The last post on Polytechnic students must have struck a chord with the readership as the numbers have been off the charts. It has sparked a firestorm of comments on EDMW, you can find the link here. This is particularly amusing because the first few comments were complaints that my post was too long and the those readers demanded summaries to the post which, somehow, proves my point about the folks who blame the 70% and call all of us "Sinkies".
One or two comments, however, were valid criticisms of my original post.
The post has also been reproduced with my permission here because I guess some educators felt that this was something parents should read about.
Since the original post came out, some folks have volunteered more information about polytechnic education in Singapore. I leave it to the readers to verify the truth of these statements :
a) The average polytechnic student spend more time in the gym or playing computer games during lectures. An attitude problem exists within a significant proportion of the cohort.
b) Polytechnic exams are too easy and are slanted to assist the majority of the cohort. The top 20% who are bound for local university have been complaining for ages as they feel that they are not being sufficiently prepared by their Polys for the academic rigours of university work.
c) One problem raised is that the polytechnic lecturers themselves need to have an attitude of continuous self-improvement before it can rub off on their students. ( This is a valid feedback on the failures of my own generation of professionals. )
This post is primarily about solutions and I have to admit that I can't come up with very good ones.
If financial bloggers are that DAMN good, we'd be running the Education ministry.
Also, I doubt that this blog will be read by average Polytechnic students and I am confident that any solution will only be employed by the top Poly students to push themselves further up the social economic ladder and they will see a lot of personal success in this new economy.
But this is the best I can come up with :
a) Wait for the apprenticeship system to be fully implemented
A lot of readers including myself really want the German apprenticeship system to take off. I actually think that this system will take years to succeed and we'll be seeing a lot of false starts and foot shuffling before corporations start to en-roll for this scheme.
The reason is simple.
In Germany, the apprenticeship system is treating with the same respect as the academic track. This distributes talented workers between two branches fairly evenly so companies have that confidence that they will be able to find a decent mix of workers in their programmes. The same assurance cannot be made within Singapore.
I am guessing that the first few batches will not meet the expectations of a German Mittelstand and the government will need to manage the eventual fall-out deftly.
b) Leverage on online learning resources.
This is a nice solution that will work for the top 20% but will fail for the rest of the Polytechnic population. There are really good learning resources online but you will need a minimal level of motivation to want to pick up these new skills.
Bloggers can harp about how effective these online credentials are but if you are only motivated to earn enough money to do more LAN gaming, nothing I say can influence you further because... TLDR...
c) Join the Civil Service
I am glad that Civil service is opening its doors to non-degree officers. Not all government work requires the ability to conceptualise policy and the bulk of the work can be administrative and do not require degrees.
I am more skeptical about whether the government is genuine about hiring diploma holders into their ranks because these are highly desirable jobs and the government may end up just taking the cream of the crop and ignore the median Singaporean.
As of now, the Government remains the most elitist workplace I have ever worked for and I doubt a mindset change can be made within one generation. We may end up leaving out a good stable career for the average Singaporean.
What bothered me is that when me and friends discussed a solution, this was the only solution that could withstand an intellectual challenge.
Singaporeans have increased in value over the years because of our "integrity". We're so clean that we simply do not understand how corrupt societies work. This makes us amazing catches if we are wiling to relocate to other societies and companies have to manage the legal risks of violating extra-territorial laws like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
As such, our "innocence" holds great value.
We might be average in Singapore but we might be a valued human resource if we can take our basic skills into a tier-2 city like Chongqing. We need to nudge successful Singaporeans abroad to offer a helping hand to other Singaporeans who are stuck in a dead-end position locally.
Am I satisfied with these solutions ? Probably not.
I am however, fully prepared to supplement my children's income with investment returns if they fail to make it under the local education system. I think Singaporean parents over-invest in tuition, I will be balancing this versus the establishment of a financial portfolio.
Hope this will give them an edge which other parents cannot provide.
( I will never allow myself to get into a fair fight with other parents when it comes to my kid's future, sorry ! )