The latest United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report [Link] ranks Singapore 18th out of 187 countries in the world in the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) for 2012.
The UN’s HDI is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices to rank countries. It was developed in 1990 as an index to look beyond GDP growth as a measure of a country’s well-being. It is published by the UNDP annually and serves as a frame of reference for both social and economic development of countries in the world.
The 10 top countries in the world are:
6. New Zealand
Other Asian economies ahead of Singapore include South Korea (12th) and Hong Kong (13th).
One of the most glaring deficiencies for Singapore is the expected number of years of schooling, which registered 14.4 in the report. This is about two years less than the average of “very high HDI” countries (16.3 years). The expected years of schooling indicates the number of years of schooling that a child of school entrance age can expect to receive.
An analyst said, “This suggests a smaller proportion of Singaporeans attend university or graduate schools, as compared with its comparable peers despite its very high standing in terms of income per capita and life expectancy.”
Indeed, Minister Khaw Boon Wan seemed to discourage ITE and polytechnic graduates from pursuing a university degree at an ‘Our Singapore Conversation’ dialogue held on 4 May 2013.
Singaporeans do not need to be university graduates to be successful, he said.
“If they cannot find jobs, what is the point? You own a degree, but so what? That you can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless,” he elaborated.
He was responding to a participant who said the government should set aside more university places for Institute of Technical Education and polytechnic graduates.
Said Mr Khaw, “Can you have a whole country where 100 per cent are graduates? I am not so sure.”
“What you do not want is to create huge graduate unemployment.”
In the past, PM Lee said that polytechnic graduates have many good options after leaving school, and they need not aim for university degrees.
Singapore may not have to be a “whole country where 100 per cent are graduates” but certainly, looking at the UNDP report, Singapore can do better in terms of the HDI component, “expected years of schooling”.
Mr Khaw may be interested to know that the “expected years of schooling” for the 3 Asian countries ahead of Singapore are:
Japan – 15.3
Korea – 17.2
Hong Kong – 15.5