Shake-up to raise quality of private education

The private education sector is set for a major shake-up in the next two years with new measures to protect students and also encourage them to pick schools wisely.

Private education institutions (PEIs), who enrol 77,000 local students between them, will have to uphold higher financial standards.

Those offering degrees will have to take part in an annual graduate employment survey.

The Committee for Private Education (CPE) - which is parked under the newly formed SkillsFuture Singapore statutory board - laid out several measures to improve the quality of private education.

The latest regulations, estimated to affect about 70 out of about 290 private schools, come as the Government opens up more pathways for Singaporeans through SkillsFuture by allowing people to work and study at the same time.

Now, private schools that offer degree programmes will be required to take part in a yearly survey to track how easily their graduates find jobs. There are currently 50 to 60 such schools.

The survey will be centrally administered by CPE. Results will be published on its website from next year.

Private schools that want to offer degrees, or courses including diplomas that lead directly to degrees, must also obtain a four-year EduTrust certification, a quality assurance award.

About 60 per cent of existing schools with such programmes already meet this mark, while the rest must apply for it by June next year and attain it by June 2018.

Fresh school-leavers joining certain courses will now also need to meet academic entry requirements. Existing PEIs have up to next June to revise their admission criteria.

But schools will also have flexibility to admit mature students with relevant work or learning experience.

Private schools will also need to meet minimum financial standards - a paid-up capital of at least $100,000 will now be required of new schools, to ensure they are properly resourced. Existing schools will also need to meet a minimum credit rating by next June, to show that they have healthy finances.

Mr Brandon Lee, director-general (private education) of SkillsFuture Singapore, said yesterday: "As the sector matures, we need to ensure that institutions continue to have sound foundations on which to operate and deliver the quality of training that students expect.

"The new measures are aimed at doing so, and will provide additional safeguards for students who choose to enrol with PEIs.

"We also hope that the enhanced information transparency will be useful in helping students make more informed decisions."

Singapore Association for Private Education president Lee Kwok Cheong said the new standards are "not unreasonable".

"Any company which wants to offer degree-level programmes must put in more effort to invest in quality courses."

Existing students will not be affected even if their schools do not meet the new standards. They will be allowed to finish their courses.

This article was first published on October 22, 2016.
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