SINGAPORE: "Being stress—free", having less competition and evolving as a gracious society — these were the running themes of a dialogue session between polytechnic students and Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.
150 teenagers from Singapore’s four polytechnics — Singapore Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic — shared their vision for the future with Mr Wong on Thursday afternoon.
Participants said they wanted a less competitive Singapore in 20 years’ time, complete with a more gracious and open—minded society.
Mr Wong however reminded them to be mindful of the consequences to their choices, pointing out the need to consider the broader environment.
He said that China is forecast to be the world’s biggest economy by 2030, over—riding that of the United States. Asia’s economy is also estimated to grow beyond that of the US and Europe, he said.
"We are part of Asia and there’ll be opportunities for us. It’s a positive thing. But the challenge is that within Asia, there’ll be many other cities competing to be the focal point and it’s not to be taken for granted that Singapore will be where we are today, because other cities are growing much faster than us, and the drive to get ahead is very strong," he said.
"All of us can choose, but we must be mindful (that) there are consequences behind these choices," Mr Wong added.
Some participants also suggested a four—day work week to encourage greater work—life balance.
Mr Wong admitted that the idea was enticing, but said businesses would suffer.
Students also pressed the acting minister for his views on foreign talent, to which he said they are necessary as Singapore’s population ages.
On foreign workers, he also pointed to the need for companies to better communicate with their staff and provide reasonable welfare.
The two—and—a—half—hour long forum also touched on issues close to the students’ hearts, including transport subsidies and admission into local universities.
These were the topics that drew the strongest views.
Students echoed their displeasure at the disparities between polytechnic and junior college students in terms of transport fares and admission rates for courses as well as for local universities.
Mr Wong responded by saying that the government is reviewing transport subsidies and urged the students to wait for the review to be completed before taking the issue further.
He also highlighted various measures to increase the intake of polytechnic students in local universities.
Thursday’s forum is also part of the first Youth Model ASEAN Conference held in Singapore. The conference runs from Tuesday to Friday.
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