Forum: Make formal education system more flexible to deliver new outcomes

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said that to navigate an increasingly complex and competitive world, Singapore students have to pursue more diverse interests and capabilities, beyond what is taught and tested in schools (Develop diverse strengths for a more complex world: Chan, Aug 17).

This suggests that formal education may no longer provide the necessary skills and knowledge to take on challenges of the future.

The beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic saw the acceleration of the democratisation of education.

Coursera, co-founded by Singapore-educated Andrew Ng, reported a 644 per cent year-on-year increase in course enrolment during a 30-day period last year. Other massive online open course platforms also reported astounding growth.

As the viability of these offerings enters the public consciousness, we must re-evaluate the role of formal education in Singapore, and acknowledge and tap the global talent pool of educators who are at the top of their domains.

Mr Chan's words allude to a concession that we can no longer forecast future needs, which would require an approach beyond what formal education can offer at present.

I see this as a shift in dynamics towards relevant, high-quality, modular, just-in-time continuing education and training schemes.

What then do we do with the six years of compulsory education in Singapore?

We must instil in our students a good sense of self-awareness and a sound moral compass.

To that end, schools should make philosophy a core subject, and make sure it is contextualised authentically.

As an educator who coaches student roboticists to represent the nation and win top honours on the biggest stages, I am intimately aware of the limitations of our current system and am stoked about the changes Mr Chan's words suggest.

I look forward to a formal education system that is more flexible and efficient in delivering the outcomes we desire by moving from pedagogy, where one is taught, to heutagogy, where one determines one's own learning.

Kenneth Chow

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