Learners' Reflections on the Tertiary Education and WSQ Experiences

Conducted from 2010 -  2011 


Professor Roger Harris, Visiting Research Fellow 
Institute for Adult Learning

Catherine Ramos, Senior Research Officer
Institute for Adult Learning

Mr Marcelino Lizaso Jr
Institute for Adult Learning (Formerly)


What is the question?

What are the educational experiences of individuals who are graduates of both formal tertiary education and the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) system?


Why is it important?

With higher numbers of students attaining tertiary level qualifications and a greater demand for PMEs in the workforce, there will be more participants in WSQ programmes who already have diploma or degree-level educational qualifications. We need to learn from the experiences of these people to be able to provide appropriate and effective WSQ training programmes.


How did we do the research?

The first phase of the research explores the current policy context. The second phase analyses WDA statistics to provide a profile of the prior qualifications of people completing WSQ qualifications. The third phase focuses on the learners’ reflections on their tertiary education and WSQ experiences, drawing on data from an online survey (111 respondents), interviews (30 participants) and two focus groups.


What did we learn?


  • Whilst WSQ participants predominantly have qualifications of ‘O’ levels and below, there is already a significant group of people who have a diploma and above (13% of WSQ graduates who have attained full qualifications as of August 2010).
  • The two systems were seen as clearly different, for instance in assessment processes, study costs and teaching style. However, respondents reported that they did not have significant difficulties in moving between the two systems.
  • There was some concern amongst this group about the status of WSQ qualifications and recognition by employers.
  • WSQ training was seen as valuable particularly in the gaining of practical knowledge, boosting confidence and building networks.
  • In assessing their reasons for enrolling in WSQ courses, in comparison with their PET experience, gaining and improving practical skills and retraining for a different career were seen as particularly influential.
  • Respondents saw only vague, if any, links between tertiary education and the WSQ system.
  • Majority of respondents did not use formal career guidance services, citing reasons such as not being aware of the availability of such services or relying rather on Internet searches and peer discussions to provide information to inform their career decision-making. The few respondents who utilised formal career guidance services shared that the service did not adequately meet their needs.


What are the implications?

  • Clear articulation between the two systems is necessary to get best value out of training experiences, for instance through development of a credit matrix and a stronger focus on learning outcomes, rather than inputs, at all levels.
  • Initiatives such as individual pathway plans and skills passports would help people to see clearer links between PET and CET, and enhance the value of educational qualifications as a foundation for later vocational learning.
  • In contrast with informal means, such as Internet searches and peer advice, high-quality and accessible formal adult career guidance could help individuals in making better informed decisions about the value and appropriateness of WSQ qualifications and the relationship with prior qualifications.

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