Need for greater acceptance of alternative education pathways

Ms Sim Ann (extreme right) speaking to participants at "The Future of the Economy" engagement session on Sunday (March 6).
Ms Sim Ann (extreme right) speaking to participants at "The Future of the Economy" engagement session on Sunday (March 6). ST PHOTO: SAMANTHA BOH

SINGAPORE - While there are now more pathways from individuals who do not excel academically, there is still a need for a mindset change among parents and employers.

They need to be more accepting of students who go on unconventional routes to acquire vocational skills.

This was among the views put forth at "The Future of the Economy", an engagement session held by the National Youth Council (NYC) on Sunday (March 6) as part of the SGFuture conversations.

Hosted at the Future of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay, it was attended by about 50 participants, including students and civil servants, who gave suggestions on how Singapore could stay economically vibrant and an attractive place to work.

The participants broke out into four groups, where they also discussed issues such as work life, global inclusion to create opportunities for all, and creating an inclusive economy.

Participant Neha Prakash Barma, 28, an economist, said students who do not do well in their studies are often left demoralised due to parental and societal pressures.

Getting a vocational education at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is also not seen as an option by students here, but as a last resort for many students. Salaries for skilled jobs like nursing do not match the effort that employees put in.

"In other countries, vocational training is very highly valued...we shouldn't frame it in a negative way," she said.

But she noted that the Government has been moving in the right direction to spur changes in mindsets.

In the past decade, more specialised schools, such as the School of Arts and School of Science and Technology, have opened. Academically weaker students are also given more support in schools like Crest Secondary and Spectra Secondary, which provide them with job skills.

The session was attended by Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth.

Speaking to reporters, Ms Sim said: "Many of the youngsters today will become business and industry leaders of tomorrow, and they will become instrumental in providing solutions to many aspects of life in future.

"To hear so much enthusiasm and good ideas, I think it is very encouraging."