Singapore PM Says University Degree Not Necessary for Success


Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong continues to highlight his country’s long-term educational and economic success as he unveils initiatives that he hopes will solidify the country’s standing in the region. Loong considers leadership to be the key for continuing Singapore’s outstanding growth while emphasizing that technical skills are as significant as college degrees.

Currently, Singapore is the biggest investor in China and one of the biggest in Indonesia, something its PM attributes to people’s work ethic even in the absence of a degree. One of the country’s widely read newspapers, The Strait Times, often features the stories of hard working Singaporeans and how they have experienced success even if they skipped college.

The Prime Minister believes that being exceptional as a nation doesn’t presuppose going to university. The PM’s argument is driven by a sluggish economy and the dire restrictions on immigration, both of which mean the county needs fewer graduates and more workers, Bloomberg’s Sharon Chen explains.

The PM is leading a campaign targeting youth to ask them to become part of their country’s technical skills workforce. The PM’s SkillsFuture Earn and Learn program, among other goals, seeks to get technical school graduates into internships and new jobs. The SkillsFuture program also offers training and education opportunities to people at every stage in their lives to ensure better career opportunities at every age.

Only four out of ten Singaporeans between the ages of 25 and 29 did not go to college, making Singapore one of the top countries with the highest percentage of university-educated workforce.

Singapore has two of its universities ranking among the top 75 Times Higher Education Universities — the same number as Japan and Germany — now wants through its Earn and Learn program to give technical school graduates on-the-job training while ensuring they continue their education to get the essential for the industry credentials.

This approach is based on the German apprenticeship model and it’s an initiative likely to be met with skepticism given that for decades the nation has been idolizing the significance of tertiary education for professional success.

The government shouldn’t tell people not to go to university unless they can promise the same job opportunities as graduates. But obviously that’s not going to happen.” Kenneth Chen, Sport Science degree holder that studied in Brisbane, Australia told Bloomberg.

The PM said in his May Day Rally speech:

“If we fail in education and training, our workers’ future will be bleak. But if we succeed, then Singapore can continue to be exceptional, and our children can live in a country which will be even better than the one we live in today.”

To solidify Singapore’s position as an investment and growth hub, several Foreign System Schools (FSS) have been invited to offer their primary and secondary education to a diverse range of students — mostly children of International executives residing in Singapore. The Economic Development Board (EDB) assistant managing director Alvin Tan says:

“Availability of quality schools for children of international executives is a key consideration when they decide on a posting location. FSS play a part in strengthening Singapore’s position as an attractive global city and home for business.”