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SkillsFuture is for every S’porean

  • TODAY (13 January 2015): SkillsFuture is for every S’porean
  • TODAY (8 January 2015): Beware overcompensating in rush to recognise less academically inclined
  • TODAY (8 January 2015): S’pore-style meritocracy should adopt a level field
  • TODAY (9 January 2015): Meritocracy must be tempered with equality
  • TODAY (10 January 2015): ITE, poly scholarships don’t blunt meritocracy
  • TODAY (12 January 2015): Scholarship debate: Talent manifests in diverse ways

SkillsFuture is for every S’porean
- TODAY, 13 January 2015

  1. We refer to the letters “Beware overcompensating in rush to recognise less academically inclined” (Jan 8), “S’pore-style meritocracy should adopt a level field”, “Meritocracy must be tempered with equality” (both Jan 9), “ITE, poly scholarships don’t blunt meritocracy” (Jan 10) and “Scholarship debate: Talent manifests in diverse ways” (Jan 12).
  2. We thank Ms Carina Tay, Professor Mark Findlay, Mr Amos Lee, Mr Teng Hau Wei and Mr Aloysius Chia for a lively and positive discussion on the issue of developing talents in a meritocratic society.
  3. The SkillsFuture movement is aimed at enabling all Singaporeans to develop the skills relevant to the future. It will engage every segment of our workforce, including university, polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education graduates.
  4. We agree that individuals should not be measured on academic qualifications alone.
  5. These qualifications are not irrelevant — they reflect determination and an ability to learn in one’s youth. But we must look beyond early qualifications and recognise that a whole set of skills matters in how well we do and what we contribute.
  6. This includes the ability to apply knowledge in real-world situations that keep changing, develop deeper know-how through practice, collaborate well with others and look for opportunities in the face of challenges.
  7. We must help and enable Singaporeans to develop these abilities continually and, in so doing, broaden our meritocracy.
  8. We have been introducing progressive changes to all parts of our education system, not only polytechnics and the ITE, but also schools, junior colleges and universities, to encourage every Singaporean to develop the aptitude for learning and improving throughout life.
  9. SkillsFuture is, however, a long-term effort that will involve the collaboration of many stakeholders: Employers, individuals themselves, unions and training providers. We are pleased that many are already coming forward to partner us on this journey.
  10. Only last week, SingTel launched its SingTel Cadet Scholarship programme in partnership with Singapore and Republic polytechnics. It is but one programme, targeted at developing a pipeline of talent and skills relevant to a particular industry.
  11. We look forward to more employers coming on board and taking ownership in identifying and developing talent to meet their future skill demands.

Beware overcompensating in rush to recognise less academically inclined
- TODAY, 8 January 2015

Education has always been a key focus of Singapore’s pragmatic, forward-thinking society.

This was again highlighted in the report “SingTel launches scholarship for polytechnic students” (Jan 7),which stated that the SingTel Cadet Scholarship Programme will be offered to top students at various polytechnics and comprises a year-long bond and university scholarship.

While I applaud the public and private sectors’ efforts in offering more opportunities to students of diverse disciplines, I also notice Singapore’s push for a fairer meritocratic educational system has, in recent years, become somewhat condescending.

Lately, many of the new scholarships and programmes available have been directed at polytechnic or Institute of Technical Education (ITE)students. In fact, the SkillsFuture Council is directed at helping these students.

While this is commendable and has made our system less elitist, I wonder whether the idea of meritocracy is being forgotten. Some may say rewarding and commending citizens based on merit — the crux of meritocracy — is cruel, but under this system, the most capable benefit the most.

This is a harsh reality in which many civilisations have thrived, despite complaints that the less capable are left behind and that it breeds inequality and corruption.

Singapore has been a proudly meritocratic society, until complaints that people from non-elite schools and backgrounds were unable to get the recognition they deserve despite their capability.

I am all for Singapore redefining what talent is. I admit readily that polytechnics and ITEs are not short of talented individuals who deserve recognition. The point, however, is if too heavy an emphasis is placed on granting more opportunities only to polytechnic and ITE students, the meaning of meritocracy would be diluted.

This would be no better than spoon-feeding these students, who are capable and intelligent enough to attain awards and scholarships without the bombardment of programmes dedicated to them.

There would also be the subliminal idea that they require easily attainable awards because they are inferior to students from other institutions, which is an elitist, backward and prejudiced mentality.

Our system need not start sub-categorising awards and leaving a quota for polytechnic and ITE students when it comes to scholarships that can be open to all institutions.

What our educational system needs is simply to accept that talent will ultimately manifest in diverse ways and that academic criteria alone cannot always measure and rank the talent in our population effectively.

Once our perspective on the definition of ability shifts, we need not rely on overcompensation to appear equitable — the system can select individuals who can and will contribute to the nation, and award them accordingly, regardless of educational background.

For the rest of the letters, please refer to the links as follow: