Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung raised eyebrows recently when he said that a Singapore Prime Minister without a degree may be a matter of time and not too far off from now.

Somehow it’s like saying Singapore may win the World Cup one day – the odds are that huge.

This week, he again waded into the issue, calling the choice between skills and degrees a “false dilemma”  and asserting that “an academic degree cannot be the only path to success.”

Ong stressed: “Increasingly, employers are looking beyond academic qualifications in hiring and promotions. They are looking for demonstrated skills and competencies.”

As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Ong himself majored in Economics and has a Master of Business Administration degree.

It would appear that if we are realistic, the path to success is paved not only with qualifications but also scholarships. Scholars, especially government scholars, enjoy the passport to elitism and a quickfire route to being top dog.

That’s why former general and SAF scholar Neo Kian Hong is the incoming SMRT CEO although he has zero private sector experience and zero transport industry experience.

And former general and SAF scholar David Koh (in the spotlight now because of the SingHealth fiasco) was parachuted in as Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency, and concurrently Commissioner of Cybersecurity, Deputy Secretary (Special Projects) and Defence Cyber Chief in MINDEF.

And we are now being told that qualifications (not to mention rank and scholarships) do not matter that much?

We should ask Minister Ong Ye Kung two simple questions.

Firstly, how many Ministers and how many Superscale officers in the civil and administrative service have no degrees?

The answer is most likely a big fat zero.

Secondly, how many Ministers and how many Superscale officers have children who have passed up the opportunity to pursue degrees?

It is more likely that many of their children not only pursue degrees but are on prestigious scholarships.

In today’s environment, even those armed merely with degrees are having a hard time finding jobs, with many unemployed for longer than before.

So try telling them they could have taken the non-degree route and they would think someone is pulling their leg.

And that someone happens to be, of all people, the Education Minister.


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