THE underlying causes that make the Primary School Leaving Examination and other national examinations so demanding and stressful are outside the education system.
The over-emphasis on academic qualifications in the job market and in measuring success is one culprit. The other is the pay gap between white- and blue-collar jobs.
From employers to parents and children, we should change our attitude towards blue-collar or technical jobs, and the criteria used in measuring success and assessing contribution.
In Australia, engineering, construction and mining workers earn over A$100,000 (S$125,000) yearly, about 25 per cent more than government, banking, marketing and human resource workers on the average.
In Singapore, we have serious shortages of engineers and technicians. Pay correction is needed to attract our young to pursue these careers.
Such change may entail a certain redistribution of income, from white- to blue-collar workers. Are we prepared to intervene in the market and accept the resulting trade-offs?
We must decide whether we want these changes. In the bigger context, the decision will dictate how our nation's future would be shaped. Let us debate this in the national conversation.
If we decide to make these changes, then we should expand and upgrade our vocational schools and polytechnics, including upgrading some courses to higher diploma or degree level.
We should then raise the pay of the technically trained. In the long run, they should get as much as or even higher pay than the usual white-collar workers with a non-technical university degree.
With this change, the demand for technical training will surge, and the demand for junior college and university places will ease.
Jobs in music, the arts, design and other creative fields should also be included in the pay tweak, turning them into viable career choices for our young.
The academic paper chase will no longer be perceived as the only option then. Students can choose courses according to their interest and aptitude.
The education system will head for a more balanced development at all levels. Education will become more enjoyable; PSLE may become obsolete.
Instead of blaming the education system, why not ask ourselves: Shall we take the bulls by the horns, including the 'bull' in our mindset?
Ng Ya Ken
Above article taken verbatim from:
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