Photo of Lawrence Wong from Todayonline

Speaking at an international conference held in Switzerland, Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong claimed that paper qualifications is not important and that the government is trying hard to change the mindset. Blaming Singaporeans, the PAP Minister said the government is not responsible for the paper-chasing culture in Singapore:

“To cope with technological change, Singapore must emphasise skills, performance, and contributions to society, rather than paper qualifications. The paper qualification does not define who you are as a person. That is a mindset change that we are trying to effect in Singapore. Credentialism – using paper qualifications as a measure of success – is not a education problem, but a societal one.  This is a problem faced not only in Singapore but in other Asian countries as well, and there is a need to shift away from mere paper qualifications in a time of fast technological change. Education is not just about content, but also values. A lot of these values that we talk about, on intellectual curiosity, that desire to learn, grit, resilience, the ability for delayed gratification, all these are important values to instill more so than content, because content can change.”

Echoing the PAP Minister was the former chief executive of GovTech, Jacqueline Poh, who said that polytechnic students turned down government’s sponsorship offers to pursue a degree in universities:

“The agency’s efforts to hire non-degree holders has been challenging because of this mindset. Govtech had since 2016 sought out four polytechnic graduates to join its ranks, as they had passed its in-house coding tests and were deemed to be highly skilled. Despite the offer to sponsor them in expensive overseas specialist courses in cyber security, they turned it down in order to pursue a degree in university. As it turns out, we actually had more difficulty than we expected. We had a lot of challenges trying to get students and parents to agree… If they have a place in university, why give that spot up?”

Minister Lawrence Wong however made a U-turn when speaking to state media Straits Times and contradicted himself saying that a degree education is still necessary to more opportunities in Singapore:

“The Government cannot simply insist that the public sector declare no degree is needed, and hope that this will cause mindset change. Each organisation obviously needs to identify and build up its own measures and human resources systems according to its needs.”