“Singapore’s technical educational institutions must continue to stay relevant and responsive in an increasingly competitive global environment, said Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday” (SM Goh: ITE Must Stay Relevant, My Paper Report).
The new report “SM Goh: ITE Must Stay Relevant” (January 21, 2011) reiterates two important perspectives: first, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) has a proven, positive track record of producing skilled technical graduates; and second, that this momentum has to be enhanced and furthered. Technical education is an oft-neglected and overlooked element of Singapore’s education system; but in reality produces competent individuals with work-ready abilities, or outstanding graduates seeking advancement in education. It is a much-needed commitment from the administration to provide funds, support and investment so as to create an impetus for the ITE not to rest on its laurels.
However, despite developments in pedagogic approaches and infrastructural improvements – resulting in greater quality of education and heightened global recognition – the ITE’s main challenge lies in the proliferation of stereotypes that are associated with its institution, students and teaching-learning processes. These perceptions and stigmas – that ITE students are academically lazy and stupid, untalented drop-outs et cetera – are detrimental, because they may prove to be substantial deterrents for potential students who fear these labels. More importantly, they are gross insults that undermine the commitment and professionalism of the lecturers and educators who have been instrumental in the curriculum and development of students.
Statistically, the institution has done respectably well in terms of equipping graduates with relevant skills to land employment opportunities speedily and appropriately, as well as to upgrade students effectively in preparation for their polytechnic education. Anecdotally, I have been in interaction and conversation with an assortment of individuals with an ITE background, and have witnessed first-hand their various capabilities and journeys of growth. The ITE administration should be proud to constantly highlight these experiences, and work to justify its image and prominence.
This can be done with augmented transparency in its teaching-learning programmes, and increasing interactions with students from other institutions to exchange classroom insights. Even though many ITE students are not academically-inclined, they have tremendous talents in vocational aspects, and work equally hard – if not harder – as their counterparts in the institutes of higher learning. Many of them are skilled in their crafts and knowledgeable in technical intricacies; hence, the demand for their services and expertise remain consistently high in a plethora of industries and sectors.
These pre-employment training are relatively recession-immune, given the high and constant demand for their services in good times and bad. By highlighting these facts on stability and utility, coupled with increased promotion of ITE’s industry-based training and regional-international collaborations, the institution would go a long way in changing sentiments and construed observations rightfully.