Encouragement for risk-takers

How can Singapore as a society encourage risk-taking and support those willing to forsake a degree to chase new opportunities?
How can Singapore as a society encourage risk-taking and support those willing to forsake a degree to chase new opportunities?PHOTO: ST FILE

How can Singapore as a society encourage risk-taking, and through policies and resources, better support and empower those willing to forsake a degree to chase new opportunities?

An earnest question posed by a Dunman High School student generated much laughter at the forum yesterday when Singapore Management University president Arnoud De Meyer cheekily blew his own horn, quipping: "Come to SMU!"

He followed up by telling her to "just go for it", adding: "Don't always ask what society can do for me to help me... Singapore is a society where you can take risks."

Straits Times senior education correspondent Sandra Davie cited the three young co-founders of recruitment website Glints as an example of students who have chosen to "buck the trend, and do something different".

When they launched Glints in January 2014, Mr Seah Ying Cong, Mr Oswald Yeo and Mr Looi Qin En were prepared to give up spots at top universities and business schools to focus on the company.

One year later, they secured $475,000 of seed money for their start-up.

Mr Seah, 23, told the forum: "We had to go against what the system imposed on us initially, convincing our parents and explaining to counsellors at our universities why we were going to take a leave of absence.

"Even though we understand that there is resistance from the system, it's more about how the system was built for the majority."

He added that getting the go-ahead to pursue this less trodden path was "simply a matter of asking for permission, and forgiveness" while taking the self-initiative to experiment.

Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung advised students: "You will be an outlier. But every society in its evolutionary process will require such risk-takers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 26, 2016, with the headline 'Encouragement for risk-takers'. Print Edition | Subscribe