On Saturday, I nearly fell off my chair when I read what Tan Chuan-Jin had said.
At first, Today reported that Tan Chuan-Jin had said that, “The Government has identified more than 50 firms that have a disproportionately low share of Singaporean professionals, managers and executives compared to others in their industry and that may have scope to improve their hiring and career development practices.”
However, Chuan-Jin then added that, “In some cases, the issue may not be a problem with their HR practices per se, but rather, a gap in the skills that are available in the local workforce.”
So, according to Chuan-Jin, maybe it’s not that firms were unfair in not hiring Singaporeans. Maybe Singaporeans just didn’t have the skills? So, Singaporeans do not have the skills to be “professionals, managers and executives”?
But then, I saw another report in The Business Times which reported that, “Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday cautioned against Singapore producing too many graduates who can’t find enough good jobs – a predicament South Korea and Taiwan find themselves in today.”
He had said that, “Their relentless pursuit of paper qualifications resulted in a glut of graduates… The director-general of Taiwan’s Ministry of Education stated that ‘the abundance of (university) places had undermined the quality of degrees and created a skills mismatch in the job market. People became over-educated and underemployed.”
It was reported that Chuan-Jin had “noted that by 2020, Singapore would see 40 per cent cohort participation in its local universities. In addition, there would also be many pursuing private or overseas degrees, which said that, “In theory, this can mean that we have an increasing pool of better educated and skilled workforce (and that) We should be better able to move up the value chain.”
Finally, he said that, “But these jobs would only be created by good companies … And these companies would only be here if there’s a healthy economy and a business-friendly environment.”
In fact, Chuan-Jin wasn’t the only one to have said this. Khaw Boon Wan had also said that, “If they cannot find jobs, what is the point? You own a degree, but so what? That you can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.” Chan Chun Sing had also said that, “It’s not the degree or the diploma… that is most important“.
So, first Chuan-Jin said that Singaporeans might have “a gap in the skills”. Then, he said that Singaporeans shouldn’t be “over-educated” or else, there would be a “skills mismatch”.
OK, so let’s try to get this. This seems to be how the PAP thinks:
If companies do not hire Singaporeans, Singaporeans might not be skilled enough. We are not good enough to be “professionals, managers and executives”.
If Singaporeans are too educated, we would become too skilled and companies would not want to hire us.
So, whatever the PAP wants to say, the PAP gets to? If the PAP wants to think so, then Singaporeans are not skilled enough. If the PAP likes it, then Singaporeans are too skilled?
Wait a minute. Why does the PAP gets to set the discourse all the time? Why do they get to describe Singaporeans and rant about us as if it’s all our fault and we should rein ourselves in? What about them?
Let’s take a look at the picture carefully again.
- If companies are not hiring Singaporeans but choosing to hire foreigners, Chuan-Jin might say that Singaporeans do not have the prerequisite skills, right? Now, pray tell, what are these skills that others might have that somehow, Singapore cannot produce? Why are Singaporeans not good enough to be “professionals, managers and executives”?
- Now, if the Singapore education system is not able to produce Singaporean workers who would have the required skills, is it the fault of Singaporeans for choosing (or having) to attend our public universities, polytechnics and ITEs? Or is it the fault of the government for failing to plan for the education system to prepare for an economy which requires these skills?
- And next, if the government invites companies to set up base in Singapore, which apparently cannot hire Singaporeans because we apparently don’t have the skills, who was it who invited the companies to set up base here or rather, who was it who did not plan for the economy and education system properly such that they developed an economy which has diverted from the education system that they had developed, and thus the skills mismatch in Singapore?
- Finally, if Singaporeans should not educate ourselves too much to pursue degrees, what’s all this talk about Singapore moving into a knowledge economy, or Singapore having to move up the “value chain”? How can Singaporeans move up the “value chain” if we don’t educate ourselves?
So, they they want Singaporeans to move up the “value chain” or not, or do they only want some, or a small segment of Singaporeans, to move up their “value chain”?
Do you see the contradictions? Don’t you find the PAP very hypocritical?
If problems happen, it’s always Singaporeans who are at fault, is it? The PAP is never at fault, is it? Companies don’t want to employ Singaporeans – Singaporeans not skilled enough. Companies cannot employ Singaporeans – Singaporeans too skilled. Either way, the PAP is always right then, or rather they make themselves always right.
And we are always wrong.
Wait a minute. Let’s make this very clear – Singaporeans go through an education system that the PAP has carefully engineered to carefully produce the kind of workers that they want. They created a kind of economy that they have in their heads and that’s how they have always pushed Singaporeans to study to cater for the economy that they had wanted to develop.
Was it not famously said by Ms Aung San Suu Kyi that she thinks that the “education in Singapore … seems to be workforce oriented”. She had also wisely asked, “That made me think … what is the purpose of a workforce … of work … of material wealth? Is that the ultimate aim of human beings, is that what we all want? In a sense, I want to probe more into successes of Singapore and to find out what we can achieve beyond that.” Note what she said – “beyond that“.
So, back to the PAP – for a period of time, Singaporeans were told that we should pursue engineering, then IT, then design, then biomedical sciences – all because the PAP wanted to plan to bring in these industries. And then what happened?
And then when Singaporeans have all these skills and companies do not want to employ us, somehow it is our fault that we had studied these subjects? But who was it who turned the education system to focus on these areas, who was it who asked us to study these and who was it who made our system so rigid and told us to focus on a few areas, because that’s where they had wanted to go? And then who was it who refused to enact laws to protect the employment of Singaporeans such that companies can hire cheaper workers from elsewhere who had studied engineering, IT, design and biomedical science and who were willing to receive lower pay and which undercut Singaporeans?
And when things didn’t work out the way they had planned, it is our fault? And when Singaporeans couldn’t find skilled jobs because someone else took the skilled jobs we were supposed to take, all of a sudden, we are too skilled?
Which government in the world would claim its citizens are at fault, instead of finding ways to protect its citizens?
But do you know what the real issue is? Why did companies not want to hire Singaporeans? It’s all in Chuan-Jin’s statements. Companies which do not hire Singaporeans do not because they have “shortcomings in their HR practices” as their hiring practices are not “fair”. And like he said, “good companies” will create jobs which will move Singapore up the ” value chain”. But are we attracting “good companies” or have these companies been “drawn elsewhere (and thus) those jobs (are not) here”? The Fair Consideration Framework is long overdue but as I had explained, does it have any teeth at all?
Let’s be very clear – if the current crop of PAP politicians had failed to plan for Singapore properly, then they jolly well apologise, go back to the drawing board and rethink how to develop Singapore. It’s irresponsible and lazy to simply decide that Singaporeans are the problem when Singaporeans had no choice but to go along with a system that is dictated to us.
How often have Singaporeans say – give us an education system that allows us to learn more critical-thinking skills? Give us an education that is more rounded so that we are not only focused on certain areas? Allow us to focus less on syllabus so that we can spend more time thinking and devising solutions. How many times have Singaporeans said this, but the PAP has resisted?
Remove the PSLE, remove examinations in the earlier years, remove streaming in the earlier years! But would they do it? Do you know why they keep it? All this streaming and segregating of Singaporeans into different groups and different classes (note: not academic class but economic classes) early on in life – what is this supposed to do?
Now, Singaporeans know the solutions – Singaporeans know what needs to be done to our country – we’ve told you we want to be properly educated and not be put through the machine that you have created to churn out the worker moulds that you want. We want a critically-thinking solution-based education that would allow us to have the flexibility of the mind and creativity to devise new ideas and solutions.
Quite clearly, the PAP is resistant to such an education system because a Singaporean population who are more critically-thinking and who have minds of their own are less easy to control, less easy to sway and more likely to vote against them.
Therein lies their second hypocrisy – in order for them to be able to remain in power, the education system has to be compromised so that Singaporeans are taught to be obedient, unquestioning workers who are good at carrying out tasks, and who are good at operations, but not at thinking, suggesting or threatening their power.
So, this is what they are really saying – companies do not want to hire Singaporean “professionals, managers and executives” because there is “a gap in the skills” – we have trained you not to become managers but to become operators. But you see, if we do not want to train you to become thinkers, then we would need to import thinkers to replace you, and when that happens, you know, Singaporeans, you should just accept that these companies have to – you are not skilled enough. Yes, because you are not good enough (even though we planned for it to happen).
And why do we need so many degree holders anyway? If you learn to think too critically, what use is it to us when you have such an ability, which can threaten us? We would rather you remain docile and easy to control, while we import foreigners in to replace the thinking that companies want. Once these foreigners are ready to leave, they can take their thinking out with them. It won’t threaten us.
I have just about enough of the PAP.
I want an education system that is catered for the flexibility of the mind and where Singaporeans are taught to think critically and creatively, and where all Singaporeans are valued for our expertise, not just because the PAP thinks we are, or are not good enough.
I want a government which has the integrity to admit when it has made a mistake and has the dignity to accept its mistakes and work with Singaporeans to redesign a new way forward.
We don’t need a government which would stifle and limit the education and creativity of Singaporeans, just so that they can continue to control us and stay in power.
It is hypocritical to have a government which claims to want to help Singaporeans grow, when in actual fact, is more interested in seeing Singaporeans constrained.
If so, a change of government is in order – one that would respect our rights as people, allow us to grow, allow our children to grow, and one where we are able to grow the country together, because we have been developed to the fullest of our abilities.