PM Lee: ITE is critical element
Mr Lee said that ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang is now a pillar of Singapore's education system. -myp
By Gerrard Lai
THE Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is a critical element in a strategy to ensure that no young Singaporean leaves the education system without the skills needed to hold his own and make a good living for himself, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang yesterday, Mr Lee said that the institute is now a pillar of Singapore's education system - one in five students goes to ITE.
He said: "The aim is to develop every Singaporean to the best that he can be. Some are academically inclined, others are more talented in skills-based work."
Singapore, he said, is facing a highly competitive environment, especially against China and India. Mr Lee said: "This is putting pressure on Singaporeans whose jobs can be done more cheaply in these countries."
In the short term, the Government has in place, for instance, the Grow & Share package and Workfare, to help Singaporeans cope. However, in the long term, "the only sustainable and effective way to uplift individuals and families is through education, training and skills".
The ITE has generated much interest from foreign visitors too because it is "unique", Mr Lee said. While Singapore has an excellent school system and good universities, so do many other countries. However, he said that hardly any other country has anything similar or comparable to ITE.
He said: "This reflects our commitment to have an education system catering not just to an elite or a minority, but across the board to all our students."
The event was attended by about 550 guests, including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen and Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong.
The newly opened college, Mr Lee said, will be a "College of Service and Innovation", focused on culinary and hospitality services, land transport, security technology and service innovation.
It marks the second milestone move in ITE's "One System Three Colleges" model, after the opening of ITE College East in Simei in 2005. ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio is slated to open in 2013.
The ITE College West campus covers a land area of 9.54ha and has a training capacity of 7,200 full-time students. Built with facilities like the Integrated Business Town, the ITE provides "real world" training environments through strong collaborations with industry players to establish centres of technology and specialised centres such as the Volkswagen Regional Centre, and ITE-Boncafe Barista Training Centre.
Mr Lee reiterated that ITE graduates are much sought after by employers, with nine in 10 employed within six months of job search.
Employers, too, perceive ITE graduates well - 91 per cent rate ITE graduates positively on work performance.
He noted that quite a few ITE students decide to further their education, with about one fifth of graduates moving on to polytechnics.
The plan is to enable one in four - up from one in five now - ITE students to progress to polytechnics in 2015, Mr Lee said.
The Ministry of Education will spend $2 billion on the ITE over the next five years to keep it "on the cutting edge" and "prepare students for an exciting future".
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