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Singapore in Numbers - Highest Education Attainment

Singapore doesn't have any natural resources in the physical sense, but the one resource that has helped build Singapore to the economic miracle that it is has been its human capital. Singapore has consistently and heavily invested in education to build a highly qualified and productive workforce to drive its economy. According to the 2020 Singapore Population Census, residents are increasingly qualified with over 58% having post secondary qualifications or higher. The more interesting observation is the shift away from engineering sciences towards business and administration over the last decade. This could have serious implications to Singapore's ability to reinvent itself in the post pandemic world as well as for companies who currently operate here. There is a lot to unpack.

Plenty of evidence of the educational outcomes among Singapore residents. There is evidence of the generation who helped build Singapore in the early days through their blood and sweat (those aged 65 and above). But each subsequent generation was increasingly better educated. In fact, 58% of those aged 30-34 have university degree level qualifications.

Being an Asian country with traditional values, it was not surprising to find that more males had university educations. This was true for those aged 40 and above; data suggests that times have changed. For those aged 25-39, data suggests that there are more university educated females than males. No surprise that the number of female graduates far out strip males, since men in Singapore at that age are probably still serving national service.

While it is true that each generation was better educated than the last; but not all ethic groups in Singapore reaped similar improvements in educational attainment. The Malay ethic group have shown improvements with each cohort, but the percentage with university education remain lower than other ethic groups.

Data further suggest that your country of birth could play a part too. Noting that the data does not distinguish between citizen, permanent residents or non-residents; data suggests the following:

  • Only 27% of those born and raised in Singapore have university degrees; which is not surprising when you account for the older generations of Singaporeans

  • Those born in Malaysia had similar profiles; which is again not unusual, since many Malaysians were permanent residents or eventually became Singaporeans.

  • Residents from other locations were all much better qualified than Singaporeans; where 45-80% were university educated. This might be attributed to Singapore's strategy to attract global "talent" to build the economy

With reference to the population census infographic, it suggested that business and administration was now the top field of study among university graduates; overtaking engineering sciences. But data suggests that race and gender play a part too

  • Males tend towards engineering sciences and information technology

  • While females towards education, health sciences and humanities

  • Proportionately more Indians and Malays with degrees in education

  • A more detailed dive into the size of the graduating cohorts from the IHLs in Singapore show a very different profile. This could suggest that many of these graduates may have been attained in the middle of their careers, since business degrees are much more accessible then compared with humanities and engineering sciences

As Singapore continues to pursue it smart nation strategy and positioning itself as the technology startup hub, the educational profile could suggest some gaps especially for engineering sciences and information technology. But as with any bets on education, there is constant adjustments to be made by the education system as well as student cohort in anticipation of market demand upon graduation. For more information and details on the charts above, click here.

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