Survey encourages students to choose courses based on starting salary


Kwan Jin Yao

Published: 4:12 AM, March 3, 2015

Of what use is the Graduate Employment Survey (GES), besides allowing universities to trumpet the employability of their fresh graduates? (“Slight fall in employment rate for local graduates”, Feb 28)

Paired with favourable international institutional rankings, the three colleges appeal to the pragmatism of prospective students and — perhaps more significantly — their parents.

At first glance, the survey seems fair. A similar survey is conducted by the five polytechnics for their diploma courses. Yet, what it also does is reinforce conceptions that the diploma or degree is but a paper qualification and that starting salaries should guide study choices.

The emphasis of the GES is on employment rates and salaries, but other information should be considered before matriculation and upon graduation. The remuneration reported does not reflect the likelihood of future raises or opportunities for career progression. Within degrees or specialisations, employment options could differ as students enter different industries.

With calls by the Government for young Singaporeans to follow their ambitions, the Education Ministry could urge the three autonomous universities to reconsider the practice of conducting the GES, even though the onus is on individuals to not focus exclusively on these employment and salary figures.

Comparisons will be made even without an annual quantitative study. Look no further than the parents who converged on online platforms to aggregate data after it was decided that the highest and lowest Primary School Leaving Examination aggregate scores would not be printed on result slips and that top scorers would not be named.

But while the diploma or degree may be a paper qualification paving the way for a future career, it can be more than that. Preferences change during a course of study and options can guide trajectories.

It would be a tragedy if the decision to further one’s studies is guided only by starting salaries and job prospects, especially when graduates now have the privilege to make choices that go beyond fulfilling pragmatic needs.