University degree 'not vital for success': Khaw Boon Wan

Getting good jobs after leaving school more important: Khaw

Singaporeans do not need to be university graduates to be successful, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday.

What is more important is that they get good jobs after leaving school, Mr Khaw told some 160 students and young adults in an Our Singapore Conversation dialogue.

"If they cannot find jobs, what is the point? You own a degree, but so what? That you can't eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless," he added.

Mr Khaw was responding to a participant who said the Government should set aside more university places for Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnic graduates.

Said Mr Khaw: "Can you have a whole country where 100 per cent are graduates? I am not so sure.

"What you do not want is to create huge graduate unemployment."

The minister said there were countries that upgraded their polytechnics to universities but regretted doing so, after the graduates were unable to find good jobs.

His comments came one day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that polytechnic graduates have many good options after leaving school, and they need not just aim for university degrees.

Housing prices also emerged as a topic yesterday, with one participant, 26-year-old Jeremy Neo, who is between jobs, asking about measures to contain inflation.

Mr Khaw acknowledged that housing prices remain a concern, but he gave the assurance that new Housing Board flats will always remain affordable and accessible.

Besides tertiary education and HDB prices, Mr Khaw also fielded questions on the influx of foreigners and rekindling the community spirit in HDB estates during the 45-minute session organised by the Sembawang constituency office.

One participant, ITE student Chia Weng Kit, 17, said he was ambivalent about the idea of having more university places for ITE and polytechnic students.

"What is more important is how hard we work, so it depends on us," he said.

tohyc@sph.com.sg