Bridge quality gap between private, public varsity grads

National University of Singapore students in 2013.
National University of Singapore students in 2013. PHOTO: ST FILE

The profile of students attending private universities is not as important as the effect of private universities churning out large numbers of graduates - leading to underemployment or, worse, unemployment of degree-holders - and the methods to prevent this from happening ("Trace and address reasons for private school education" by Mr Kwan Jin Yao; Nov 18).

Currently, the starting salaries of graduates from private universities and public universities do not differ much, as the job market is still tight.

However, if the economy should slow down drastically and employers can pick and choose their workers, graduates from private universities might lose out to those from public universities when competing for jobs.

Having spent not only time but also much more money than other graduates to obtain their degrees, such private-university graduates might be highly disappointed.

This, in turn, might lead to some negative social consequences.

We, therefore, should not target a certain percentage of each cohort to be degree-holders.

Rather, we should aim at narrowing the gap in quality between graduates from private and public universities.

One way is to provide assistance to those keen to pursue a degree but who fail to meet the admission criteria of public universities, by conducting a bridging course to strengthen their foundation.

At the end of the course, these students need to take a qualifying test before they are allowed to pursue a degree in a local university, private or public.

The top students from this test can also be given a second chance to be admitted to public universities.

Many so-called late bloomers are actually born intelligent but had a poor attitude towards studies during their school days, thus failing to do well enough to gain a place in public universities.

As they mature and take an interest in their studies, it is difficult for them to chase a degree of a certain standard without a strong foundation in studies in general. Such students will greatly benefit from the bridging course.

On the other hand, there are some students who are very hard-working throughout their school lives and yet, do not perform well enough to be allocated a place in a public university.

Such students will likely fail the qualifying test and should be discouraged from taking the university path, as they are not academically inclined.

In this manner, graduates of all universities will be of similar standard and, thus, have more equal job opportunities.

Yeo Boon Eng (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2015, with the headline 'Bridge quality gap between private, public varsity grads'. Print Edition | Subscribe