A mindset shift is never easy but it is necessary if we are to keep up with change. In an interview with the Straits Times, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said that the pace of change is so rapid, it will push students to keep updating their knowledge and building new skills.
Increasingly, subjects like engineering or business will not be taken in isolation and therefore, it will be unthinkable in the future for students to graduate with a degree in engineering or business. Rather than having ‘artificial silos’ of content, what will be of value will be relevant skills and knowledge to solve real problems, Mr Chan said.
The future of learning is here. One never quite graduates from an institution of learning because once a student enrols in an institution, he or she will develop a lifelong learning relationship with their alma mater instead of just graduating once. Universities will offer more flexibility and grant their students unlimited credits, allowing them to take as many modules as they want throughout their lifetime, Mr Chan said.
What students need is a mindset shift from frontloading their education to building a strong foundation and then use continuous learning to keeping adding on to that foundation. Importantly, they need to learn, unlearn and relearn.
Mr Chan said the universities are moving towards a modular, “building block” system, where students can take different modules according to their interests, or based on the shifting demands in the market.
“Not everyone has to fit into the traditional route or pathway. I am prepared to have students chart their own paths and enable them to discover new breakthroughs,” he said.
“We need to build a system that can support our students and workers to do just-in-time learning, where learning is available on demand and can be accessed when the learner needs it. Young people will keep upgrading, without calling it a degree necessarily.”
Many leading-edge frontier companies have their own training institutions, Mr Chan said, and we should not shy away from partnering with them, especially when it comes to continuing education.
A degree and a diploma is just one frame of thinking about higher education, Mr Chan said.
“It is really the skills, the currency of knowledge that are more important.Why shouldn’t we work with the Googles of the world, to learn the latest things that they are doing? They may not offer a full degree programme or a full diploma programme, but they certainly offer valuable modules that our adult learners want to take up,” he added.
To the question on the role of universities in promoting social mobility, Mr Chan said:
All institutions and schools, even pre-schools, play an important role – not just universities.
If you are born a Singaporean, so long as you are capable, you’re committed and you’re prepared to work, you will have every chance of success, regardless of your starting point.
I come from a single-parent family and was able to progress partly because of the opportunities I had in the education system.
Being the Minister for Education today, I want to be able to say to every student that even if you come from a family like mine, or a family with much more challenging circumstances, you can also have the chance to succeed in Singapore. That is our commitment to our people.
We need to make sure that we have multiple pathways of success for different children with different abilities, and instil confidence in themselves, confidence in their future, and the confidence to contribute to our society.
You can watch the interview here: