The need to learn is an economic endeavour

Office workers at Raffles Place on Feb 18, 2015.
Office workers at Raffles Place on Feb 18, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

In a competitive environment such as in Singapore, it is not easy to comprehend the notion of, much less engage in, learning for learning's sake ("Learn to learn - and build adaptability, resilience" by Ms Anthea Ong Lay Theng; Wednesday).

For the people who need to put food on the table, the need to learn is inevitably an economic endeavour, more pressing than the tangible measures of success, such as professional reputation and economic viability.

Such is reflected in the crux of the philosophical intent of SkillsFuture in improving employability.

More so, the SkillsFuture Credit, SkillsFuture Study Award and SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy are schemes to help make Singapore a more inclusive society.

While the key thrusts of SkillsFuture are about meeting future work challenges, undeniably, the scheme is also about anticipating impending unemployment.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Manpower, the number of people retrenched grew steadily from 7,740 in 2010 to 13,440 last year, a 73 per cent jump in a five-year period, and it could only get worse with the evolving economic situation.

From my understanding, there are currently more than 10,000 courses in the SkillsFuture Credit Scheme, encompassing a myriad of learning domains, including cognitive, affective, psychomotor, and interpersonal domains of learning.

While the emotive aspect of learning, such as adaptive life skills, is crucial in internalising and driving learning, SkillsFuture, as the word implies, is fundamentally about developing the mastery of skills to propel Singapore's next phase of development towards an advanced economy.

It is about scaling up the technological hierarchy in economic terms, and ascending the competency ladder in a narrower perspective.

Nothing drives an unemployed father more than not meeting the skill requirements for his next job interview.

SkillsFuture plays a part in providing the platform for him to adapt his skills competency to move forward.

The significance as to "why he does and learn what he does" is all about the need to learn to survive, nothing more.

Chow Kok Fai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2016, with the headline 'The need to learn is an economic endeavour'. Print Edition | Subscribe