Remarks by Guest-Of-Honour, Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, at the Work-Study Diploma Signing Ceremony, at ITE College East

Published Date: 26 November 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. Good afternoon. I just wanted to say thank you to the 268 companies which have come on board; this is the largest gathering we have had. Chairman/ITE Bob Tan has explained the importance of Work-Study Diplomas (WSDip) from the perspective of companies, and has reminded companies that as this is a diploma programme, the starting pay of a WSDip holder should be more or less on par with a polytechnic diploma holder. That has always been the case, and the commitment of all employers when they come on board this programme.

2. Having said that let me now explain why we need WSDip from the perspectives of the economy and the students.

3. From an economic perspective, the logic is quite a simple one. Firstly, technology is advancing, industries are being disrupted, and changes are happening – business models are changing – even within companies, the types of talent and skills in demand are getting more complex. At the same time, we at the Ministry of Education (MOE) are monitoring the number of students enrolling into Primary One and Secondary One, and we can see the numbers going down with shrinking cohort sizes. The situation now is that we have more demands, technology is replacing workers for repetitive tasks, and the cohort size is falling.

4. It may not necessarily be a bad situation. We have a smaller group advancing through the system, but they are entering an economy where repetitive tasks and manual work can be replaced by technology. This means we need a workforce that is more skilled, who knows how to use technology, and is more productive than before. From an economic standpoint, WSDip is a pathway we need to build for our workers, so they have the skills to perform the work that they need to do.

5. The way for us to ensure that is to admit that as education institutions, we can never fully know companies' needs. This means we have to bring the industry into the campus, just as you bring the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) into your industry. That partnership needs to get stronger, so that the curriculum will be enriched, and students will have the necessary skills to serve in their industries upon graduation. And I think this is a clear trend moving forward – that we need to put in extra effort to bring industry know-how into our universities, polytechnics, and ITE.

6. From a student's perspective, my sense is that we are seeing a generation growing up with more diverse aspirations and interests. If you ask any young child what they want to be when they grow up, you will get a variety of hopes and aspirations. When they grow up, perhaps due to societal pressure, it channels us to one single path. But if we actually delve deep into the ambitions and interests of children, their aspirations are diverse. This means we have to cater to their aspirations through diverse pathways – and the work-study pathway will be a dominant pathway from now on.

7. During his National Day Rally this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong committed that by 2030, every NITEC graduate will have an opportunity to upgrade beyond NITEC – be it a Higher NITEC, polytechnic diploma, or WSDip. In the next few years, I believe the typical new hire will have a least a higher NITEC, if not a diploma from a polytechnic or WSDip. Only then will the person possess the skills and foundational knowledge to be able to operate in the complex environment that businesses are now operating in. From the perspective of the young, this will be an attractive pathway.

8. I met the ITE students enrolled in this pathway, and I think they are very excited - they feel that this is a pathway that plays to their strengths. We want to acknowledge and recognise that among all our students, everyone has different strengths. It is an ideal that is driving the reforms in our education system, and as our students move on to IHLs, we have to make sure that the diverse pathways appeal to, and can nurture our children to the best of their abilities. Because every child is different, and each has the hope that they can do their best.

9. With that said, to all our 268 companies, thank you very much. This is an important initiative to the economy, to our students, and to your industry and your company. Thank you very much.

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