Photo of Ong Ye Kung from Wee Teck Hian from TodayOnline

Following a public backlash after States Times Review report highlighting Minister Ong Ye Kung’s revelation on limiting university cohort admission rate, the Education Minister responded in Parliament yesterday (May 9th) that degree qualification do not enable people to earn a living and so Singaporeans need not be “fixated on paper qualifications”:

“The public should not be overly fixated with the university cohort participation rate. Skills would be sought after by employers in the new economy, and not paper qualifications… Degrees can become obsolete in a world where information and knowledge can be found online easily. Degrees do not enable people to earn a living. Instead, our ability to keep pace with changing needs of the economy is what helps us earn our keep.”

The Education Minister then twisted his words and avoided mentioning that a degree qualification pays 2 to 3 times more on average above non-degree certifications. Minister Ong Ye Kung went philosophical about a person’s definition, full potential and evolution:

“It would truly be unimaginative to confine ourselves to university education as the only way to develop to our full potential. Degrees do not define us, individually, or as a society … Our society needs to evolve, such that all occupations, crafts and trades, whether the skills are acquired through a degree education or not, are respected and recognised.”

Minister Ong Ye Kung insisted that limiting the number of Singaporeans to access university education is important to prevent unemployment, but no mention was made on the presence of 372,000 foreign employees on E and S pass visas who are degree holders:

“The majority of graduates — about 90 per cent hail from the autonomous universities — are able to find jobs within six months after graduation. This is not the case in many countries experiencing severe graduate unemployment due to an oversupply of graduates, and Singapore has to guard against suffering from the same fate.”

Read: Minister Ong Ye Kung: Only 30% of Singaporeans allowed to be degree holders, the rest go Poly ITE