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Should degrees come with an expiry date?

A suggestion by Member of Parliament for West Coast Group Representation Constituency Ang Wei Neng to put expiry dates on degrees from Singapore's institutes of higher learning ignited an online furore this past week. He later clarified that he had wanted to provide “food for thought” and to spark a conversation on the relevance of a university education.

Should degrees come with an expiry date?

A convocation ceremony for the graduates of Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 from the National University of Singapore.

A suggestion by Member of Parliament for West Coast Group Representation Constituency Ang Wei Neng to put expiry dates on degrees from Singapore's institutes of higher learning ignited an online furore this past week. He later clarified that he had wanted to provide “food for thought” and to spark a conversation on the relevance of a university education.

Many TODAY readers disagreed with the suggestion, citing its impracticality as well as the costs and time it would take to “refresh” one’s degree, although some did acknowledge the importance of lifelong learning and suggest other ways this could be done.

 

Instead of lapsing the degree, just add the courses you have attended to your qualifications. Employers can see the difference between one candidate who has a degree with no further upgrading courses and one who has further upgrading courses. To invalidate the academic qualification of a person who has spent three to four years on a degree, or worse, five to six years on a PhD or medical degree is just too punitive. If this were so, very soon you will find it tough to find qualified engineers, doctors or other professionals with a valid degree. JUSTIN LOH

Lifelong learning should be a personal decision depending on needs and not a forced action. ANDERSON LEONG

We know that lifelong learning is important but do not impose this five-year shelf life on degrees. Courses are not cheap. Skills can be picked up from on-the-job training, projects, books, current affairs and online videos. There is no need to ask everyone to go for upgrading courses. AKBAR ISMAIL

It applies only to certain industries such as IT, which require frequent updates of one’s skillset, and in which such expiration (on various certifications) already exists. ALAN GOH

While I agree that there is a need to further emphasise lifelong learning and to enshrine it as an institutional belief, I disagree with the method of time-stamping the degrees from local varsities to achieve this. Instead, we should put money where our mouth is and encourage lifelong learning and renewal through rewarding individuals with better tax incentives and subsidies. Companies that institutionalise regular training and retraining should also be accorded grants and incentives. PHILLIP CHAI

Even our driving licence is permanent until a certain age. Even the cars purchased and their Certificate of Entitlements — for the prices they command — last for 10 years. AL FIAN

Sure. Pay for my five-year education and supply me with my income as I do it. I studied part-time to complete my master’s and I’ve no intention of doing part-time studies again. JINNY FERNANDEZ

A five-year validity period for degrees will only give rise to many scammy “upgrade” courses. All kinds of dubious companies will spring up to provide such courses just to satisfy this requirement, with no tangible benefits for attendees. People can learn and upgrade while working, why the special need to go for courses? WINSTON WONG

I am furthering my studies and it is already a drain on my wallet. Will the Government pay the full cost of my further studies? It is not that I don't want to upgrade; it is costly to upgrade. KEVIN NG CHENG YONG

There are people who struggle with loans, work part-time and care for siblings while studying for a degree. Just to have a certificate which expires faster than an air-con unit? KHAIRUDDIN ALYAS

It is actually very difficult for some people to go for an upgrading course. Unless their company supports them, they will have to go for night classes. Many people have to support their families after work and find it difficult to do that. It is not just about proper time management and “sacrifices”, because there are many other external factors. It is actually about practicality and how feasible it is for the general population. TING AIK LEONG

This degree policy will drive all the talent overseas. TAN WEI JIE

If local university degrees have only five years’ validity, what about those who got their degrees overseas and are working in Singapore? Isn’t this putting our local graduates at a disadvantage? How many Singaporeans can afford to send their children overseas? For graduate employees who can’t afford it, or if there’s no suitable courses or companies are not supportive, what would happen to them? Be sacked or get a reduced remuneration? SIEW LAW

Tertiary education is a baseline. It's the relevant industry skillsets and domain knowledge that need renewal. LOH YEOW KOON

With this proposal, I believe that Singaporeans will be more of a liability for a company than an asset because Singaporean workers will have to forgo some productivity in their workplaces to "renew" their degrees or even worse, to eat into company's time to allow for "renewal".  Is the workforce able to sustain it? MOHD AZIZI

Yes, continual learning is important but I also improve on the job with experience and taking on new projects. I don’t need a lifelong paper chase, thanks. MARK SG

Aren't we learning on the job as well? If our education becomes irrelevant after five years, all students are better off going for job training straight away. The market changes rapidly. How fast can education in school catch up? CHOON YEAN CHOONG

Who is going to check my kids’ homework, do my laundry, and wash my toilets while I try to be re-certified for the degree I spent 14 years slogging through the system to get? MIN YAH

These comments were first posted to TODAY’s Facebook page or submitted to Voices. They have been edited for clarity, accuracy and length. If you have views on this issue or a news topic you care about, send a letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

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