'More can be done' to help young

Singapore's education system has been adjusting and opening up more pathways for the young to fulfil their aspirations.

But more can be done in this area, said Acting Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung yesterday.

"Our perspectives have shifted over (the last) 50 years," said Mr Ong, adding that the system has to consider not just what the nation needs - a formula that has worked well for the city-state - but also the bottom-up aspirations of young Singaporeans.

"It only makes sense that we start recognising that our young people are growing up in a globalised economy, are exposed to different things, and have all kinds of dreams and aspirations," said Mr Ong at a dialogue held yesterday by the Char Yong Association, a Hakka clan association.

He added that the education system has to help young people fulfil their potential and "find ways to fit them".

Progress has been made on this front over the last few years, he said. The institutes of higher learning, for instance, have offered more programmes, and more universities have been set up to cater to the diverse interests of young people, said Mr Ong.

He added that institutions such as the universities take into account students' passions, and have discretionary admission schemes to offer places to those who possess talents in certain fields.

At the same time, Mr Ong said, many young people have interests that change over time.

"While we can be idealistic, and say we want to fulfil the aspirations of the young, the truth, I believe, for most young people, is that they don't know what they want to do," he said.

"Around the system, we have to allow a bit more permeability, and a bit more flexibility for people to switch along the way."

He cited career and education guidance services introduced in schools as one way the Education Ministry is providing advice on career matters, and helping students discover their interests early.

The dialogue at Safra Toa Payoh was organised as part of the Char Yong Association's scholarship award ceremony for tertiary students, which saw close to 200 students receiving scholarships.

Scholarships were handed out to another 400 primary and secondary students at a ceremony earlier this year.

This article was first published on Nov 9, 2015.
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