The silver lining for private school graduates
Despite worrying reports about their employability, private school graduates remain optimistic.
Reports that graduates from private institutions are facing employment woes hit the news again recently. Besides finding it harder to find jobs, private school graduates are getting considerably lower salaries than their counterparts from the public universities.
That sounds miserable. So Youth.SG polled 23 graduates from various private institutions in Singapore to find out how they felt.
Interestingly, over 70 per cent said they did not regret the route they took, although many agree they are discriminated against because of their school. Despite the bleak employment outlook, the majority were appreciative of their private school experience because it met their expectations of getting a degree and obtaining an education in their areas of interest.
24-year-old Jacelyn Chong, who recently graduated from the University of Wollongong (UOW) through SIM Global Education (SIM GE), described her university experience as an “enriching and fulfilling experience”.
Alyssa Liao, 28, who found a job two months after graduation, felt that her private education experience at PSB Academy offered her more than what a public university could offer.
The faculty assistant said: “My course helped me in developing critical thinking [skills] and opened up my perspective to include world issues. We were encouraged to objectively criticise established systems [maybe because we were not from a local university].”
However, not all private school graduates feel the same way.
Kristen Lazarte, 22, who graduated from the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), regretted her decision to enrol in a private school. The social media officer said she faced discrimination as her qualification was not widely recognised.
She said: “I experienced some interviewers remarking that my diploma was ‘not really a diploma’.”
Muhammad Hafeez, 27, who recently obtained a degree from University of London through SIM GE and is looking for a full-time job, said: “Some employment agencies discriminate between private and non-private graduates. Firms [also] tend to set unrealistic expectations of fresh graduates. For example, they require two years of experience for an entry-level job.”
Most of the graduates we polled took an average of three to four months to secure full-time employment. However, some took a few years before they found a job.
Freelance sound technician, Hannah Lim, 26, took almost two years before she found herself in full-time employment. She explained: “The industry I am in is very small. Also, I wasn’t looking very hard at that point in time and was employed in a couple of temporary jobs instead.”
It is not the first time the worth of degrees in Singapore has been thrust in the spotlight. The government has, in recent years, been encouraging students to look beyond degrees and explore alternative paths of education. Threats of underemployment loom ahead as the number of graduates in Singapore grows.
But will these statistics deter youths from considering the private institution route?
Melvin Lim, 24, who is considering pursuing a degree in a private institution, said: “For some, [enrolling in a private institution is] their only option. However, it’s good to have alternative paths to further our education as not everyone may fit the ‘one size fits all’ mainstream education system that we have.”
The student and assistant designer added: “For certain private institutions such as Raffles Design or the School of Design and Entrepreneurship, they have special niche courses backed by industry experts, which makes these schools the ‘go-to’ places if you’re certain this is an interest you want to pursue.”
However, for Tamana Mulchand, enrolling into a private institution is her “plan B” to education.
“I don’t really have a choice. Local universities cater to the cream of the crop and entering a private institution is one of the more practical ways I can ensure I get educated,” said the final year student from Nanyang Polytechnic.
It seems that getting a degree, even from a private university, is still a priority despite weakening career prospects.
Tamana, 19, said: “Within a few years, the career prospects of different industries could change and there could be a lot of retrenchment that happens. If your working environment changes, you still want to be equipped with the skills that will get you a job that benefits you.”
Renia Lek, 22, a private school graduate who took one month to land a temporary administrative job, added: “Most of the time, employers look for relevant working experience and not just your grades. Anyone can get a degree, it’s now more a matter of whether you can apply the skills you’ve attained from your tertiary education to the real world.”
Written by Anna Fernandez and Angela Ouyang
Teaser photo credit: MDIS