Pre- and post-NS waiting times may be cut

Pre- and post-NS waiting times may be cut

A shorter wait for enlistment into national service (NS) may be on the horizon, as part of the recommendations of a high-level panel to smoothen the transition into and out of NS.

The Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) yesterday proposed that 90 per cent of pre-enlistees be called up within four months after completing their post-secondary studies, with the remainder to be enlisted within six months.

Currently, only 45 per cent are enlisted within four months, with the rest joining up within eight months.

Explaining the rationale, Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing said: "We firmly believe we are stewards of our nation's resources, stewards of time and stewards of talent...

"We want to minimise the wait time between transition to NS, and transition from NS."

Mr Chan heads the CSNS' Support for NS working group.

There are around 20,000 enlistees every year, who are called up every quarter, in March, June, September and December.

Most junior college students are enlisted in the March and December intakes, while those from polytechnics are called up in June and September.

ITE certificate holders and those with other qualifications are enlisted throughout the year.

Polytechnic students enlisted later and who want to study at a local university generally have to disrupt their two-year NS stint, so that they can start their semester in August.

However, if the proposal to shorten the enlistment waiting time is accepted by the Government, this will no longer be necessary.

With the change, around 60 per cent of full-time national servicemen (NSFs) will also be able to start work earlier after completing their NS, said the CSNS.

NSF Chai Ming Yeow, 20, an A-level graduate, said that he had to wait six months before he was enlisted in May last year.

Besides what he called a "long wait", the NSF said he could not make "concrete plans" on taking up a job, because he received his enlistment letter only a few months before the actual date.

Gan Wei Kang, 21, who finished his NS in December, said the proposed changes will give those who have completed their NS more time to look for temporary work before they enter university.

Mr Gan added that universities should look into offering advance modules to NSmen before the semester starts. This was also one of the recommendations made by the CSNS.

But polytechnic graduate Samuel Cheung, 20, prefers a longer wait. He had expected to be enlisted in September, but will be called up next month instead.

"I had to cancel my trip to the Great Barrier friends will get to go on my dream trip while I am stuck in the army," he said.

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