Monday, 25 August 2014

PM Lee at post National Day Rally 2014 dialogue with students

PM to youth: Study what's good for your job
Govt not discouraging pursuit of degrees, but wants young people to be aware of choices
The Sunday Times, 24 Aug 2014

Young people peppered Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with questions about a new national push to enhance job opportunities for polytechnic and ITE graduates at a post-rally dialogue in Ang Mo Kio yesterday.

The first question was on how the Government planned to stop the paper chase, and change attitudes in the public sector.

That was swiftly followed by one from a Nanyang Technological University undergraduate who introduced himself as Suhaimi. He wanted to know what better opportunities for diploma holders would mean for those who took the degree route and whether the latter would still be "worthwhile".

He was one of about 350 young Singaporeans aged 12 to 35 who attended the dialogue, organised by the Youth Executive Committees of Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West, and held at St Nicholas Girls' School.

Mr Lee explained that the Government is not discouraging people from pursuing degrees but it wants young people to study what would be useful and valuable to them when they went to work.

Later, he also said that young people need to be aware that they have choices. They can head straight for university after school or work first and study part-time.

Right now, many do not know the menu of choices before them. That is why the Applied Study in Polytechnic and ITE Review (ASPIRE) Committee has recommended better career guidance for students, he said.

Mr Lee and Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh also highlighted the problem of some young people and their parents paying large sums for degree courses at institutions where the quality of education was suspect.

Mr Singh said that as an employer, he would prefer to hire a diploma holder, rather than someone with a degree from an unknown university that offered two-year degree courses, for example.

Turning to hiring decisions, Mr Lee tackled concerns about the public sector, which is known to consider only graduates for many jobs.

He said that the Civil Service had to make sure it hired people who could do the jobs it needed them to do.

That is why a Maths teacher, for example, needs to have a Maths degree or one in a related subject such as physics.

Someone hired to be a doctor should have passed his medical exams.

But in hiring an SAF officer, for example, there was no need for a specific academic qualification as what was needed was a man "who knew his business in the SAF, who has the right spirit and the right values and who can fight", he said.

A student from ITE College East by the name of Nicholas said he hoped to join the police but heard that diploma holders could only hope to move up to the rank of staff sergeant while a graduate would immediately be appointed assistant inspector.

Mr Lee said a degree gives a sense of what someone has accomplished but should only be a "starting point", as how a person advances in his career should depend on his performance and abilities.

Two of the young participants also asked Mr Lee about conserving nature and green places in Singapore. One expressed concern that the planned cross-island MRT line would cut through the Central Catchment Reserve.

Mr Lee said that has not been finalised and that first, the agencies in charge need to do an Environmental Impact Assessment. He also explained that if the line were to cut through the reserve, it would do so underground, and it might be possible to do so without harming the trees and animals above ground.

Too much tuition in Singapore: PM Lee
AsiaOne, 24 Aug 2014

At the youth dialogue held last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave his take on the tuition situation in Singapore after one student expressed concern about parents sending their kids to tuition and other extra classes from a young age.

The student said his niece in her second year at kindergarten is going to so many classes - including one on leadership skills - that he fears that she is losing her childhood.

He was one of about 350 young Singaporeans aged 12 to 35 who attended the post-rally dialogue, organised by the Youth Executive Committees of Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West, and held at St Nicholas Girls' School.

In response, PM Lee acknowledged the situation and noted that many parents are overzealous in arranging for tuition classes for their children.

"Why are K2 students going for leadership training programmes? It's partly because our system is competitive, I think it's [also] partly because parents are very anxious for their kids. And I think sometimes their kids also want to make sure they get the few extra points and they ask their parents to arrange tuition for them," he said.

"But I think it's too much. Tuition can help if you are really struggling with a subject. But generally speaking, we want the teachers in school to be teaching you the whole subject, not teaching you the basics and then saying 'the rest you go and ask your tuition teacher.'"

He said that from his observations, teachers make an effort to teach the whole syllabus in class most of the time and put in extra hours to teach students who need extra help.

"If you need more tuition or more help, many of the teachers I know stay back in class and in school. If you get detention class, the teachers also stay back in order to help you to pass the exam," he noted.

"So I think that actually, we are doing too much tuition in Singapore," he concluded.

Students to be given better career guidance: PM Lee
By Saifulbahri Ismail, Channel NewsAsia, 23 Aug 2014

Students need to be given better career guidance so they can make the right choices in their careers, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Aug 23). He said this would be the recommendation of the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) committee.

The panel, which studied how to create work and study paths for Singaporeans, is expected to announce its recommendations soon. Mr Lee gave the hint during a dialogue session with youths in his Ang Mo Kio constituency. Saturday's dialogue session on the Prime Minister's National Day Rally Speech was the first involving youths.

In his address, Mr Lee had said that a university degree need not be the only route to a fulfilling career for young Singaporeans. Participants then asked if there's a need to study hard for a degree. Mr Lee said not every student is ready to go to university after school.

Prime Minister Lee said: "The answer will vary with each person. It depends on your interest, depends on your aptitude, depends on whether you are an academic type or not, depends whether you want to start getting experience, and then you can build up based on that, and study, and gain further education and qualification later on."

Mr Lee said most young people hope to do well in their studies and want to go to university. Parents would also like their children to take that path. Mr Lee said students should be advised based on their circumstances and that is why career guidance is important.

PM Lee said: "That is what the ASPIRE Committee, I think, will recommend, and that is to have better career guidance for our students so they know what the choices are, and they can make the right choices for themselves. And each person will have different choices.

"But they should know what the whole menu is, whereas now people don't know what the menu is. They have one idea, and they are fixed on that idea, and they just want to do that, and I think they may not make the best choice for themselves for the long term."

In addition, Mr Lee said the quality of the degree is also important. He cautioned students and parents against overseas institutions that provide degrees just because they want to make money.

Mr Lee said: "They earn a lot of money, they charge a lot of money and what are they giving you? They are giving you a piece of paper which the students may think is valuable but at the end, the employer really knows the quality of education which has gone into it."

Before the dialogue, participants broke up into groups to discuss Mr Lee's National Day Rally Speech. At the group session, the youths discussed issues that appealed to them the most during the National Day Rally. In addition, they shared their thoughts on what the areas are that can be further improved, and what they wish can be included in next year's rally speech."

Dialogue participant Mohamed Amin Adiman, who is an Institute of Technical Institute (ITE) student, said: "It will be good if from ITE we can go on to Poly, and we can increase the percentage of ITE students going to Poly. Now, most of the 'O' Level students are taking up the places and only 20 per cent can go to Poly from ITE."

Five more dialogue sessions will be held to engage youths on the National Day Rally Speech in the next few weeks.

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