SINGAPORE: The junior college (JC) pathway to tertiary education remains intact despite the fact that there will be four fewer JCs in 2019 as a result of a merger announced by the Education Ministry last month, said Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung in Parliament on Monday (May 8).
He was responding to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Associate Professor Daniel Goh, who asked how the reduction in the number of JCs would affect the supply of GCE A-Level graduates entering university. This is, he said, against the backdrop of an increase in the number of autonomous universities to six and an increase in cohort participation rate to 40 per cent by 2020.
Mr Ong said that about 19,000 students are expected to be admitted into locally funded universities this year, but the numbers will fall by as much as 12 per cent by 2025.
“But there is no issue in losing critical mass in our university institutions because we only have five autonomous universities, or six if the SUSS (Singapore University of Social Sciences) Bill is passed by this House later in the day,” he said.
Mr Ong said that even with falling numbers, there is less need for critical mass as university education is becoming more specialised. He said a more diverse pathway at the university level can be expected despite falling cohort sizes. “In fact, as our manpower and talent base reduces, it is even more important to uncover one’s potential to the fullest through more diverse education pathways,” he said.
“In addition, our universities have taken on mandate of lifelong learning and I expect our university landscape to become more variegated and vibrant over the years.”
Assoc Prof Goh questioned the Government’s response to criticism that the reduction of JCs from 16 to 12 was a reduction of one pathway, and whether taking the JC route was becoming elitist in light of only “neighbourhood” colleges being affected by the merger.
“Is this a preservation of multiple pathways to university or is this the ‘elitisation’ of JC education?” he asked.
To this, Mr One moved to reassure the House that despite the merging of JCs, the cut-off point to enter one would remain at 20. He said that as long as a student obtained less than 20 points, he or she is eligible to be admitted. Mr Ong said that when cohort sizes fall, every other pathway will “shrink accordingly”.
“But as I mentioned earlier, the fact that it is smaller, actually we need to put in even more effort to make sure that it is more diverse and so that everyone can fulfil their potential,” he said.
“You look at cinemas now - they’re getting smaller and fewer. But each cinema is showing a lot more titles. So I think it’s the same logic. Falling cohort sizes and increasing diversities are not incompatible notions.”