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    May 30, 2014

    Earlier enlistments on cards for poly students

    INSTEAD of the usual national service (NS) intakes in June and September, polytechnic students can now look forward to enlisting earlier, in May and August.

    This change, as part of a high-level panel's recommendations to shorten the waiting time before enlistment, may be implemented as early as the middle of next year, if accepted by the Government.

    Sharing this in Parliament yesterday, during the debate on the President's Address, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said enlisting the polytechnic students earlier would mean that they enter the workforce faster.

    They would also not need to disrupt their two-year NS stints in order to make the local university term in August, as is the practice currently.

    A-level and ITE students would also benefit from the overall plan to have 90 per cent of pre-enlistees start NS within four months of completing their post-secondary education.

    The changes are expected to have a huge administrative impact, Dr Ng told the House.

    "I tell you that my SAF commanders are sweating over this because they are juggling it. Each batch is about five, six, seven thousand and they are wondering how do we do this. But they have studied it, they are confident they can do it," Dr Ng said.

    A shorter wait time before enlistment is one of 30 suggestions put forth by the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) after a comprehensive, year-long review of NS.

    Other recommendations include setting up an SAF Volunteer Corps, giving NSmen more funds in their Medisave, giving servicemen more time to train for their physical fitness tests and easing travel restrictions.

    Dr Ng said these recommendations would cost about $4.5 billion over 10 years.

    "It is a significant investment. However, the Committee believes that this set of recommendations strikes the right balance in responding to the needs of national servicemen and allowing them to contribute more as national servicemen and volunteers," he added.

    Dr Ng said that although a survey commissioned by his ministry revealed that public support for NS was high, it was an opportune time to conduct the review, to ensure that NS remains "responsive and relevant" to a new generation of millenial national servicemen.

    "Better to hear them now and adjust policies, rather than wait and assume previous policies will work even when circumstances have changed," Dr Ng added.

    He noted that circumstances have changed, with family sizes being smaller and the burden on national servicemen to support their dependants being greater. More are also seeking higher education and work life has become more hectic.

    Dr Ng said that when the CSNS initiatives were fully implemented, the benefits to national servicemen and more importantly, Singapore, would be "substantial".

    "If we do this well, we will continue to nurture another generation of national servicemen who know what they are fighting for, and are able and committed to defend Singapore," Dr Ng said.