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More Singaporeans Completing Secondary Education


It has been observed that more Singaporeans are completing secondary school education, where it was 96% 10 years ago, i t is more than 99% of Singaporeans today based on the new report by Channel news Asia on more Singaporeans completing secondary school education. In this article, we explore the merits of such a phenomenon for individual and society as a whole.

It is not just a certificate of graduation

Singapore is a nation that has thrived on education, which significantly contributed to the transformation of Singapore from a small village to a modern city. Though the nation has become relatively developed, the government has not ceased in its effort to improve education. But rather, the importance of education has been even more greatly emphasized in the era of globalization where labor competitiveness is key and where polarizing force is increasing the income inequality of society. The effort of the government pays off, as seen in the recent report that more Singaporeans are completing their secondary school education. This phenomenon has far-reaching implications for individuals and society as a whole.

A more equal society

Firstly, the fact that more Singaporeans are competing secondary school education contributes to the easing of the income inequality in society. Despite the spectacular economic achievement of the nation, the Gini coefficient as high as 0.45 dampens the optimism about our future. In reaction to external pressure for survival, Singapore has been inviting substantial number of foreign talent and low skilled labor, the former enhancing competition in high-paying jobs, the latter depressing wages for unskilled jobs. The society is becoming polarized, with the rich earning more and the poor earning less. This is to some extent an inevitable situation as market system rewards people more with more education. Hence to alleviate the income inequality, the government should create a large workforce that will be gainfully rewarded by market mechanism, a workforce that comprises high percentage of people with post-primary school education. By having more Singaporeans holding O-levels or N-levels certificates, we will have more workers moving into value-added jobs, such as working as office administrators rather than low-skilled assembly line workers. The result is a more inclusive economy where more people benefit from the growth of the nation.

More educated families

Secondly, the effects of having more secondary school certificate holders may go beyond individuals. The implications are also seen in families. If parents have gone through longer period of education, they are more ‘educated’ to appreciate the value of education, and most likely they themselves have experienced the benefits of education by having improved income and social status. Hence, it is more likely that they demand their children go even extra mile in their schooling

More Singaporeans Completing Secondary Education

More Singaporeans Completing Secondary Education

journey, trying to send them to polytechnics, JC and even universities. Even when Singapore has compulsory education program that ensures each child receives minimum standard of education, parents still play a major role in influencing the attitude of their children towards study. Whether they perform well in school, whether they are curious about learning and whether they form the habit of life-long learning largely depends on the inculcation of values by parents when children are in their formative ages. By having more people getting secondary school certificates, we are producing future generations of children who will go even further than their parents, effectively bringing down the intergenerational mobility issue. The support of parents may be the most effective and sustainable means to boost education standard, more effective than any campaign or monetary subsidy given by the government.

A more educated workforce

Lastly, more people completing secondary school education means that we are having a more educated workforce, which is critical to the continued success of the nation. One important benefit of having a more educated workforce is the ability to attract more foreign direct investment that Singapore’s development cannot do without. As Singapore is a land scarce and labor scarce nation, the land cost and labor cost are inherently higher than many other countries, such as China and India. Hence, the only way for Singapore to compete for FDI is to make the labor cost worth it-by improving the quality of labor. Quality labor force tends to attract quality investment that brings in more growth than investment in labor-intensive areas. While Nike may build factories in China for manual labor to make shoes, it may bring in more value-added services, such as marketing and operation, to Singapore.  Hence, once we have more people completing secondary school education that gives people basic skills and learning capacity for more advanced jobs, investment will flow in and Singapore stands to benefit from continuous inflow of capitals that contribute to more gainful employment and income rise.

It is a good sign that more Singaporeans are going further in their education. It not only benefits individuals, but their families and society as a whole. In the future, the importance of education will only grow, as natural resources are dwindling and human capitals and knowledge are becoming more and more important as a competitive edge. Hence Singapore should continue to upgrade its education system as a basis of strong and sustained growth in the future.

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