Overhaul mindsets on polytechnic education

Students at Nanyang Polytechnic during its course and career exhibition on Jan 5, 2016.
Students at Nanyang Polytechnic during its course and career exhibition on Jan 5, 2016. ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Kudos to Nanyang Polytechnic for churning out such an outstanding graduate in Mr Rayden Chia Yong Xiang ("Harvard and MIT both want this poly graduate"; yesterday).

Mr Chia's success certainly reassures many who have chosen the polytechnic route in pursuit of their interests.

For far too long, there has been a perception that those choosing this route are "sub-par", compared with junior college students.

But some of us respond better to vocational training, and, through a polytechnic education, we see how theory is put into practice.

Being involved in real-life projects - some with commercial viability - predisposes us to breach new frontiers, perhaps even setting up our own business.

We are imbued with the can-do spirit fairly early. It is hardly surprising that many polytechnic graduates go on to become successful entrepreneurs.

There is also a perception that a polytechnic education marks a terminal point in one's academic journey. This is far from the truth. Many options are available, both locally and abroad, if one still desires to pursue a university degree.

In fact, because of the solid groundwork one receives in the polytechnic, which encompasses both theory and practical realms, one is held in good stead when applying to universities.

Many of the diplomas are recognised and given advance standing by way of transfer credits. This translates into saving time and money in attaining a degree.

This advantage is further enhanced if one chooses to work for a few years before continuing one's studies at a university.

Prospective employers also look upon poly graduates highly, as they need both doers and thinkers in their ranks. Because of their training, poly graduates are self-initiated and proactive in getting things done.

Perhaps, it is time we overhauled our mindsets. Polytechnic graduates are not second best nor should they settle for less.

Let us not rein ourselves in with arcane notions of what education stands for or how best to achieve it. The sky is the limit, if one dares dream and dream big.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Overhaul mindsets on polytechnic education'. Print Edition | Subscribe