SINGAPORE — It is important for universities to teach generic skills rather than specific skills, such as in computer software, that will soon have to be changed, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.
In fact, it would not be a good thing if students graduate perfectly and only job-ready, as graduates must constantly learn and adapt to changing job requirements.
“If you have the basics, then you’ll continue to learn all these things. It’s impossible for our institutes of higher learning to churn out students who are perfectly job-ready, because if they do that, then they’re doing a bad job,” he said.
“It’s as if it’s a production line.”
That was one of the key takeaways of Mr Heng’s thoughts on the direction for Singapore’s education system as he engaged in a dialogue, themed Singapore Moving Forward, Building Our Future Together, with about 400 Bishan residents.
Singapore has to think about “the skills of the future”, said Mr Heng, citing as an example the “ability to continue to learn how to learn, the ability to think in very analytical terms”.
“How do I form my own conclusion, (which is) the ability to create something out of all the knowledge I have? How do I innovate?” he continued.
“It’s important because machines will get smarter and smarter. What we have to do are the things machines cannot do. The uniquely human quality is the ability to integrate all the different pieces of knowledge.”
He cautioned parents against thinking about schooling based on what they used to learn — a “certain set of tools that might be (from) 20, 30 years ago”.
“There’s a 40-year gap in our thinking that we really have to bridge, so we have to think how to focus on what skills matter.”
One resident pointed out that many countries in the region are fast catching up with Singapore in technology and the economy.
In response, Mr Heng said building a core of Singaporeans who can connect with different parts of the world would be critical in ensuring that Singapore stays ahead of the curve for the next 50 years.
If students can hone their ability to work with people across countries and cultures, Singapore would be “valuable”.
Mr Heng also responded on a variety of other education-related topics such as competition in schools, whether students are sufficiently independent in learning and, whether academic qualifications will still be critical.
While the academic part is important in giving a foundation for children to learn, Mr Heng reiterated the importance of adding on the skills of the future in addition to that.
On non-education topics, one resident raised the issue of inter-agency cooperation, stating that some issues get pushed from agency to agency.
Mr Heng replied that besides the newly established Municipal Services Office, ministries also work together to talk about bigger issues.
For instance, a few ministries can get together to discuss education because they have to figure out the long-term needs of Singapore’s economy and society.
news source & image credits: todayonline.com