Sunday, 31 August 2014


The thread has started. Degree or No No Degree?

Just give me a few seconds to clear off some irritants that are not very helpful, and are designed with ill intentions.

Talks have been around saying that university graduates are no longer needed in Singapore when the government made the announcement about ASPIRE....Applied Study in Poly & ITE Review.  In the same vein, the Singapore government no longer values your degree.  This makes no sense, but strangely many do buy in because they had all along believe or made to believed that the government has always been doing things against Singaporeans' interest, the increase of foreigners intake as an example.

The rumours had went even further to say that the government is now nudging employers to avoid employing or promoting degree holders and instead giving the post to Poly & ITE.

Talks like that do make us better, as an individual nor as a people.  Let's move on.

I have never stopped letting people guess whether do I or do I not hold a uni degree.  Some things I do quite evidently show that indeed I have one in my pocket, but other things indicated otherwise.  

When they saw how I analyzed matters, probed questions, and provided alternate views, they concluded that such attributes can only belong to one who have gone through a university education.  Those from another sphere who saw me mingling with lowly workers, doing what they also do..... alas he is just another blue collar worker; at most a supervisor.

There was a time when many prominent Singaporean entrepreneurs suddenly became PhD holders carrying a title of Dr before their names on the namecard.  I was told they paid about S$30,000/- for it.  One friend of mine promptly discarded all his namecards bearing that title as soon as he discovered that it is more destructive than being beneficial.

Other stories we have heard are those who pursued a degree even as they are nearing their retirement age.  One recent heartwarming story is about one who earned his law degree, was admitted to the bar despite having a criminal past, something rather unusual in Singapore.

Many years ago, I advised a friend who inherited a newspaper distribution business to go for MBA.  Private tertiary education then was not at all that popular and moreover he was already the only graduate in Singapore holding a Bachelor of Arts degree distributing newspaper house to house.  Then I wasn't thinking of the entrance of more graduates into that industry, either by way of inheritance or through investments.  It was just a simple thought that an MBA would put him at a better bargaining position when facing grads working in SPH.

Subsequently the life insurance sector followed by the real estate agency sector began to see more entrants who were degree holders.  Maybe we saw it coming, or maybe we didn't, but the privilege and prestige of holding a university degree has begun to spill over to domains of those who didn't have a mortarboard.  I forgot to mention remisers, though there was quite a balance of both degree and non-degree holders in it.

So it happened that sectors that required skills more than knowledge suddenly awaken to itself that they need knowledge on top of the critical skills of the trade.  The government, if you may want to call that helpful, raised the barrier by introducing minimum education criteria and periodical examinations in the name of enhancing professionalism.  Many who thrives only on skills, relationship, and honour but not exactly good at passing exams were gradually phased out of their lucrative trade.

I'm not sure if a poll was taken, but I am not exactly surprised if the results would turn out to be that most university graduates are not in the job that furthers what they had chose to study in the beginning.  I must reserve an exception for those who pursued medical degree.

Many questions left to be answered, maybe just for philosophical sake.  Is the university education a learning path of a just a passporting process into the world of money-chase?  If there is disparity between what the economy needs, and the places in courses provided by the universities, could they not be redefined or streamlined?  Have we be over providing for graduates and had neglected, or even unfairly penalizing non-degree holders in the process?

These days, my friend in the newspaper business don't even have a title behind his name.  It was just a plain Managing Director.

Competition for that wage-dollar will only get more intensive.  ASPIRE as I see it would intensify the competition but the better side of it is for those who are not that good at passing exams gaining the due recognition that they so deserved.  Bottom line is the need for a degree is only for a short moment, but how one learns, continue to learn and how one performs with what is learnt is a long and ongoing path of testing.

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