Certificates, diplomas or degrees?

By Frodosamo

First, we had that silly Khaw Boon Wan talk down on the value of university degrees. Then in this year's National Day Rally speech Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed the set-up of the ASPIRE committee to help those pursuing an education in the ITEs Polytechnics advance further in their future career paths. The main stream media, either because of ignorance or a hidden agenda, jumped to conclude that a significant cultural shift or viewing ITE certificates and Polytechnic diplomas as equals to university degrees has started to take place. DPM Teo Chee Hean jumped in to further downplay the value of university degrees in a speech celebrating his British alma mater's anniversary.

These people are really daft. Let me ask all those Ministers and the committee members of ASPIRE. Do they really believe that an ITE or Polytechnic education is sufficient for themselves and their own children?

We are talking about a knowledge economy. Knowledge is unlike traditional trade skills which you can acquire through consistent, diligent practice. The proper acquisition of knowledge requires a certain level of intellect. To generate new knowledge, an even higher level of intellect is required. Science and technology unmistakenly drives an innovative economy. Already, despite being a well-educated population we are losing out to competition from foreign talents. Can you imagine how many more of us will be jobless if most of us possess only ITE certificates and Polytechnic diplomas?

You can always find individuals without degrees doing better than those with one. But you have to look at the general situation to understand these successes are the exception rather than the norm. If you are still not convinced, just ask those who have succeeded without degrees, how many would not want to encourage their children to graduate from university?

One important issue about degree holders in our country is that quite often they will find that what they have learned in university is not directly relevant to their eventual field of work. Take for example, the complicated Mathematics they learnt in an engineering course. How many of them will be required to actually solve an equation, let alone formulate one, in their jobs? This incongruence exists because our economy is still pretty much a low to middle-tech entity. Besides trying to promote ITE and Polytechnic education, our policy makers should work harder to upgrade the overall technological competence of our economy so that our degree holders will finally be able to put what they learned in university to good use.

The only saving grace? Our Education Minister has come out to clarify that ASPIRE is not about dissuading Singaporeans from obtaining degrees.

This was reproduced with permission from editors of The Real Singapore.


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