Be less ageist in university brochures

I couldn't agree more with Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam (Still 'long way to go' for culture of lifelong learning; Feb 11).

SkillsFuture and the National Silver Academy are excellent initiatives, with the former offering mainly skills-based short courses to workers, and the latter providing non-exam courses for seniors.

However, there should be more lifelong learning options for retired and semi-retired professionals.

Many senior citizens missed out on tertiary education in their younger days, when they were busy working or raising a family.

Fields of study in those days were also very limited, unlike the wide spectrum offered today.

Now that they have more time and fewer responsibilities, many would like to go back to school and pick up a diploma or degree, or enrol in a postgraduate programme.

But they are discouraged by the marketing, which seems to suggest that tertiary education is for the young.

Practically all advertisements and brochures for universities, polytechnics and institutes of higher learning feature young people.

It gives senior citizens the perception that they are considered too old for the rigours of higher education.

Universities in some countries offer senior citizens a 50 per cent discount on fees. But not Singapore.

The country has one of the fastest ageing populations in Asia. With the low fertility rate and a high average life expectancy, we are looking at a future scenario of older people re-entering or remaining in the workforce past retirement age.

Lifelong learning should be inclusive. Diversity of race, culture and age enriches the classroom experience.

It is time for universities to discard ageism in their marketing.

Lily Fu (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2018, with the headline 'Be less ageist in university brochures'. Print Edition | Subscribe