Ensure students can find careers

Students at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio.
Students at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Ministry of Education's (MOE) Addendum to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's Address in Parliament introduced a range of ideas which might change our school curricula ("More time and space for students' interests"; Wednesday).

While I welcome the ideas, I also have some doubts as to whether they will work in the long run.

The MOE has been aiming to reduce the emphasis on academic results for years.

This is the first thing it will have to accomplish in order to give its plans any chance of succeeding.

Unfortunately, this is also the hardest objective to accomplish.

For decades, the belief that "you should concentrate on your studies because good results will give you a good future" has dominated the minds of the people. This mindset is definitely not easy to shake off.

Less emphasis on results may make learning more enjoyable.

But what happens after the student finishes his education and enters the workforce?

Companies usually check the curriculum vitae of interviewees and, more often than not, take a good look at their academic results.

If the results are not good enough, then the interviewee simply is not good enough for the job. That is the reality.

This is where students' interests in their own choice of field will come into play.

The MOE will allow students to pursue their interests in schools, but it should not stop there. There needs to be some sort of follow-up.

If the student is really passionate or talented in that field, the authorities should look to find him a career path suited to that interest.

More specialised schools, such as the School of the Arts Singapore and the Singapore Sports School, could be set up, for example.

This will truly be beneficial to the individual as well as to Singapore's competitiveness against other countries in that particular field.

As times change, so will the methods of education.

This is why we will have to move forward together as a nation to get over the ways of the past, work fervently on the present and prepare to face the future ahead.

And all this has to begin with how we teach the youth of today, the adults of tomorrow.

Henry Choong Kun Lin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2016, with the headline 'Ensure students can find careers'. Print Edition | Subscribe