the major reasons for opting for the foreign system schools, especially since Singaporean students enjoy more subsidies in the local, government-aided ones. And how will the MOE encourage these students to opt for the local institutions? Questions remain unanswered.

Photo By Shawn Danker. Shared copyright.
Minister Indranee Rajah speaking to students at an event at NUS.

by Bertha Henson

Here’s what I think the education system needs to teach: How to ask good questions. Questions that are too vague can easily be parried. And so that was what Ms Indranee Rajah did, when confronted with Pre-U seminar participants yesterday.

The annual seminar was for Singapore’s youth to “deliberate the opportunities and challenges presented by our rapidly changing world, what these changes mean for Singapore, and how Singaporeans should best capitalise on these opportunities in building a home for all Singaporeans’’, according to the Education ministry.

Questions on the economy and politics were met with pretty much the stock answers. Like, we need to grow the economy because this is the only way we can benefit our population, which is ageing. Like, people got carried away with the 6.9m population figure, which was merely a planning parameter and the White Paper really had a lot of good stuff like infrastructural needs of the future. The killer answer was one about whether the new MDA licensing laws amounted to censorship: Of course not, it merely put online sites on the same plane as mainstream media. That 50,000 visitor reach would put sites on par with MSM, she asserted. Then she read from an MDA press statement what would be considered “objectionable content’’. She was obviously prepared for this one. She did give one example of what could be objectionable content that be subject of a take-down notice: The video of slaying the British soldier in London.

Not that all the questions were vague. The best ones were those directed at Ms Indranee personally, like what makes her proud to be a Singaporean and what she thought were the distinguishing traits of being a Singaporean.

Here’s another thing the education system should teach: self-reliance. Policy-type questions tend to become a “what is the Government doing/going to do about’’ queries.

It became so that Ms Indranee had to keep pointing out that the G isn’t the almighty solver of problems but that a “collaborative’’ effort was needed. The people sector needed to move too. The stressful education system, for example. Parents get worried when there’s too much emphasis on creative learning and not enough drilling. As for helping the disabled, people’s attitudes had to change too so that these people would feel “integrated’’ into society.

This is troubling.

Our young people are getting smarter, by all accounts. Yet they do not seem to think that they, and the people, have a part to play in making this country a great place to live in. Instead they look for answers from the G.

Ms Indranee gave a long round-up of the vulnerabilities of this “little red dot’’, a moniker that few in the audience appeared to know the origin of. She helpfully gave the genesis of the label, referring to how it came from a leader of a neighbouring country. Too bad it was too vague. A student who went to the mike to ask a question named the wrong country!

She made a distinction between people of her generation, baby boomers, and those in the audience, who were in Primary One when Sars hit in 2003. They were born in the dot-com era and a handphone is now so much a part of their life. The future now belonged to them.

Except that we seem to be breeding a generation of Singaporeans (no foreign students in the seminar) who still want the G to look after their needs. More government, rather than less government appears to be what they want. In fact, there was a rather strange question on what Ms Indranee would think if she was a youth about Singapore in 2030! She said she wouldn’t know. But it was an excellent attempt to get someone else to answer your question for you…

One thing the education system needs to do is to wean young people away from this dependence on authority. It appears to be trying to, with its emphasis on nurturing the mind, rather than just filling it with content. While students are encouraged to think “out of the box’’, this appears to be a box that is still in the same old room.

Most of the students who asked questions appeared to be fulfilling some task they had been set in their subgroups, rather than out of personal or intellectual curiosity. Perhaps that was a teaching method: introduce them to a topic, get them to discuss topic and ask questions of it.

For those who are interested, here are the sub-themes that the young ones had to grapple with:

a. Hope for a Better Future
Singapore must always offer hope of a better future in which each generation of Singaporeans will live better than their predecessors. This entails an economy that creates opportunities for all, a society that nurtures all to their fullest potential, and a forward-looking people. Participants will examine how the nation’s collective hopes and aspirations build on Singaporeans’ individual quests for self-improvement and how social mobility is created through societal initiatives.

b. A Bigger Heart
As Singaporean society advances and evolves, it is essential that all segments of society progress and share in the benefits of growth. The qualities of forbearance and generosity are crucial for the development of an inclusive society in which all segments, including the less fortunate and non-Singaporeans, can progress together. Participants will explore how Singaporeans can develop a heart for all segments of society.

c. A Home for All
As Singaporeans we should feel we belong to Singapore, have a sense of loyalty to the country and take pride in our achievements. Participants will examine how future trends will impact the relevance of existing conditions and policies that ensure Singapore remains the best home for all.

If there was one student who stood out, it was an Anglo-Chinese School student who asked why there were no anti-discrimination laws to protect the LGBT community. Teachers and ministry officials were puzzled. LGBT appeared to be an unfamiliar term to them.

Ms Indranee was patient and even asked if she was referring to Section 377A which criminalised homosexual sex. She went back to first principles emphasising the need, for example, to put merit first regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation. She also referred to the parliamentary debate in 2006 which discussed the issue and which decided to keep the law because that was what the conservative mainstream wanted.

The student was evidently well-read. She knew enough to keep a short dialogue going, even referring to nasty rude remarks she had heard directed at her. She even corrected Ms Indranee on her name. Micole, not Nicole.

It was a brave, and very mature, showing.

Photo by Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
Cook a pot of Curry before audience seating.
primaryschool
Illustration by Marcus Tan

On Thursday, My Paper ran a front page story on parents who are upset at some social studies questions in a test script for Primary 5 students. They think it’s too early to expose children at the young age of 11 to issues such as, the reasons for the 1961 split within the PAP in Singapore, or the cause for UMNO’s worry about the “Chinese majority in Singapore. Here is what our Junior Chefs think of it:

 

by Pavan Mano

History’s many versions

“History is written by the victor,” goes the common refrain. And how it is taught in schools by history’s different parties matters too. That’s probably what lies at the heart of this outcry – parents are worried that the narration of events presented to their young impressionable children is (unfairly) skewed in ways that might not tally with their version of history. In public relations parlance, this is known as “spin’’ – creating an interpretation of events to sway public opinion according to what the spin doctors want. In layman’s terms, it’s just propaganda.

I was chatting with two Malaysian friends recently who could not understand why merger and separation was such a huge deal in Singaporean education. According to them, Malaysian history textbooks deal with the two countries’ separation in a few lines, simply saying that Singapore “left’’. Clearly the same event can be expressed differently, with different outcomes.

When I was 11, in Primary 5, I assumed that whatever I was taught was gospel truth – whatever Sir said must be correct. Of course, it seems silly now, but at that age I was simply absorbing information presented to me; critically analysing and thinking about the issue was something unfamiliar. Asking questions was a daunting task as questioning Sir was unimaginable.

I’m not sure exactly what’s being taught to those in primary schools now but based on the talk making its rounds on the web, some people think there is a “spin’’ or state-sponsored propaganda.

The Education ministry is caught between a rock and a hard place on this one – there is no one “correct” version of history to teach. Interpretations abound. Whatever the critics say, the version that they insist should be taught instead, is simply that – a version. So what then?

Well, there were two other people whose words I treated as gospel at age 11 – my parents. What’s taught in school is only one interpretation. Students will take it at face value. Unquestioningly, even. But educating children is not the sole responsibility of MOE . Parents have a stake in it too.

So why not engage the children? Explain the other side(s) of the story. Bring them to the library. Share webpages with them. Expose them to other interpretations so that they know this is a complex issue. The critical analysis will come as they mature.

It is better that young Singaporeans are taught something about local history rather than nothing at all. Parents are free to disagree and educate their young ones as they see fit, and as they should. At the very least, introducing pre-teens to local politics and history provides a starting point for a meaningful dialogue to be had. And that’s much better than having them remain on the fence, indifferent, disinterested, and apathetic. From childhood right through their adult life.

 

by Donovan Cheah

Start them young – when they are less stressed.

Is it ever too early to let students know more about their country? According to some parents, the answer seems to be “Yes!”.

I disagree.

Is maturity to be defined arbitrarily as a numerical age? Curious students will eventually ask about the country’s past, the formation of government. If no answers are given in school, they can search the Web for information, relying on socio-political blogs, for example, or plough through historical archives on Singapore.

Even as a university student, I feel that I may not have fully grasped many of the intricate issues that our country faces. Many of these issues are multi-dimensional, which also implies that there is no one easy solution to them. No doubt, politics, public policy and the likes of them are difficult to understand, but they affect our lives directly, and hence it is imperative that people should start knowing at least a little about the country from young.

The way to start, naturally, is talk about significant past happenings. Introducing them to how our country was born out of forced circumstances, for example, will give them some grounding in understanding Singapore’s fragility.

What about the argument about when students should be taught such matters? I tend to hew towards: the earlier the better. Let them ask questions when they are still young when they do not have so much to grapple with; don’t cram everything in secondary school or beyond. Because, by then, if they do not perceive social studies as important, they would no longer have the heart to understand or even read about Singapore.

Give our young people a gentler learning curve in understanding more and more complicated issues by giving them glimpses of our nation in the past. When knowledge builds up, analytical skills can be applied. How to critique history will then be up to them.

 

by Uthara Nair

What’s the big deal about teaching politics?

I honestly don’t understand all this hoopla about primary 5 students being too young to be exposed to politics. What nonsense. These students are not being asked to vote, they are simply being exposed to the intricacies of government and history. If parents are so scared about their children being unduly influenced in a certain way, what, may I ask, do they do during election time when ministers and candidates walk about, give speeches, hold rallies? Lock their children in a metal box?

First, those questions that some parents found objectionable are only in the Gifted syllabus, which are supposedly for the more mature and studious. Or is the worry the “brainwashing’’ of clever children?

Second, isn’t it more advantageous to gradually introduce the students to political history of Singapore, rather than dumping it on them suddenly when they are deemed to be ‘mature’ enough?

There’s so much political news and views both local and foreign that it might be better to start them off with a foundational understanding- if the social studies questions can even be called that- of politics. This learning doesn’t end. Even in university, there is the compulsory Singapore studies modules that must be completed for graduation.

Third, why can’t parents get more involved in educating their children on politics? Supplement the teacher or even correct the teacher if you think the child is getting a false or lousy grounding. But before jumping the gun, take a look at the scope and extent of “political’’ lessons in a primary student’s syllabus. Have your say in what should be taught – but don’t get it banned.

Photo by Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
Popsicles found at a pasar malam.

By Yen Feng

Of the many things that Singaporeans get kan-cheong about, school grades are pretty up there. So imagine how some 2,500 students here must feel, after being told that their exam results are being withheld indefinitely due to a union dispute thousands of miles away.

The students are from the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) who are pursuing degrees issued by RMIT University in Victoria, Australia.

Because of a dispute between the country’s National Tertiary Education Union and the university, the union has banned it from releasing exam results until a deal can be struck over employment and salary issues.

Basically, the union wants the school to cut its staff and up the remaining lecturers’ pay, but the school says this would cost them nearly $300 million over the next four years.

The report was carried by CNA and Zaobao this morning, and was missed by other mainstream media, including ST and TODAY. The university’s deputy vice-chancellor told CNA that the union’s claims were unrealistic.

According to CNA’s report, there are about 6,000 students in Singapore enrolled under the SIM-RMIT programme. Only a portion of first- and second-year students, or about 2,500 students, are believed to be affected by this academic detente, however.

Zaobao said that SIM is believed to be RMIT’s largest partner in Singapore, and added that there are a few other private centres offering courses from the Australian university – though, it did not name any.

This incident comes less than a week after the results of some 50,000 students at Victoria’s Swinburne University of Technology were withheld over a similar dispute, CNA reported.

Examples of other similarly troubled tie-ups between schools are not uncommon in recent years – such as the high-profile closure of NYU’s Tisch Asia’s campus in Singapore, for example.

Earlier in January this year, the Singapore Institute of Technology ended its relationship with Las Vegas’ University of Nevada because of a disagreement over fees (The American university wanted more money); and last year, students at the private AEC College were unable to start their MBA programme offered by Britain’s University of Wales because their English test results were withheld.

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Photo by Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
A corridor at the campus of NUS Yale.

by Bertha Henson

The sex-for-grades case is winding down with the law professor slammed with a guilty verdict and his sentence to be handed down on Monday. For the best-written report on the prosecution and defence arguments on what sort of sentence he should get, read TNP. Strangely, ST is doing “catch-up’’ today, incorporating elements that were said the day before in court about how the Tey Tsun Hang’s case differs from that of former Central Narcotics Bureau chief Ng Boon Gay, who walked out of court a free man.

So is it going to be the “clang of the prison gates’’ for Tey, who was found guilty of soliciting gifts and sex from a student? That, by the way, seems to be some kind of short hand for a token jail term. Or will it be 16 weeks imprisonment which the prosecution is asking for?

One interesting point has emerged – and that is about the integrity of the university grading system. Now, if you remember the Tey case, it’s about getting favours from the student because the student thinks the teacher – or the teacher gave her the impression – can give her better grades. It seems her grades weren’t changed, so Tey either conned the girl into thinking he could do so, or the girl was naïve enough to think he could.

This is what TODAY reported the prosecution as saying: “The key suggestion raised by the offence is that the grading system, while having safeguards in place, can potentially be circumvented and subverted if an ill-intentioned party involved in grading the students is determined to enter into illicit arrangements.”

But the defence lawyer noted that grades were not altered: “The present case has not caused NUS any reputational damage with regard to its grading framework and its institutional integrity.”

The prosecution’s reply: “The accused was placed in a position where the accuracy and validity of the marks awarded depended on his professionalism and integrity — in both instances, the accused has been found sorely wanting.”

That last bit is a little difficult to comprehend. So while her grades had not been “altered’’, does he mean that there was no need to, since the orginal grades had already factored in the “favours’’ granted?

Perhaps, the university authorities would like to clarify its grading process once again and how it safeguards the system from being influenced by the marker’s personal prejudices or “illicit arrangements’’ in the first instance. It’s going to be a tall order and could in fact, be unfair to the majority of teachers who exercise stringent care in grading. But if people outside think that the integrity of the system could be compromised as the prosecution alludes, it might be worthwhile clearing the air.

But now that the law don-versus-lawyer case is about to end, and we’ve enjoyed the cut-and-thrust of argument, fainting fits and the like – we should turn our attention to another lawyer-versus-lawyer case. This involves a former prosecutor who is part of that seemingly never-ending underage sex case. Spencer Gwee claimed in court that his legal career made him an “important catch’’ for the police whom he claimed spoon-fed information to the girl to build up its case against him.

One time, Gwee was accused of doing his lawyer’s job for him. Much like how Tey used to edge out his own counsel, Mr Peter Low, during his own trial.

Read ST for the story. It’s entertaining.

Photo by Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
A corridor at the campus of NUS Yale.

by Augustin Chiam

Ex-NUS law professor, Tey Tsun Hang was charged on Tuesday (29 May 2013) on all six counts of corruption, accused of corruptly receiving gifts and sex from his former student, Darrine Ko. The “sex-for-grades” label is a bit of a misnomer given that the prosecution has never argued that grades were tampered with – more like “sex-and-expensive-gifts-for-nothing”, given that Ko never received compensation for the gifts or the abortion(!) she had to undertake.

In a three-hour long verdict by Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye, the talking points are plenty.

ST focused on how Tey’s claim that his relationship with Ko is a romantic one was rejected by the Judge. Not once did he refer to Ko by her name/nickname, preferring to call her “a female student”. He had also been “terse in his e-mails (to her), sometimes to the point of being curt” and when he did take the initiative to write, his “romantic Chinese poem” was exposed as a copy-and-paste exercise from YouTube. Seems like a classic case of one-sided puppy love, pity that it didn’t raise any red flags for Ko.

TODAY reported that the prosecutors argued for Tey to be covered under Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PoCA) without really specifying or explain the Section. Essentially, it means that as an employee of NUS, any gifts received by Tey would be presumed to be corruptly received until proven otherwise; One of those “guilty-until-proven-innocent” clauses in the Singapore penal code, similar to how possession of certain drugs carries with it the presumption that one intends to distribute it.

Ng Boon Gay’s alleged sex-for-I.T. contracts case is the other (in)famous case that concerned Section 8 of the PoCA. TODAY also highlighted how the Judge differentiated Tey’s case from Ng’s. The Judge said that Tey “had total autonomy and power” over his student, noting that in Ng’s case, the contracts in question were drawn up primarily by his I.T. department. Ng was acquitted from his corruption charges, his extra-marital affair irrelevant to the question of whether he was corrupt.

The conclusion of this case certainly highlights the “sensitive” relationship between teacher and students. Lest it be forgotten, Tey had earlier admitted to CPIB and the courts that he had sex with another student besides Ko. NUS will understandably be more conscious and it remains to be seen whether stricter measures will be put in place to ensure that such close encounters with the students will not occur again. No more couches in the offices?

Photo By Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
A Disco Ball.

by Yen Feng

What do Singaporeans and Nigerians have in common?

A love for instant noodles – this was the answer to a question the Minister of Education Heng Swee Kiat posed nearly 100 Singaporean students in Hangzhou, China, during a university dialogue session yesterday.

The minister was speaking on the increasing number of Singapore firms who are now investing in Africa – a fact he said was not known to many people, reported Zaobao today.

Though he did not give any specifics, the trend follows the economic development of China and Africa, he said, adding that such greater presence in Africa may include securing more flights from Singapore to African nations.

Mr Heng told the students on a foreign exchange programme that the Nigerians were particularly fond of instant noodles that were brought to Africa by a Singaporean businessman.

Because they so loved the product, they also fell in love with Singapore, the Chinese paper reported.

One third-year student asked Mr Heng if there were any foreign exchange student programmes between Singapore and Africa.

Among the 100 Singaporean students present, though none had been to Africa before, more than half said they would love an opportunity to do so. According to ZB, this prompted the minister to exclaim: “Wah, this is very interesting!”

Other topics discussed during the dialogue included bilingualism and the quality of teachers and university graduates.

Using Chinese software can be tricky
Using Chinese software can be tricky

In November, a few hundred students will be sitting part of their Chinese Mother Tongue exams using a laptop – the first time computers are being used in a national examination, the Education Ministry said yesterday.

Instead of writing their answers on traditional gao zhi (Chinese foolscap), the 300 junior college students will have to type an e-mail or blog entry by using romanised hanyu pinyin, then selecting the right characters when prompted by the input software. This “functional writing” part of the test makes up 20 per cent of the whole exam.

Media reports said the exam is the A-level Mother Tongue “B” exam, introduced in 2003 to help students who aren’t so good in Chinese.

The thinking behind this new e-component is that it will make learning Chinese more current since no one really writes in script anymore – certainly not students who are poor in the language to begin with.

Or as MOE deputy-general of education Wong Siew Hoong put it to ST: These students were selected to have the e-exam because they “are the ones who will require a lot more authenticity in their learning”.

TODAY said such computer-based writing “has become the norm not only in the workplace but also in social communication”.

Surprisingly, the Chinese daily Zaobao did not have a conniption fit about the news – after all, the concern most traditional Chinese-speakers will have is that such a move may compromise the learning of Chinese characters at a time when already more and more Chinese Singaporeans are using English at home and at work.

The paper reported the story straight – though, expect its Forum pages to be flooded by similar concerns over the next few days.

This was an issue addressed by the director of assessment research at the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board yesterday.

Mr Yue Lip Sin said “recognising the characters is as important as knowing how to write them,” ST reported, adding: “What is important is whether they are able to communicate the idea and the feeling in the functional writing.”

by Bertha Henson 

When there are so many ministers talking down a diploma or degree, something’s amiss (or afoot), methinks. Mr Heng Swee Keat makes it minister No. 4 to have weighed in on how a paper qualification is not the only route to success. Now… the minisers were mainly speaking to polytechnic graduates, practically telling them to get a job (there are plenty, so it has been asserted) instead of automatically heading to the universities.

What will they say if the audience were university graduates? Not to go chasing yet another paper? Post-graduate qualifications? What’s for sure, the mantra that learning is a lifelong process will be heard.

This is all so odd. When university places were opened up, one reason was to give more good poly students a shot at a degree locally instead of spending money on an overseas education. It was universally applauded. Then there was all that projection about the proportion of university graduates making up the labour force in the future. So many universities, autonomous and private, brand-name and otherwise, are sited here, nay, wooed over. And now we are saying that poly students might want to think about getting a job first?

You can’t blame anyone for wondering about the ministerial chorus.

Why do people want a degree? First, entry-level pay is differentiated for diploma and degree holders, as it should be, given the longer investment in a university education. Second, a degree is more prestigious than a diploma. Third, a degree is what our parents would prefer us to have. Fourth, a degree is needed if you want to be a “professional’’, say, lawyer, doctor or accountant.

In fact, a degree is now perceived as not good enough in the eyes of some people. Is it a “good’’ degree? From a “good’’ university? In fact, a Bachelors degree is not as good as a post-graduate degree. An MA or a Phd is better, that’s why it’s printed on business cards.

But I would be the first to say that work experience is valuable – but do employers think so too? When I left university, the difference between a general degree and an honours degree was $200 a month, a large sum in those days. Can a general degree holder surpass the pay of the new honours graduate in one year or two or three? Or will they forever be lagging behind? What about a diploma versus degree holder? Much would depend on how much effort the employee puts in. The other question would be whether this is recognised by employers or would employers be dazzled by the academic credentials of a fresh recruit that they automatically make arrangements for their career “progression’’?

I have another worry. Is the ministerial chorus being sounded because our polytechnic students are not good enough to fill university places, especially with the expansion of poly places over the years? And their aspirations will have to be dampened or there will be a political problem on our hands? To accommodate so many, university entry levels will have to be lowered to meet the higher demand. (I have always wondered about whether the Integrated Programme has siphoned off the best students at age 12, preparing them for university. Do the best of the rest head to the junior colleges or to the polys?)

It will take more than a ministerial chorus to turn people away from a degree and take their chances in the job market or set up their own business. The education route has been so ingrained in the minds of the people here. Sure, there are plenty of people who have made it good in life without a degree (and the media is celebrating them like crazy these days). But how many did so because they didn’t have a choice, like too few uni places here so they only go to the cream of the crop, too expensive elsewhere or family circumstances that require them to earn a living?

Another thought: With so many foreign workers sent packing with the tightened work permit system, is this one way to make sure a labour crunch is averted? Perhaps, work opportunities and space for career progression really abound. We need workers, to replace the workers who have to go home.