More and more people will be enrolling in home-study or part-time distance-learning courses to further their knowledge and career skills.

• Christopher Chen finds out why

The movement started with a trickle a decade ago, but in recent years, the thirst for better academic qualifications has. gathered such momentum that the Government is starting more part-time degree/diploma courses as well as an Open University here next July to cater to the increasing demand.

The popularity of continuing education is a fairly recent thing. Says Mr Albert Ang, a Principal Consultant for Al-tenon Management Centre, a management and education consultancy firm: "I remem-ber those days when students enrolled under the Lembaga (Adult 'Education Board) . would be considered as fail-ures. Now, one is 'enterpris-ing' if one is studying for an extra diploma or degree by correspondence or part-time study. Fifteen years back, only one in IQ of my friends was doing part-time studies. Now, about eight out of 10 are studying for one degree or • another."

According to Mr Ang, the greatest demand for part-time courses is in management, law and computer studies. "First . on . the list . is managerial studies, specifi-cally business administration and marketing. Law is an attractive alternative while computer courses also have a large following.

"I'd say that of the three, managerial courses produce the most marketable gradu-ates. Law seems to be the choice of professionals plan-ning a career switch and for many a lawyer's clerk, it is an upward thrust.

"What is baffling is that while there is a pressing need for more computer profes-sionals, not enough studentS • have chosen computer stud-ies. They opt for management courses instead.

" He added: "There could be a better matching of employ-ers' and employees' prefer-ences over choices of study courses." Why do people take up part-time studies?

Mr E.L. Lim, a human re-source manager said, "The drive to keep upgrading one-self makes many people willing and eager to study part-time. In my case, I would like to equip myself with the skills to eventually run my own business. I therefore decided to do law, confident that when I graduate, I shall have a satis-factory legal practice as I can also apply my experience with human resources."

Better career prospects are the driving force behind Singaporeans' thirst for continuing educa-tion. And the many techno-logical, economic and environmental changes here set the right climate for fur-ther edu6tion. But a minority take up an-other degree for the sake of knowledge. • Said Dr Myint Soe, Hon-orary Director of Legal Stud-ies at the Singapore Institute of Commerce, which tutors students sitting for the exter-nal degree in the Bachelor of Laws programme from the London University: "I have engineers, doctors, architects and surveyors studying law to get a better grasp of the rou-tine legal procedures whichthey ecounter in their work. These peoplewant to education for the masses

Adults are trading-in their heir better control of situa-tions which could give rise to litigation against them. Then there are some who study law to expand their minds, to challenge their powers of rea-. Part-time students have their share of problems in their studies. think the main hurdle is finding the time to study,". said Mr R Karuppan Chettiar, Chairman of John Winfield Consultants, which owns the Singapore Institute of Com-merce. "Many mature 'students have to contend with family commitments, work obliga-tions, and initially, getting into the studying mood after such a long time," Mr Karuppan is a former law clerk who studied to be an advocate and solicitor by taking the Solicitor's Clerk's Examinations back in 1971. Nowadays, part-time stu-dents have many learning aids to help them. There are tape-recorders, audio-visual equipment, facsimile ma-chines and personal compu-ters linked by modems to exchange notes. These "links" are valuable in improving time manage-ment and circumventing the lack of uvaitab seftcremct materials needed for academic work.

Mature students, it is believed, have some dis-tinct advantages that help to counter the rigours of part-time studies. Said Dr Myint Soe, "Ma-ture students have more worldly experience and a broader understanding of reality. This helps them in the decision-making process which lawyers face everyday. The mature student may be a little less energetic than younger counterparts, but he or she has a broader and deeper understanding of things; this helps in grasping legal principles better, as law is usually common sense." Is one ever too old to study? A hotel front office ma-nager, Mr Kenneth Lim, an executive in a hotel, feels that "it's always better to start young, but never too late to do so. We should never write off an older person merely because of the age factor. In the West, it is common for adults in their forties or fifties to go back to college. Employers are beginning to respond to the needs of these people and their younger col-leagues by encouraging them to advance themselves aca-demically. One such employer is Mr Peter Lye, Managing Direc-tor of Hay Management Con-sultants Singapore, an international human resource management firm. Mr Lye said, "My employ-ees are encouraged to take up a relevant course of study in their own time. This helps them do better in their work, whatever their age. "For instance, staff who have to collect a tremendous amount of data and salary analyses are urged to study computer software systems and design. And for our ex-perienced consultants, there are various courses to up-grade themselves with, like management and computer studies." Due to the increasing demand, the scope of part-time education here has been widening. One catalyst is the flex ibi I ity of adult education,

night lives for night classes like this one at the Singapore Institute of Commerce. Language courses are also wining popularity as Singa-pore plugs into the interna-tional market. But there are some areas of study which have been

Dr Soe of the Singapore In-stitute of Commerce said: "Adult education knows no boundaries. Thus, we have doctors, engineers and archi-tects taking up law, and

lawyers studying • economics, finance or management. In fact, some lawyers have MBA degrees while others have degrees in building or accountancy."

shunned. According to Mr Albert Ang of Alberton Manage-ment Centre, "It seems that the study of transportation and logistics is not receiving the attention it should be ac-corded. This course is rele-vant to Singapore which is an entrepot port and a region-al hub of airways and ship-ping lines. "Perhaps with time, more Singaporeans would take up such courses even if they are not as glamourous." Many would-be part-time students wonder if an external degree or diploma will be just as recognised as a full-time qualification? "Certainly, with time," said Mr Kenneth Lim. "There are no compromises in standards where part-time degrees or diplomas are concerned. "I might be even be a little biased towards the pperson who obtained his degree through part-time study. It certainly needs true grit."

Part Time study : Continuing education for the masses