Computer-related courses a growing attraction for Singapore students

Raffles Institution students (from left) Zhang Weiyao, 17, Jaryl Ngoh Ye Shank, 18;, Bryan Juniano, 18 and Ooi Ken Jin, 17 demonstrate to Education Minister Ong Ye Kung how they won the junior category. PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Enrolment in computer-related courses at Singapore's institutes of higher learning has gone up, with students drawn by the good employment prospects and relatively higher starting pay in the industry.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Monday (June 11) that the universities have seen a more than 20 per cent rise in the last two years, with the National University of Singapore (NUS) expecting to double the proportion for this academic year, which starts in August (2018).

NUS is projecting to admit around 900 students, an almost 40 per cent increase over last year, Mr Ong added at an award ceremony of an annual cybersecurity competition for students.

To meet the demand, he has encouraged the institutes of higher learning, including polytechnics, to bring in expert practitioners to teach the students.

He also urged their faculty to keep abreast of development in the industry.

To support their efforts, Mr Ong said the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) will sign agreements with Singapore's five polytechnics to strengthen their collaborations in curriculum development.

The DSTA also organises the yearly Cyber Defenders Discovery Camp which aims to raise youths' interest in cybersecurity.

Students, including those from integrated programme schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities, were taught cyber defence skills and techniques in a three-week online training programme before slugging it out in rounds of competition.

A record 500 students took part this year. And for the first time, seven foreign teams from six countries were invited to intensify competition and encourage knowledge-sharing with the Singapore participants.

Mr Tan Ah Tuan, DSTA director for cybersecurity and chairman of this year's camp, said: "In keeping pace with the fast-evolving cyber landscape, we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to interest and challenge our participants."

One challenge this year was to override a drone system, a task security agencies worry about, especially at important events like the National Day Parade, the Education Minister said.

Winners can do their national service by being a cyber defender in the military.

Raffles Junior College student Jaryl Ngoh, 18, whose team won in the junior college/integrated programme category, said he and his three team-mates intend to apply to be a cyber defender.

"It's the most interesting vocation that matches our interests," he added.

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