The Business Times

Proposal to launch scheme integrating work and study

Recommendations plan to develop multiple pathways for students

Lee U-Wen
Published Mon, Aug 25, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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[SINGAPORE] The committee set up to help polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates get the right jobs and move up the career ladder has completed its work.

The 31-member Aspire team, led by Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah, announced a list of 10 recommendations on Monday, which the government has since accepted in full.

Aspire - Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review - was first introduced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last November.

The committee comprises senior government officials, top business leaders and academics. They began their work in January this year and canvassed the views of about 20,000 people, including students, parents and polytechnic and ITE staff.

Among the 10 recommendations is a proposal to launch new programmes that integrate work and study, such as place-and-train schemes that are similar to the apprenticeship models in Germany and Switzerland.

The idea is to pilot this scheme from 2016 in selected sectors, and give those who have completed their basic studies at the ITE and polytechnics the chance to work at a company and draw a monthly salary, while still being able to attend classes.

Another key recommendation is to employ trained career guidance officers to help students in secondary schools, junior colleges (JCs), polytechnics and the ITE to make informed choices about their education and careers.

The committee proposed having one such education and career guidance officer for every five schools and JCs, and three to five of them in each of Singapore's five polytechnics and three ITE colleges.

"We want to support our young in realising their aspirations," said Ms Indranee during a press conference held at Singapore Polytechnic. "There should be opportunities for all to realise their potential and progress in life, no matter what the starting point."

She cited two conditions that were needed to succeed - a strong economy and good growth to create jobs for young Singaporeans; and a strong alignment between industry needs, economic opportunities and the skills of the workforce.

"We are recommending to develop multiple pathways, and create more options for skills to be acquired, recognised and rewarded," she said. "This means giving opportunities to acquire technical and soft skills that can count towards their careers."

Commenting on the recommendations, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat noted three significant shifts in the thinking about learning and jobs for young Singaporeans.

He said that Singapore needed to have a stronger emphasis on skills and applied learning, that learning must be continual and lifelong, and that it was important to encourage multiple pathways for development, in study and at work.

"We must break the boundary between learning in the classrooms and learning at work. The workplace must become a great learning place," said Mr Heng.

As part of the plan to invest further in the polytechnics and the ITE to strengthen their model of applied education, the government announced on Monday that polytechnics will, from 2015, start a pilot scheme to enhance internships in selected sectors such as early childhood education and hotel operations and management.

The Education Ministry will also work with polytechnics and ITE to identify "lead institutions" for key industry sectors, starting with Singapore Polytechnic for food technology, Ngee Ann Polytechnic for marine and offshore engineering and Republic Polytechnic for logistics.

In all, the committee engaged with 20,000 people, including students, polytechnic and ITE alumni and staff, parents and teachers. It also reached out to employers, unions and economic agencies. The committee also visited Germany, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand to study their applied education models.

With its work now complete, a new tripartite committee to be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will be set up to follow through with its recommendations.

The full Aspire report can be found at

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