'Admit students based on more than just grades'

Educational institutions should look beyond exam results and adopt a more holistic admissions process, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.

He did not provide details but said the Ministry of Education will encourage institutions to recognise students' practical knowledge and work experience.

In a speech highlighting the importance of vocational trades to society, Mr Ong also said students should choose courses and careers based on their personal aspirations, instead of just salaries or the perceived status of a profession.

And educators and employers should not be too quick to dismiss people's interests if they can show their strengths in ways other than academic qualifications, he said.

Giving examples of students who secured places in polytechnics and universities through work experience, he said "our institutes of higher learning already have existing frameworks in place that adopt a holistic approach towards admissions".

About 7.5 per cent of full-time polytechnic students are admitted on a discretionary basis each year.

Universities can also admit up to 10 per cent of their intakes based on other criteria, besides examination grades. These could include recommendations and interviews.

Mr Ong said Singapore's education system could afford some bias towards personal aspirations, and this should not mean that standards are compromised.

Individuals will still need to show that they are likely to complete their courses, he added.

Mr Ong was speaking yesterday at the start of the Singapore International TVET Conference. About 370 educators from 33 countries are attending the four-day conference on technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

He said students sometimes make decisions based on what their parents want, what their friends are choosing to study, or the course they think they qualify for, even if they are not interested in it.

"Choices should be based on a good understanding of self - one's passion and aptitude - and also a good understanding of the course and career," he said.

The event, which is held in Singapore every three years, is organised by the Institute of Technical Education and the five polytechnics.

It is sponsored by the philanthropic organisation, Temasek Foundation.

The conference, which is being held at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Singapore, will see speakers cover topics such as the importance of vocational skills and the role of industry partnerships.


This article was first published on Nov 4, 2015.
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