SINGAPORE - The authorities have left the door open for continuing to make more spots available in Singapore universities for students whose plans to study overseas are hit by the pandemic, if disruptions continue.
They will consider doing this even if the cohort participation rate for Singaporeans again goes beyond the 40 per cent that has been planned, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said it would monitor the Covid-19 situation globally, including travel restrictions, and assess if there was a need to cater for more places in the coming admission year to support the affected students.
Mr Chan said in an interview with The Straits Times that the cohort participation rate had gone past 40 per cent in the last two years to accommodate students who could not go overseas.
He reiterated the Government's new thinking in planning for university places.
Instead of looking at cohort participation rate - the proportion of a cohort going to university - he preferred to use the term "lifetime cohort participation rate" as Singaporeans start going back to various institutions, including the universities, to update their knowledge and skills throughout their lives.
He said: "We need to move beyond what we call the CPR or cohort participation rate. If we have continuous learning for life, then we should have a lifetime cohort participation rate. And it would not matter whether you go for a degree, diploma or some professional certificate, or at what age you do so.
"We need to build a system that can support our students and workers to do just-in-time learning... So this whole concept of CPR is increasingly less relevant to our needs as a society going forward."
He noted that he is seeing more Singaporeans going for courses that do not necessarily get them a diploma or degree. They sought modules that gave them an edge in the jobs market, he added.
"So, for example, if you are already in a job for quite a few years specialising in cyber security, you may need to take up courses that give you very specific skill sets in certain operating systems."
He said with continuing education in full swing, the Government should not just be planning for the 17,000 or so headed for undergraduate studies yearly, but also for the 300,000 to 400,000 workers a year who will head to all kinds of "institutes of continuous learning", as he preferred to call universities and polytechnics for continuing education.
MOE also revealed that about two in five Singaporeans who enrolled in the universities last year were polytechnic graduates. When the expansion of university places was announced in 2012, only one in five polytechnic graduates made it to the local universities.
Separately, MOE told ST that universities continued to promote social mobility, with the proportion of students entering publicly funded degree programmes from the bottom 30 per cent by socio-economic status rising from 13 per cent in 2004 to 21 per cent in 2019.
MOE said: "We have made significant moves in recent years to broaden access to higher education and strengthen the diversity and porosity of pathways in the higher education landscape.
"These include: the establishment of an applied learning pathway at Singapore Institute of Technology and Singapore University of Social Sciences, the expansion of aptitude-based admissions and the enhancement of government higher- education bursaries."