SINGAPORE - Nine in 10 Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students complete their courses today, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Thursday (June 30).
Mr Teo, who is Coordinating Minister for National Security, said this is an "excellent" result, compared to figures reported by other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, where the average success rate is 38 per cent for students at upper secondary level obtaining a vocational qualification.
In a speech at an event marking ITE's 30th anniversary, Mr Teo said it was fitting that the celebration was held at the Tay Eng Soon Convention Centre at ITE's headquarters in Ang Mo Kio.
"It was the late Dr Tay who laid the foundation and played an instrumental role in conceptualising and advocating for the adoption of an expanded ITE and polytechnic sector, and saw to its initial implementation," he said, tracing the evolution of vocational and technical education in Singapore.
Dr Tay was a former Senior Minister of State for Education from 1988 to 1993 and a strong advocate for skills training. He was also ITE's first chairman.
"I had first-hand experience watching Dr Tay's personal conviction, commitment and zeal in pursuing this mission. ITE was the key element in this transformation," said Mr Teo.
"ITE was a critical part of the Government's approach to provide multiple opportunities and pathways, with bridges and ladders between them, so that every child could progress through the education system as far as possible, based on his ability and learning style. With ITE, our youth gained an opportunity to better themselves and their lives," he added.
In its first decade, ITE had 10 campuses, each with about 1,400 to 1,800 students - but this meant that each campus was "modest in size", with limited course offerings, said Mr Teo, who added that he had had the privilege of also attending ITE's 10th anniversary in 2002 and 20th anniversary in 2012.
In 2001, the Government announced its plan to consolidate the campuses into three regional ones, each of which could cater to between 7,000 and 10,000 students, he said.
"With more students at each campus, ITE could invest in more specialised equipment and simulators, and provide better facilities for inter-disciplinary learning," he added. It could also have better sports, recreation and interaction spaces for students beyond their courses of study.
In his speech, Mr Teo urged ITE to keep up its success and go further in three ways: by constantly adapting to meet students' needs, adding value to industry partners, and contributing to lifelong learning.
"ITE has evolved from offering generic courses on a large scale to focusing on niche areas to keep its courses relevant to industry," he said, adding that it must maintain its breadth and depth of courses to meet students' learning aspirations.
From 24 courses across four industry sectors in 1992, ITE today offers 91 courses across 12 industry sectors.
The institute has also constantly revamped its certification to meet the needs of its students and industry, said Mr Teo, and this includes introducing new learning models, niche diploma courses, and the work-study diploma programme.
Working closely with industry partners and enabling them to meet new challenges is another important aspect, he said, and ITE has been helping companies to support their workforce through its in-house, on-the-job system.
"The system helps workers pick up new skills for their jobs quickly, recognise transferable skills, and certify new skills through the ITE Certified On-the-Job Training Centre and the ITE Approved Training Centre," said Mr Teo.
Through such collaboration, ITE also helps their graduates gain a head-start in their careers, he said.
Lastly, ITE needs to contribute to lifelong learning, said Mr Teo.
"Most of our students here today will probably work for several organisations in their lives... Therefore, ITE's role in education cannot stop when a student graduates. It has to move beyond that, and continue to provide opportunities for ITE graduates and other working adults to continuously upgrade and deepen their skills."
In 2018, ITE introduced a series of bite-sized Certificates of Competencies, or CoCs, for adult learners, said Mr Teo. It now has more than 140 CoCs, up from 35 in 2018.
"These short, convenient workshops serve to bridge knowledge and skills gaps quickly," he said, adding that ITE has also started offering webinars and free micro-learning courses for anyone who wishes to learn at his own pace and convenience.
ITE will continue to occupy a special place in Singapore's education and workforce development landscape, said Mr Teo.
"I think Dr Tay would be pleased, but knowing him, he would want ITE to do more," he added. "I look forward to seeing ITE reach greater heights in the years to come."
Key ITE numbers
- Set up in April 1992
- Student enrolment of 28,000 across three mega-campuses in Ang Mo Kio, Simei and Choa Chu Kang
- 90 per cent of students complete their Nitec and Higher Nitec courses
- 4,500 companies and employers provide internships for 14,000 students each year
- Three specialised technical diplomas and 36 work-study diplomas, with some 200 students and 1,884 trainees respectively
- 20 per cent pay jump for graduates from work-study diploma programmes, based on the first two cohorts