'Soft skills just as vital as exams', say educators at AsiaEducationExpo

Managing editor Han Fook Kwang (right) with NIE principal officer Quek Jin Jong.
Managing editor Han Fook Kwang (right) with NIE principal officer Quek Jin Jong.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Expo explores education landscape and challenges

Speakers and teachers at the inaugural AsiaEducationExpo (AEX) 2013 discussed moving away from an exam culture to focus also on soft skills - such as developing empathy.

The first panel discussion, of a three-day programme organised by Sphere Exhibits, was a spirited one attended by about 200 participants. In particular, the thread of making every school a good one struck a chord with teachers, with several hoping that parents would recognise the efforts of all schools to bring out the best in students.

Jurong West Secondary vice-principal Pushparani Nadarajah remarked, to applause: "How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their home? (Only) until they actually do so are parents going to buy (it)."

The session was moderated by Singapore Press Holdings' (SPH) English and Malay Newspapers Division managing editor Han Fook Kwang. It followed a keynote lecture by Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy's adjunct professor S. Gopinathan, who addressed changes in the education landscape. Also on the panel was National Institute of Education principal officer Quek Jin Jong.

Similar themes will be explored today and tomorrow as part of conferences alongside the exhibition, which aims to have received 3,000 visitors by its Friday close. It opened yesterday at Singapore Expo Hall 2 with 50 exhibitors presenting innovations, technology and methods to teachers from Singapore and the region.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who was the guest of honour, said the event lets educators exchange ideas and form regional partnerships. Its theme, Enriching Asia Through Holistic Education, embraces social innovation and entrepreneurship.

Today, delegates from more than 10 countries including Indonesia and Myanmar will take part in a conference developed with the South-east Asian Ministers of Education Organisation Regional Language Centre. Friday's line-up includes a panel discussion with Fly Entertainment's Irene Ang and former sprinter C. Kunalan, as well as The Straits Times Teachers Forum - renamed the ST-AEX Teachers Forum. Its theme The News In Authentic Learning will be anchored by psychologist Sha-en Yeo; newspapers-in-education expert Lynne Cahill from The West Australian daily; and the Education Ministry's deputy director for character and citizenship education Puvan Ariaratnam.

AEX attendees will get a preview of STep: My Year In The News 2014, a Straits Times publication for readers aged nine and above. It focuses on developing English language proficiency and life skills.

AEX is produced by Sphere Exhibits, the events, roadshows and exhibitions arm of SPH. Walk-in registrations to attend the expo are still available. To find out more, go to www.aex.com.sg.

To attend the ST-AEX Teachers Forum or to find out more about the STep publication, e-mail Mr David Tan at davtan@sph.com.sg or Ms Carmen Choy at ccarmen@sph.com.sg

ayiying@sph.com.sg