Photo of Ong Ye Kung from Alfred Chua Today Online

Second Education Minister Ong Ye Kung yesterday (July 22) waxed lyrical at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduation ceremony about success, telling graduates to “choose a more difficult path but more real definition of success”. Like coaxing young children, Minister Ong sang about “success” planting unrealistic expectations on the ITE graduates:

“ITE graduates should choose a more difficult, but more real definition of success, as making a meaningful difference in this world, through perfecting your own craft. Too often, too many of us impose a cookie cutter definition success for the young. We expect them to achieve a certain score — be it ‘T’ or banded score — go to certain schools, go to university, earn a certain salary and get a certain job title.

…Any single definition (of success) that measures one person against another, as if we are all fishes in the market, is simplistic, unrealistic, hollow and false.”

Minister Ong however did not make any mention about the low salaries ITE graduates command when they enter the job market. Typically between S$1,400 to S$1,700 for starting salaries, ITE certificate holders find themselves face a glass ceiling of around S$2,500 even when they have a few years of experience. The median salaries in Singapore is S$3,770/month, no ITE certificate holders could even come close to the figure relying solely on the certificate in the employment market.

Singapore’s employers, especially the government civil service, require high qualifications like at least a bachelor degree out from their employees to promote them into management level.

The Education Ministry, now helm by 2 newbie Ministers, recently announced a new PSLE scoring system, that places higher emphasis on grading for marks above 75, the former “A” grade. The move intensified competition, adding further stress on academic studies.