Education driven by not just national needs, but bottom-up aspiration too: Ong Ye Kung

Students at a primary school enjoy a storybook read by their teacher on Sep 25, 2015.
Students at a primary school enjoy a storybook read by their teacher on Sep 25, 2015. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

SINGAPORE - The education system of the future will be driven not just by national needs, but also the "bottom-up" aspirations of Singaporeans, co-Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Sunday (Oct 4).

In his first public comments since his appointment, he said his ministry would pursue an education system "driven by bottom-up aspirations", which in turn would have a big impact on the way higher education is developing.

"It means that you will see a lot more diversity in our education system, not just in terms of the courses you attend, what university you attend, but how you learn, when you learn, who will learn," said Mr Ong, who oversees higher education and skills. This will lead to a diversity in credentials that people achieve, and impact how those qualifications are regarded and recognised in society, he added.

Speaking on the sidelines of a community event in Sembawang, Mr Ong noted that in the past, the education system was driven by national needs - such as training workers to attract foreign investment and companies into Singapore.

"It was top down, functional, efficient and some say, utilitarian," he said.

He did not go into specifics, but said this dual approach will recognise individuals for their passions, talents and abilities.

Singaporeans will see a "flourishing of different pathways" to develop their talents, he added.

Efforts have already been made on this front. In March, the Government launched the SkillsFuture scheme, which helps Singaporeans to keep on developing skills to advance their careers.

Mr Ong is one of two Acting Ministers for Education. His counterpart, Mr Ng Chee Meng, is Acting Education Minister (Schools).

Both are regarded as part of the Government's fourth-generation leadership.

Mr Ong said both he and Mr Ng have distinct responsibilities, but they will work closely together.

"We are very mindful that ours is a single ministry, with a very integrated and synergistic system," he said.

on Sunday, together with his fellow Sembawang GRC MPs and residents, Mr Ong planted 212 trees along a nature walk outside the Sembawang Community Club, which links Yishun Park to Sembawang Park.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2015, with the headline 'Education: 'Not just national needs, but bottom-up aspirations too''. Print Edition | Subscribe