I wrote this yesterday. But somehow couldn’t get into wordpress…
I wish someone pinned Lawrence Wong down further on his assurance that there will not be a glut of unemployed graduates post-2020. So he based it on growth in the manager, executive, professional category from 27 per cent in 2001 to 32 per cent last year. And how this is likely to go up further. It’s an educated guess, I suppose, that this sector will provide at least 3,000 new jobs every year? Or is there some kind of scenario modelling we should look at?
I mean Mr Wong must have examined the issue carefully before he reported to the Prime Minister on what sort of university structure we should have – and what sort of degree courses should be taught. Apparently, it’s engineering and allied health – they belong to the “professional’’ category I suppose? Or is it technical?
Anyway, I have been reading reports about people welcoming the move, even as they worry about future employment. It’s always good to have a shot (I don’t mean the bullet-kind) at higher education, provided that higher education means brain-training rather than just fulfilling a need to fill a space on the assembly line. And having more universities at home means parents don’t have to spend money to get their child a space in an overseas university. Already one in two people in the 26 -29 age group are grads, according to statistics Mr Wong produced, which goes to show that plenty of people have gone abroad or got private degrees over the past few years. So yes, seems we should be educating our people at home.
But there’s also the worry that expanding number of places would mean lowering entry requirements and devaluing the worth of a degree. That would be the case if we think of a degree as the pinnacle of achievement entitling one to the best-paying jobs. But 40 per cent of a cohort thinking that they deserve the best-paying jobs? Seems some norms would have to change. People would have to prepared for the day when not one in two, but maybe three in four adults are graduates and realise that they all can’t be earning the same kind of big money…
I see a university degree as just a way of saying that the person has been brain-trained. A foot in the door perhaps. Then the rest is up to the individual to prove himself or herself. It might even knock out the “elite’’ aspects of being a university graduate. (Okay, maybe employers might start to distinguish between plain vanilla grads and those from fancy universities abroad… Sigh. And while I am at it, I wish our top scholars would study at home, instead of heading abroad for their basic degree. Our unis not good nor glamorous enough I suppose…)
In any case, whether you come from a fancy or kampong uni, out in the workforce, it’s not what grades you obtained in school that counts, it’s the extent of your contribution to the company, the economy. A private sector boss might pay you well at first, but not if you rest on your GPA scores year after year. There WILL be more competition for better pay, better jobs. But then again, at the end of the day, you got yourself a better-trained brain to cope with life.