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Focus on applied, technical education creates an advanced society: Tharman

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam says such a focus does not lower but instead raises standards for Singapore, as people are given the space to discover their skills and talent.

SINGAPORE: The Republic's focus on applied and technical education is not about lowering standards. Rather, doing so raises standards for the society and allows people to discover their skills and talent, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. 

Speaking at the inaugural Base of Pyramid World Convention and Expo at ITE College Central on Thursday (Aug 28), Mr Tharman said Singapore focused on technical and applied education early on, and grew it into a sustainable model for an advanced society.

By contrast, in countries like China and India, there are high unemployment rates among those who are trained and educated. This is because of the failure to focus on applied and technical education, he said.


Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, said: "This is not a matter of lowering standards but of raising standards for the whole society. It is a matter of discovering skills and talent in everyone. It is not about academic skills by and large. So we have to keep focusing on that and in Singapore, we started off with a system that had a rudimentary vocational education system. We have taken that, we have developed it and enlarged that space, and we have wanted to be very clear particularly in the last 15 years, that this is a jewel in our system."

Furthermore, an academic education may not be suitable for everyone in helping to discover their strengths and abilities, he added.

Mr Tharman is chairman of a tripartite committee to help ITE and polytechnic graduates match their skills to the right jobs and move up the career ladder.

He said education is at the heart of the Singapore story, which has enabled social mobility, and that Singapore has also been able to lift itself out of poverty because of its "culture of aspiration". He added that it is a great asset to the country where the majority of the people aspire, and each generation wants the next to do better than them. 


Participants at the convention were also urged to take advantage of the untapped Base of Pyramid (BoP) market in countries with a high level of poverty.

Mr Jack Sim, Founder of Base of Pyramid Hub, said: "Right now, people are working in silos. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are always running out of money because they did not convert it into social enterprises. Multinationals want to enter the BoP, they can be connected with the NGOs. So, the BoP Hub's purpose and role is to accelerate everybody and to cut all the waste and to convert the waste into resources."

At the Expo, more than 30 exhibitors from around the world showcased their innovative products and services to consumers who need them the most. These exhibitors come from sectors like water and sanitation, clean technology and social enterprise platforms.

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