Our society and markets are changing; the way we prepare our next generation for working life must also change. When it comes to education, we all have our own ideas on how we should and should not educate our kids. Some stand by the need for formal education, whilst others put more value on skills.
The nation is changing its directions too. Remember ASPIRE from last year’s National Day Rally? MOE had since then been tasked to change the landscape of education. In glorious government speak, here are the shifts they will be taking:
- Beyond learning for grades, to learning for mastery.
- Beyond learning in school, to learning everywhere, throughout life.
- Beyond learning for work, to learning for life, with spirit and purpose.
Numbers tell the truth
We’re all practical creatures. Education should lead to a good job. A good job is more often than not, measured by pay.
The administrators want society to recognise skills more than we do academic papers.
But is this the reality for polytechnic students? Take this for example: 20 years ago, the starting salary of a polytechnic graduate was about $1900. Today it is still about $1900. The salary of degree holders however, has gone up from $2100 to more than $3000.
We can say all we want about changing the way we look at going to a Polytechnic and being skills trained, but is this reflected practically in monetary terms?
Should education be so narrowly pragmatic?
Students want a meaningful career, one that pays enough for them to survive and at the same time, studies a course in sync with their passions. Finding this balance may not be easy. The pragmatic reality of our society sometimes forces you to chose between economic reasons or passion.
And speaking of passion, how do you know what you’d love to do for the rest of your life anyway? Many polytechnic students are made to decide on their specialization by choosing a course at 16 when they enter polytechnic or ITE after O levels. How many of us really know what we want to do for the rest of our lives at 16? Without proper guidance, it is a stressful decision indeed.
The problem is – you don’t. Yes, there are counsellors and guidance in the schools.. but it is the norm for people to pursue careers away from their path of study. This is where SkillsFuture can come in handy. It will help workers in the future if they want to switch jobs by allowing them to undergo courses that help them learn new skillsets to make that switch.
What do Educators think?
Educators want to help students become work-ready and life-ready when they graduate. They hope that once they graduate, they are able to contribute back to the industry and do well in whatever field they have chosen to pursue.
Enhancements to the internship curriculum is underway and is expected to be extended to two-thirds of all polytechnic courses over the next two years. The enhanced internship will equip students with meaningful on-the-job experiences and ease transition into work.
The new Earn and Learn initiative introduced in Budget 2015 is a work-study programme that will give fresh graduates a head-start in careers. In Earn and Learn, participants are job-matched, given OJT, steered through their careers intricately and have their skills deepened…all under the caring hands of an assigned mentor.
All this sounds very good on paper, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
The administration wants change. They want attitudes shifted from rewarding papers, to rewarding skills. They want “every school to be a good school”. They want university, polytechnic and ITE graduates to realise success easily upon graduation.
But the thing is, everyone wants change… but no one wants to change.
Parents, students, employers, aunties and uncles must all realise that there are different routes to career success, beyond academic success. The mindset of employers must change; particularly multinational companies. The Civil Service has recently walked the talk by merging career tracks of both graduates and diploma holders into one. No longer is there discrimination and glass ceilings based on this factor.
Employers should be kiasu to hire those with competency, not kiasu to hire those with better grades.
Overall, the suggestions made by MOE to shift should be supported. That being said, do we want change and are we prepared to change?
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