New educational approach for today's economy

Students of Edgefield Secondary School in a classroom.
Students of Edgefield Secondary School in a classroom. PHOTO: ST FILE

I agree with Professor Cham Tao Soon on the need to foster creativity, stress EQ over IQ and enable lifelong learning in education (Education in the era of disruptive technology, April 24).

There is an urgency to rally stakeholders to commit to a new educational approach as the era of disruptive technology has rendered the current approach obsolete.

The current approach grew from competition among nation-states during the emerging industrial age, with the objective of training a large number of citizens and fitting them into structured roles in large industrial complexes.

Creativity was not required, but discipline was.

The information economy of today, however, requires a person to have excellent and unique skills in just one or two areas, rather than average skills in more areas.

To develop that excellence, the education system will have to focus on talent development of the individual.

First, the knowledge delivery platform will have to change completely to an online platform to enable students to learn at their own pace from the most innovative instructors.

Second, creativity and EQ development have to start at a young age.

At pre-school, pupils should be allowed to appreciate the languages, sports, music, dance and drama as well as digital games slowly and be exposed to all-rounded cognitive development.

Most importantly, they should be sheltered from the academic race up to at least nine years old.

Third, older students should be offered the freedom to learn as many subjects as possible without examination pressures.

For example, the first major exams could be set for 16-year-olds and students can choose to do the equivalent of the A-level exams in many subjects or just one or two subjects of their choice. They should also be allowed to extend their education at their own pace.

Fourth, the learning process should be made interesting by teaching first principles with historical context and current applications. For example, if calculus were taught with reference to how Newton had used it to prove the heliocentric system, it would be a lot more interesting and students would be more motivated to learn more about the limit theorem.

To achieve all this is a challenge but it is worth undertaking because it has far-reaching implications on the competitiveness of our economy and society.

Leong Mun Wai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2019, with the headline 'New educational approach for today's economy'. Print Edition | Subscribe