Saturday 18 May 2013

A good career does not depend solely on qualifications: Heng Swee Keat

Channel NewsAsia, 17 May 2013

Singapore's Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said a good qualification alone does not guarantee a good career, let alone a job.

Mr Heng said what is also needed is relevant skills, lifelong learning, and a concurrent growth in the economy.

He was addressing some 300 graduands and their parents at Temasek Polytechnic's (TP) 23rd Graduation Ceremony on Friday morning.

Mr Heng is the latest minister to echo sentiments that a having good career does not depend solely on one's educational qualifications.

Mr Heng shared his recent experience of meeting the owner of a restaurant chain in Singapore.

Mr Heng said the owner had found China-made robots that could be programmed to cook up to a thousand dishes.

He said: "We must be a nation of learners and doers, and not a nation of bookworms and paper-chasers. What matters at the end of the day are deep skills and expertise, and excellent performance on the job.

"We must learn, as technology evolves and the global economy changes, to be the ones to invent and programme our robots, not the ones to be displaced, if we are to have fulfilling careers."

Mr Heng also shared the importance of ensuring economic growth to ensure jobs for new graduates and for tertiary education to keep up with industry demands.

This, Mr Heng said, is where the polytechnic system stands out as it is "industry-focused and practice-oriented" and keeps up with "evolving technologies and markets".

This year, over 5,000 TP students will graduate from 54 full-time diploma courses, and six part-time specialist diploma and diploma courses.

And among them are the polytechnic's first cohort of 66 students who will graduate with a diploma in Early Childhood Studies.

For some, the course set the foundation for higher learning.

"I get to better understand about children's learning and development, and it better equips me as an individual to become a future clinical child psychologist," said Tan Junhao who graduated as the top student in the course.

His fellow graduand Rhodia Renu Karoon said she is now ready to apply what she has learned not just from the polytechnic but from her previous course in Early Childhood Studies at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

"I wanted to continue working after my diploma because I've been studying since ITE, so I wanted to put into practice what I have been studying all this while in my diploma," said Rhodia.

Friday morning's ceremony also saw the polytechnic's top 10 graduates honoured.

First work, then varsity, says poly grad
In contrast, five local unis get 27,000 applications from poly grads this year
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 17 May 2013

AFTER he left Singapore Polytechnic (SP) with a perfect score, many would have expected Mr Tan Junhong to head straight for the university.

But the aeronautical engineering graduate, who topped his course, wants to first work at aircraft-engine makers such as Rolls-Royce for five years before deciding on university plans.

"I know my decision is unusual, but then again my education journey has been unusual," said Mr Tan, who at 24 is four years older than his peers.

He did not do well in his A- level exams at Pioneer Junior College and failed to qualify for university. After his national service, he decided to follow his childhood interest in aeroplanes, and went to SP.

"There are some jobs where experience counts more than qualifications," said Mr Tan, the son of a technician and a housewife.

His decision to start work first is rare among the top polytechnic performers. They usually choose to further their studies after graduation.

Fellow SP graduate Eugene Lim, armed with a maritime business diploma, has already secured a place to read maritime studies at Nanyang Technological University.

"I'm very sure I want to work in the maritime industry, so I want to deepen my knowledge in this field," said the 20-year-old. "There are also better career prospects with a degree."

Over the last five years, 65 to 70 per cent of SP students have gone on to pursue degrees at universities here or abroad.

In response to queries, an Education Ministry spokesman said that the five local universities received around 27,000 applications from polytechnic graduates and about 38,000 applications from A-level holders this year.

The value of a university degree has been hotly debated recently, after National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said earlier this month that Singaporeans do not need to be university graduates to be successful.

His comments came a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that polytechnic graduates need not just aim for degrees after leaving school, as they have many good options.

Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing echoed these sentiments yesterday at SP's graduation ceremony, where he was guest of honour.

He told the 340 graduands that there were sufficient job opportunities for them here, compared to Europe, where youth are facing high unemployment rates. He also challenged them to continue learning after leaving school.

"It's not the degree or the diploma... that is most important," he said. "What matters most is the training of the mind and the ability to grasp an issue, ask the correct questions, dissect the problem and find the solutions."

At the ceremony, SP principal Tan Choon Shian said: "While conventional wisdom suggests pursuing a degree right away, it is also wise to work for a few years, and gain more life experiences to be clearer about what you want before deciding."

Yesterday's ceremony marked the start of the polytechnic graduation season. More than 25,000 students from the five polytechnics will graduate over the next few weeks. This includes 5,898 graduates from SP.

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