As the eldest of six children, Ms Serena Seah was expected to find a job after completing her A levels and graduating from Raffles Girls' School in 1974. Though she secured a place in the arts and social sciences programme at the then Nanyang University, she abided by her parents' wishes to enter the workforce instead. "My parents were not too well off. I remember my mother saying that my other siblings needed to study, too", said Ms Seah, 63.
Determined to upskill, however, she took a local two-year part-time course while working and acquired a diploma in marketing, accredited by the United Kingdom's Institute of Marketing in 1986, at age 30. "It was my desire to improve myself and gain something," says Ms Seah, who works in the sales industry.
In the cohort of Singaporeans in their 60s, Ms Seah is a minority in the level of educational attainment, according to the Ministry of Finance's (MOF) report released last week. The study looked at Singaporeans in their 40s today and in comparing them with earlier cohorts, found younger groups to be generally better educated, more able to find jobs, earning more and having better life expectancy. For those in their 60s, like Ms Seah, around 18 per cent progressed beyond post-secondary education, attaining a diploma or profession certification, or making it to university. In comparison, about 35 per cent of Singaporeans in their 50s have a diploma, professional or university education. For those in their 40s, it is 66 per cent.
The MOF said the improvements in educational attainment were "largely the result of enhanced access, greater affordability, and improvements in the quality of education, which also afforded more pathways and options".
For Ms Seah, who has also worked in the banking, hotel and exhibition sectors, her diploma equipped her with the skills and know-how to go into the direct sales business in her late 30s. She first got into a trading business, helping to set up a distribution channel for China-made products. She then worked as a sales manager for a firm specialising in paper products for industrial cleaning.
But in her late 40s, the business was not doing well and she was asked to resign. The resilient Ms Seah, however, found a new partner in the same sector and till today, works on a freelance basis.
Ms Seah, who has a daughter, 30, and son, 28, remembers her 40s as being a time of hard work, juggling her job and caring for her children. "There was a lot of cold calling to get business, and while we faced rejection, we had to persist... Still, this helped me to jump-start my own freelance work later," she notes.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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