School’s Out: How Singapore Keeps University Reserved for the Elites

Protecting the elites

That the mergers were done on the basis of protecting elitism was a widely-held belief. On the Facebook page of Singapore’s cable news television Channel NewsAsia, where the news was shared, commentator Alan Wong remarked: “Brilliant move or limiting progress? Does this mean enrolment has fallen for [polytechnics] and ITE (Institute of Education) too?” Polytechnics and ITEs are post-secondary institutions where polytechnics are “set up with the mission to train professionals to support the technological and economic development of Singapore,” while “the primary role of ITE is to ensure that its graduates have the technical knowledge and skills that are relevant to industry.”

But “there are no plans to merge polytechnics, universities or the campuses of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE),” the other Minister for Education Ong also said at the St Gallen Symposium in Switzerland, The Straits Times reported.

This is in spite of the “falling cohort sizes of between 10 and 15 percent.”

But Ong said: “The situation for ITE, polytechnics and universities are quite different from JCs.”

He explained that at the ITEs, the intake “could go down by 10 to 12 percent by 2020 or 2025” and that for the polytechnics and universities, their “cohort sizes are projected to fall between 10 and 15 percent by 2025,” The Straits Times reported. This, to Ong, is still “good critical mass” to retain the polytechnics and ITEs. On the other hand, the intake for the junior colleges, the MOE told The Straits Times, is “expected to drop by a fifth.”

But this did not convince John Wong who commented on Ng’s Facebook page: “I read the 2015 and 2016 education ministry statistics. The JC1 enrolment figures haven’t declined drastically over the last 10 years.”

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