Singapore's education system was not designed with "dead ends".
This was stressed by Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung yesterday, as he called on Singaporeans to learn throughout their lives.
He was speaking at an award ceremony for the first batch of SkillsFuture Study Awards recipients yesterday.
He related the stories of recipients such as 67-year-old Chan Kim Ying, managing director of Thye Shan Medical Hall. He graduated from university in 1972, but "has not stopped learning since", said Mr Ong.
Mr Chan went on to complete a master's in business administration in 1990, then a course at the Singapore College of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
He now plans to use his $5,000 award to pursue a course in internationalisation to learn how to expand his business overseas.
Said Mr Ong: "What do these stories teach us? Simply put, we must be on a constant quest for excellence, to do what we do better.
"If we encounter a setback, which all of us will, we do not give up, and do not let one setback define us."
He said young people should not let a set of less-than-stellar academic results decide their future as it might take a year to learn something, but a lifetime to master it.
"Our system is not designed with dead ends - far from it - there are multiple alternative paths to take, and we have a lifetime to walk them."
A junior college student who fails to get a spot in a university can opt for a hands-on education at a polytechnic first. And a polytechnic student who is unable to enter university can enrol in an Earn and Learn Programme to learn practical skills on the job before giving it another shot, he explained.
About 350 Singaporeans from a variety of fields received their SkillsFuture Study Awards yesterday. The $5,000 can be used to defray out-of-pocket expenses during their course of study.
Pre-school teacher Glory Janessa, 32, will be using the money for her advanced diploma course in early childhood leadership. "My aim is to be a principal in three years and this will help me meet that aspiration," she said.
Over 650 more study awards will be given out till the end of the year.
Those interested can apply through the SkillsFuture website. The award, which covers 18 areas of specialisation now, will be expanded to include the logistics, tourism and training sectors by the end of the year, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency said.
It will also be extended to people with disabilities later this year.