AS A behavioural consultant and career coach for more than 15 years, I have had people asking me whether a degree is needed for success in life. Very often, the views are polarised.

From the Government's perspective, the issue is about how it will influence the economy and social stability.

For parents, it is about how their children will fare in society and, to a great extent, the pride in having a graduate in the family.

For individuals, it is about how it will affect them, in a society that prizes paper qualifications.

Although these perspectives are valid, we seem to have overlooked the question people are really asking: If a degree is not necessary, then what is the science behind "doing well"?

How well a person performs in his career depends on a combination of two factors.

First, "hard skills" - academic qualifications, experience and specialised training - have been the basis for predicting career performance for some time. And yes, graduates from different universities or training institutions do differ in quality.

Second, suitability or behavioural competency, which is often left out because it is difficult to measure. Everyone of us is like a fingerprint when it comes to behaviour - no two persons are alike. That is why graduates with the same exam results from the same school perform differently when put in the same job.

Besides selecting people with the right hard skills, we must also pick those with the right behavioural competencies.

In simple terms, one should get an education, undergo a suitability assessment (suitability is not just about personality) and match these two factors to see the complete picture. If corporations are using these factors to select candidates, why can't we do it the other way around, that is, matching oneself to a job?

And yes, a nationwide exercise can be carried out to increase productivity in this way. There is no such thing as an incompetent employee; rather, it is the employee who has been placed in the wrong job, leading to an incompatible match - degree or no degree.