Minister urges public not to be overly fixated on paper qualifications
SINGAPORE — Urging the public not to be “overly fixated” with the university cohort participation rate, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung stressed on Monday (May 8) that skills would be sought after by employers in the new economy, and not paper qualifications.
“Skills are what carry a premium now, and skills need to be honed throughout our lifetimes ... All of us need to keep learning and deepening our skills throughout our lives,” he said.
Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the Bill to set up the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) as the Republic’s sixth autonomous university, Mr Ong said degrees can become obsolete in a world where information and knowledge can be found online easily. Degrees do not enable people to earn a living, he pointed out. Instead, “our ability to keep pace with changing needs of the economy is what helps us earn our keep”, he said.
Mr Ong’s comments on Monday came after his remarks at the 47th St Gallen Symposium last week sparked a spirited public debate among some, including former GIC chief economist Yeoh Lam Keong.
During the event held in Switzerland, Mr Ong spoke about the need for Singapore’s education system to be aligned with the structure of the economy, and this means that the proportion of graduates in a cohort has to be capped at about 30 per cent to 40 per cent. In a Facebook post, Mr Yeoh said Mr Ong had trotted out the “same old unimaginative line”, and argued that “the history of education policy is full of examples of existing policy makers underestimating the skill and education needs of the modern economy and overestimating their ability to forecast them”.