Friday, 6 January 2017

Civil servants no longer grouped by education level

Civil service ends grad, non-grad grouping
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 5 Jan 2017

It was a longstanding practice in the civil service to distinguish between graduates and non-graduates, with employees grouped into divisions according to their paper qualifications.

But on New Year's Day, that practice was done away with.

Officers are now referred to by their existing grades, which reflect their job scope and pay range.

The change is to drive home the point that career progression in the civil service depends on an employee's job performance and readiness to take on greater responsibility, said the Public Service Division (PSD).

It is also to address the perception that a person's educational level limits his career progression, the PSD told The Straits Times.

Other parts of the public sector, such as the police force and teaching profession, had taken similar steps to close the gap between graduates and non-graduates in terms of pay and promotion prospects.

Civil servants no longer grouped by education level
Officers will now be referred to by existing grades, reflecting job scope and pay range
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 5 Jan 2017

The civil service has stopped grouping its officers according to their education levels, in a move to address the impression that the career progression of a civil servant is determined by paper qualifications.

Since Jan 1, the civil service has ceased describing its officers by their division status in employee manuals, circulars and policies, the Public Service Division (PSD) told The Straits Times.

There were four divisions.

Division I officers were graduates, Division II officers were diploma and A-level certificate holders, Division III officers had secondary education, and those in Division IV had primary education.

As of 2013, 56 per cent of the 80,000 civil servants were in Division I. About one-third were in Division II, and 7 per cent and 5 per cent in Division III and IV respectively.

Now, officers will be referred to by their existing grades, which reflect their job scope and pay range.

"The change is in recognition that this administrative classification could leave a perception that our officers' capabilities and potential for higher-level work are determined or limited by their educational qualifications, which is not so," PSD said. It noted that educational qualifications could be used to assess a job seeker with no work experience. But an officer's career progression would be based on his job performance and readiness to take on greater responsibilities, it added.

Also, relevant work experience would be more important than academic qualifications when assessing mid-career candidates, PSD said.

The change follows recent moves by the civil service to stop distinguishing between graduates and non-graduates in its ranks.

For instance, non-degree holders joining the civil service to perform management support roles have been hired under the same Management Executive Scheme as university graduates since August 2015.

Since October 2015, teachers without degrees have been put on the same pay scale as their peers who are graduates. The Singapore Police Force, too, revised its rank structure last July so that its non-graduate officers can rise through the ranks faster.

Such moves "provide equal opportunities for career advancement and development to both graduate and non-graduate officers who are assessed to have the same performance and potential", the PSD said.

Mr Yeo Chun Fing, general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees, said members had complained of supervisors having reservations about promoting them to roles normally performed by officers of a higher division. The change will reinforce the point that one's ability should not be based rigidly on paper qualifications, he said. "This is in line with the civil service's move towards describing people by their capabilities and potential rather than their education level."

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan said Singapore's largest employer is setting an example for other sectors to rethink their recruitment and talent development policies. "Hopefully, this will gradually lead society to focus less on the paper chase."

Right move but mindset change will take time
Outrunning the paper chase
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 6 Jan 2017

The move by the civil service to stop grouping its officers by their education levels is a step in the right direction. It builds on previous efforts in the public sector to close the gap between graduates and non-graduates in pay and career advancement.

From this year, civil servants will no longer be put into four divisions: Division I for graduates, Division II for diploma and A-level certificate holders, Division III for those with secondary education and Division IV for those with primary education.

The change will address the perception that a civil servant's progression was determined by his paper qualifications, said the Public Service Division (PSD).

Reducing the focus on the paper chase is a topic Singaporeans clearly care about. The Straits Times' story on the change received more than 200 comments online and was shared more than 1,600 times on Facebook in four hours yesterday morning.

But the change has led some to misinterpret it as a sign that the civil service will ignore academic qualifications from now on. For instance, they argued that the civil service should no longer ask for a job applicant's education credentials.

This is not realistic. As the PSD had noted, paper qualifications can help assess job seekers with no experience, as is surely the case in the private sector.

But for a mindset change, promotion prospects need to be based on job performance and the readiness to take on greater responsibilities.

Supervisors should not hesitate to promote a person to a role normally performed by a graduate just because he does not have a degree.

Non-graduates should also not feel they need not put in that extra effort as they will never rise.

But while the divisions may go, it is not guaranteed that people will not fall back and mentally pigeonhole others into categories based on paper qualifications. The move's success hinges on ensuring a non-graduate can rise to high ranks over time, as it should be when promotions are truly based on merit.

If the civil service, as Singapore's largest employer with about 80,000 employees, can pull this off, it will go a long way in winning over cynics who feel the public sector will never outrun the paper chase.

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