In Parliament on Mar. 1, Member of Parliament for West Coast GRC Ang Wei Neng floated a "radical idea" of having a "time stamp" on degrees conferred by local universities.
Ang was speaking in support of the transformation in Singapore Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) so they can keep up with evolving industry trends.
"If we are serious about continuous training and lifelong learning we have to be radical about transformation. It may not and should not happen overnight but we have to start to transform our Institutes of Higher Learning," Ang said.
"Time stamp" on university degrees in Singapore
One of his suggestions is to have a "time stamp" on university degrees which can be renewed by graduates as they attend upgrading courses once every five years or so.
If graduates don't attend these upgrading courses, their degrees will "fade over time", he said.
"And you no longer can claim the degree as your credentials after a while. Does it sound scary?"
Ang shared anecdotes about how real life experience and relevant industry skillsets can trump a degree that was conferred years ago.
He spoke about a job applicant, in his 50s, who self-learnt and accumulated rich experience running IT infrastructure and support, but was not seen as a good fit by a Human Resource manager, as he did not have the relevant diploma or degree.
Fortunately, he was eventually hired by the IT head of the company and he performed very well thereafter.
"Clearly, his skillset, real world experience, and knowledge about current IT practice trump over whatever IT diploma or IT degree he may have gotten 30 years ago, which would be obsolete by now. This episode reflects the need for continuous training and lifelong learning," Ang concluded.
Ang also used the cryptocurrency industry as another example.
He noted that many young people are doing well in this industry despite not having a degree in this field.
Ang's son, for example, decided to defer his university education so that he can continue working in a cryptocurrency firm and not miss out on the swift development in this field.
Ang acknowledged the value of an university education which includes equipping young Singaporeans the ability to search and verify information, hone presentation skills and having overseas exposure, but he also questioned the time frame for this education in today's context.
Ang also asked in Parliament:
"So, do we still need a four year full degree course? Should we shorten the degree course? Should we have extended a more purposeful internship as part of the transformation of IHL that Minister for Education is thinking about?
How do we involve industry leaders in shaping the curriculum of the IHL education so that the professors and the students are more in touch with the industry needs and development?
Can we have the flexibility of converting the second half of the full time degree course into a part time degree, should the student want to extend his internship or even start work earlier?"
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