Focus on 5 key areas to keep education system relevant in uncertain world: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE – Boosting lifelong learning and closing learning gaps early in life are among the five key areas of focus needed to ensure Singapore’s education system stays relevant in an increasingly uncertain and challenging world.

The urgency for Singapore’s education system to evolve quickly is clear and more must be done, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on Thursday.

The areas of focus he highlighted include ensuring the individual needs of students are met and relooking industry and institutional practices.

He was speaking at the first session of Singapore Perspectives 2023, a conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies on the theme of work. About 750 attendees tuned into the online session on Thursday morning.

Customising learning and closing the learning gap early in life

Stronger investments will be needed in the early years, especially for less privileged children of families with higher needs, said Mr Chan. Much has been done in the last 15 years, and more will be done.

“This is particularly important as there is increasing evidence that we must not allow the learning and development gap to widen from young. Once the development gap sets in, the amount of remediation required is inordinately high and it becomes difficult to rectify,” he said.

“We will examine afresh new ways to reach out to these children and families, structure the support for them holistically – including both education and social together, so that no one is left behind at the start,” he said. He welcomed partnerships with a wider range of people and private organisations to pilot new models to meet differing needs.

Technologies in artificial intelligence and deep analytics must also enable the system to better customise learning approaches for every child, he said. Students must continue to have diversity in pathways and subject choices through greater flexibility in subject levels and customising of degree programmes.

With that, aptitude-based admissions based on students’ potential and interest will become a greater part of Singapore’s selection and placement system, he added.

Moving beyond the first 15 years to the next 50 years

Individuals must look to new benchmarks of success, like having a spirit of inquiry, a desire to create new knowledge and value, said Mr Chan.

Companies cannot and must not passively wait for the “perfect worker” to be developed for them, he said. They must be active partners to shape students’ interests and skill sets early and work with academia to train workers even after they join the workforce, he said.

“I can understand the difficulties in committing to train workers given the uncertainties and disruptions in our industries. But the more we don’t do this well and together as a system, the more we will end up poaching from one another in a stagnant talent pool.”

Institutions also need to redesign teaching methods to meet the needs of adult learners so that they can learn flexibly amid competing responsibilities, he said.


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