As a fresh polytechnic graduate, one must be receiving really mixed messages at the moment about how he or she should approach their futures. On the one hand, Government representatives are harping on the importance of work, that there are no guarantees even with a degree (on Saturday, TODAY did a better job than its ST counterpart, by providing some context of how policy-makers have recently weighed in on the same subject). On the other, based on what their family and friends have shared with them, the polytechnic graduate is sceptical of these “official” messages, and is insistent that progressing through university is crucial if he or she wishes to secure stable and desirable employment.
Despite its shortcomings (here), a Graduate Employment Survey provides a good idea of how much graduates are paid on average (there is one for the polytechnics, conducted in 2012, here). Comparatively, the figures do not stack up well against the graduates (logically, given the higher level of qualification, this seems like a no-brainer).
The polytechnic school administration and the Government have been rallying hard, sending the message that the polytechnic students would be able to gain tremendously from work experience before furthering their studies locally at a later stage. Maybe the Government is hoping that the work-ready graduates from these institutions can take up employment as soon as possible (which could imply that there may be shortages in certain industries). Yet, graduates are unlikely to be convinced by the “success stories” of a few notable individuals – or even top performers – who have made this decision (here), because they are hardly representative of the general mind-sets in the polytechnics. Why take the chance when a degree presents a much reliable (less risky) option?
Continued discourse is probably going to exacerbate the dissatisfaction felt by some students in the polytechnics (and I am guessing that the ministerial proclamations have not gone down well with their intended audience). While it has been well-established from the get-go that those from the junior colleges are more likely to advance to the local universities, and that polytechnic students should head out to the workplace upon graduation, it would appear that the latter group is feeling more short-changed, especially when it comes to college admission (and in my opinion, such sentiments will only allow stereotypes to manifest).
The recent announcements of increased university places are unlikely to ease on-the-ground unhappiness, if these questions remain unanswered:
– What is the composition of junior college and polytechnic students in the local universities? Are the figures consistent across the faculties (what about the more “technical” ones, such as engineering and business, where prior vocational pedagogies might be advantageous)?
– Do we have the admission rates for polytechnic students? How does this compare to the applicants from the junior colleges?
Could this suggest a disconnect between the intended policies of the Government, and the aspirations of the polytechnic graduate? Evidently so. And while stories in the media paint a rosy picture of attractive, alternative pathways, the lack of comprehension of a perceived-to-be uneven status quo is sadly unsettling.