If he was 18 again, Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung says he could well have chosen to go to a polytechnic instead of Raffles Junior College.
Mr Ong studied at Maris Stella High and RJC, then headed to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on after bagging a Public Service Commission scholarship.
He said in response to the question “If you were 16 or 18 now, what would you choose – junior college or polytechnic? Would you go to university straight after that or work first? Which degree would you pursue?”
“It is hard to say. It will depend on my interest. I may well prefer something more hands on, and may pick the polytechnic route which many top students do today. If I can, I would still want to attend university – to get the ‘currency’ to have access to good jobs. I will do something interdisciplinary, maybe IT and business, or engineering and business. If I go to a polytechnic, I may choose to work first before getting a degree. I will get to learn about workplace and industry, and will be more mature and clearer on my interest by the time I embark on a university education.”
Speaking in an interview with the Straits Times, Mr Ong also said that he wouldn’t mind his children going pursuing the polytechnic route.
“It is really up to them. I just want them to be happy and be who they would like to be. If that means going to an applied institution to learn something hands on, good for them.
If they drop out of school, I’d be upset like all parents if I think they have not tried their best, didn’t muster up the discipline to take school seriously. But if they drop out because they cannot cope with the academic demands or because they have another burning passion, then I will support them on the road less travelled.
The dreams of parents can be a heavy burden for children. My father didn’t want me to study too much. He believed it was better for me to learn by working. Luckily, I didn’t have to counter that. My mother, the teacher, countered him. They sorted it out among themselves and I went to university.”
The Education Ministry has in recent times been attempting to shift Singaporeans away from the conventional degree chase to a more hands-on education as part of its SkillsFuture initiative.
It is presently mulling a proposal that will enable students to take up apprenticeships while pursuing their studies.