Degree needed to compete globally

National University of Singapore (NUS) graduates celebrate during the balloon drop after NUS Commencement 2014

Recent discussions on whether a university education is needed for success have sparked much debate. I can understand the Government's concern that Singapore will have too many graduates without relevant skills, leading to high unemployment, especially during economic downturns.

As Opinion editor Chua Mui Hoong wrote in her online column ("When degrees become the norm, what's a parent to do?"; last Sunday), "a degree no longer promises a short cut to a good life".

But a degree at least opens doors and lets you set foot into places you would otherwise never have had a chance to.

As we live in an open economy, we have to adopt a global perspective. We are not competing among ourselves; we are competing with global talent. How can we be competitive globally without a degree?

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, China is projected to have 59.1 million degree holders aged 25 to 34 by 2020, up from 23.2 million in 2010. The corresponding figures for India are 24.5 million by 2020, up from 14.2 million in 2010.

As of 2012, there were about 244,000 degree holders in the same age group among the resident population of Singapore. This figure needs to be significantly increased for Singaporeans to remain competitive when seeking employment, locally or overseas, in view of the projected surge of degree holders worldwide.

However, those who want a degree should not go all out and spend all their savings on getting one. It pays to be cautious and to do research first.

Changing mindsets is the most difficult thing to do. Until that happens, it is better to have additional ammunition, in the form of a degree, to at least be considered for jobs.

Ada Lim (Mrs)

This article was first published on Sep 14, 2014.
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