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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

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Yooohooo, Pruuudence….

I wondered who Prudence was when I stared at the copy of ST at my doorstep. So this Prudence is supposed “to guide rise in local varsity enrolment’’. I don’t recall a time when I have seen Prudence in a headline. I think she must have been just brought out of hiding. Okay, it’s a sound word. Prudence. Prudent. Prudential. Although I think Caution would do just as well …but no one calls his kid Caution…
Anyway, I kept reading for evidence of Prudence but all the article really says is that varsity spaces will keep pace with employment so we don’t have too many unemployed graduates on our hands. Pesky people. They will expect to land jobs and won’t like it when they can’t and cause a ruckus…like they have elsewhere. The PM has talked about graduate employability before, so I wondered what’s new. I thought what he said about going for applied disciplines was a better point. He emphasised this by referring to how poly grads trained for practice might be better off in the job market. Which makes me wonder what will happen to the study of pure Humanities….Useless subject? Unless you want to be an academic?
In any case, Singapore has been weighed down by numbers recently. Big numbers like 6.5million on this island, 40 per cent in university by 2020. I think it’s good to have a government which thinks long-term, confident that the people would always return it to power. It doesn’t need to plan the infrastructure to fit some four or five-year election cycle. At least, not the really big ones like roads and train systems…
But what’s better is that it is able to chop and change according to circumstances, even before target is met. I am referring to the second story on ST’s page 1 on the foreign student population here. Seems that we’re NOT on the way to making 150,000 international students in three years’ time. The tap has been tightened and the numbers are going the other way. The “hub’’ planner Economic Development Board has nothing to say about a “new’’ target, if there is one at all. Maybe it’s too embarrassed to say that it, like the rest of the G, didn’t reckon with the tide of anti-foreignism here.
Well, it shouldn’t be.
Sometimes, I think we are fixated by numbers. If we don’t meet some target, we’re deemed to have failed in planning. But people change, aspirations change, economic and social conditions change. And policymakers must be courageous enough to admit to making U-turns or changing course. At the same time, the people have to refrain from condemning them for making bad judgment calls every time this happens. Because if the people keep doing that, then we risk staying blindly on some long course, simply because we’ve said we would.
I mean, 40 per cent of the cohort in university by 2020, up from 27 per cent today?

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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