Friday 31 October 2014

Indranee Rajah: Parents, bosses 'must look beyond paper qualifications'

Govt is committed to doing so, though it will take time
By Amelia Teng And Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 30 Oct 2014

PARENTS, students and employers need to look beyond paper qualifications and recognise workers' skills and abilities - something the Government is committed to doing - said Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah.

But, she acknowledged yesterday, this will take time.

"The traditional thinking was that there's only one path to success, but I think the reality is that it is much more complex," said Ms Indranee, who led the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) committee.

Last month, the Government accepted ASPIRE's recommendations to improve the quality of education and job prospects of Institute of Technical Education and polytechnic students.

These include giving students the chance to work while studying, and helping workers build up their skills.

"It's not one-size-fits-all," she told a 200-strong crowd of students, staff and alumni who attended the National University of Singapore's (NUS) monthly U@live forum. It was the first dialogue on the issue since the recommendations were accepted.

"There are many paths to success and education, because it's lifelong, because you're learning things along the way. (They) need not be taken all in one bite," said Ms Indranee.

Former Nominated MP Viswa Sadasivan, an NUS alumnus who moderated yesterday's forum at the NUS Shaw Foundation Alumni House, said that the recommendations are a step in the right direction. But he questioned how the Government - as an employer itself - would fight mindsets that have become entrenched over decades.

Responding, Ms Indranee noted that the Government is "huge". "It's very difficult to do the kind of quick assessment that you can do in the private sector, and you need to try and have an objective system," she said.

But sometimes, the reliance on grades and qualifications could be too excessive, she admitted.

"When (the Government) starts to take something on board.... it may be a bit slow because of the sheer size of it, but when it starts to gain momentum, it begins to chug along," she noted.

Ms Indranee emphasised that other parties, ranging from employers to teachers, need to believe in a person's ability over qualifications too. There is no need to rush for a degree, she stressed, adding that ASPIRE's aim is to create different ways for students to build on their skills as they progress in the workforce.

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