School, Career Worries Among Students’ Concerns

Anxiety over their future — be it in school or at the workplace — was among the concerns raised by students during a question-and-answer session with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong at the annual pre-university seminar today (June 2).

More than 20 questions were raised during the hour-long session, which was attended by around 550 students from 30 pre-university institutions — polytechnics, junior colleges and the Millennia Institute.

One student noted it is difficult to gain admission into local universities, with competition for places seemingly coming from foreign students, and sought clarity on this issue.

In response, Mr Wong clarified that local and foreign students are on different admission tracks.

“All the universities have a separate track to take in international students because they want to add diversity into their student population. They think it’s a good idea to allow their own students international exposure and they want that to add vibrancy into their campuses,” he said.

Foreign students take up 10 to 20 per cent of the cohort at universities in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, and Singapore has also kept the proportion to about 15 per cent of the overall student population in each campus, he noted.

He also assured students that the number of university places have been increasing with the establishment of additional autonomous universities here, and local students can get a place if they meet these universities’ benchmarks.

Asked about the competition posed by foreign manpower for jobs, Mr Wong, acknowledging the concerns, noted that employers are keen on hiring Singaporean talent, but they also want to be able to hire talent from around the world.

“If we decide to close our doors and say foreigners cannot work here, the bank will have a very simple response and say, ‘Well then, I can’t operate in Singapore and I should operate in Hong Kong instead’ or ‘I should operate in London instead’, and then all of the Singaporean jobs will be lost. This is the tension, the dilemma we will always face,” he said.

The issue of encouraging youths to care more about the community was also raised, with one student asking how young people could be motivated to pursue jobs in sectors such as social services and sacrifice better pay elsewhere.

In response, Mr Wong said: “What we should try to do is to make sure that if you want to take the path in the social service job, then the remuneration is a fair one, a decent one and one that will allow you or whoever it is to have a good living.”

When a student observed that Singaporeans’ proficiency in their mother tongues appeared to be declining despite the bilingualism policy, Mr Wong said it was not only an issue of what is taught in schools, but also which languages are used at home.

Bilingualism remains important, he said, adding that efforts to develop a strong foundation in mother tongue languages will put one in “good stead in the future”. He noted that the decline in the use of dialects is not unique to Singapore; China is facing the same issue among its youths.

The pre-university seminar ends on Friday. This year’s programme will see students reflect on Singapore’s achievements over the past 50 years by interacting with Singaporeans from all walks of life and participating in panel discussions on their findings, among other things.



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