Liberalise entrance from ITEs to Polytechnics

~by: Gerald Tan~

I read with interest the article ‘Further education hot topic at ITE dialogue’ (Today Newspaper, 8 Feb 2012, Neo Chai Chin), where Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong defended the stand of the ministry with regards to limiting the number of ITE graduates entering polytechnics.

There is some truth in the argument that increasing polytechnic places for ITE graduates would lead to some paper-qualification-inflation, and might lead to more shortages given the lesser amount of ITE graduates going into the workforce immediately after graduation.

However, the negative effects of these might well be overstated, especially in the light of the benefits that come with liberalising the entry of ITE graduates into polytechnics.

First, such liberalisation would help promote the idea of meritocracy, a core pillar of our society. Meritocracy works only if people are given chances at various levels of their growth to rise up. Some are naturally late bloomers, and the education system should make allowances for them.

Second, it would greatly increase the morale of ITE students. The increased prospect of entering a higher level of education would help spur them on to working even harder. I am sure the Minister of State could sense their desire through the questions he received regarding admission into polytechnics from the ITE students.

Third, our drive towards a more productive and innovative society would be better supplemented by such liberalisation. In our day and age, employers are seeking employees who have multiple skill sets, and having an ITE hands on education, coupled with a higher-level polytechnic education may well aid in this. This would be more acute if the subsequent diploma from the polytechnic is in a different field from that of the Higher NITEC qualification.

Most importantly, we should recalibrate the focus of our education system. The answers the Minister of State gave to the queries by the ITE students betrayed a strong underlying utilitarian approach to education in Singapore. That comes at no surprise at all, given the fear our government has of becoming a society of over-education people with not enough jobs for everyone.

Education should not just serve the utilitarian function of the state, but allow our citizens to self-actualise. Our ITE graduates may not be the best and brightest of each cohort, but who is to say that this should allow us to severely constrict the path of ITE graduates who aspire to get their diploma, to move upwards in the education system.

I strongly urge a review of the entrance policies from our ITEs to the polytechnics.

picture credit: SP Buzz