Polytechnic Education: Time to Face Reality

By Devadas Krishnadas

The government continues to try to fight the rising tide of market expectations even while swimming with the undertow of aspirations of your people. These are moving in opposing directions.

In the market today a degree is the baseline entry qualification for most upwardly mobile jobs, especially in the services sectors which are becoming ever larger a slice of the economy.

The strategy to continue to invest massively in the polytechnic stream and to present it as a co-equivalent, but different, entry level qualification is misguided.

We need to rethink and reposition the diploma as a staging towards a degree which in practice is how the large proportion of poly students already think of it and are acting accordingly by trying to boot strap themselves up to a degree.

Shorten but Brighten

Instead of a 3 year programme, the diploma courses should be shortened to 2 years to allow for this step up to occur more efficiently.

Our local universities should widen the quota for poly entrants to enable more to get their degrees locally instead of going into debt to undertake conversions overseas.

Given capacity issues not every eligible poly student can get a place at our local universities. For those who could not, the government should consider awarding an education grant- equal to the subsidy our local undergraduates benefit from - for poly students to upgrade their qualification to a degree at reputable institutions overseas or through local campuses of foreign institutions.

Trade Craft if not Mind Craft

For those who cannot make the minimum grade to enter university they have to face the fact that not everyone is suited for tertiary education and they should concentrate on focused skill based upgrading. Our polytechnics should develop post-diploma courses to facilitate such upgrading.

Read the Signal Right

As for blaming foreigners for competition for jobs, poly students as with everyone else in the labour market, need to check themselves from such easy attribution for their anxieties. The economy is only going to get more competitive. Foreigners come here because we are have many things going for us - our students should welcome thus competition. If talent from elsewhere were not attracted to Singapore, it would only mean that we were in decline and then what would these local students do?

Do it Right to Get it Right

It is time for us to given up appearances and take a fundamental relook at the polytechnic education strategy. Deal with it as it already is rather than continue to appease and paper over the reality.

To do so, is neither surrender or to give up on poly students. Rather it is to continue to invest and promote their prospects in tune with changing demands of the economy and to ensure that we get maximum return for the tax education dollar.

This first appeared as a post on the Facebook wall of Mr Devadas Krishnadas on 29 September 2015. Do share your thoughts on the page itself via the link provided. Kindly adhere to a civil discourse.


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