Even as the Government makes it easier for non-graduates to move ahead in their careers, Members of Parliament called for a radical change in people's mindset towards a degree.
"The biggest battle lies in the deeply entrenched paradigm that the degree route is the ticket to a better career and life," said Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC).
The MPs suggested three ways to get people to change.
Firstly, provide more information on educational opportunities and career guidance to students as well as their parents.
Secondly, parents need to teach their children values of respect and humility towards everyone, "regardless of the work they do or perceived social status", said Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC).
Thirdly, employers need to stop discriminating against non-graduates. Nominated MP Ismail Hussein, a banking executive, noted that they are invariably paid less than degree holders even when both are doing the same entry-level job.
The trio were among seven MPs who spoke yesterday, the first day of a two-day debate on whether to endorse the Applied Study in Polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education Review (Aspire) report.
The rest of the 21 MPs on the list are set to speak today.
While all seven who spoke yesterday worried about the difficulty in convincing people to change, they were unanimous in supporting the report, put before the House by Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah.
The report recommends ways to give all Singaporeans, regardless of their qualifications, opportunities to succeed in their careers. It seeks to strengthen the multiple pathways by making it easier for people to build on their skills while working, modelled after the Swiss and German apprenticeship schemes.
These moves, however, need to be supplemented by a culture that defines success more broadly, said Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC).
He cheered the Government's decision to promote non-graduate employees faster when they do a good job and to consider merging the career tracks of graduates and non-graduates.
But more should be done, he added.
He wants a review of the fast-track career schemes for government scholars, who get more opportunities and move up faster.
He also called for salary structures in the public sector to change and focus more on job responsibility and productivity.
Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) called for respect to be shown to not just graduates but non-professional workers as well, particularly those in the service, retail and hospitality sectors.
"We need to get to a stage where parents stop using (what are seen as) lowly regarded jobs to scare their children into studying," she said.
This article was first published on September 09, 2014.
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