Why It Matters

Learning tuned to real world

In an important step to make learning more relevant to real life, schools will soon offer new subjects such as mobile robotics, sports science and electronics.

Seven such subjects will be introduced in more than 60 schools over the next two years, to give upper secondary school students a taste of applied training.

Electronics and computing for O-level students will start next year, along with three Normal (Technical)-level subjects - smart electrical technology, mobile robotics and retail operations.

In 2018, two more O-level subjects - drama as well as exercise and sports science - will be introduced.

The changes are part of the Ministry of Education's greater emphasis in recent years to encourage students to explore their own interests beyond academic subjects.

Teachers said students inclined towards these niche areas can take these subjects, and get a head start in discovering their strengths.

Hopefully, this will also spur the students to pursue related courses at the post-secondary level, in line with the SkillsFuture drive to encourage Singaporeans to develop skills they are good at - something that will also meet the country's needs.

The new applied subjects are also part of a greater push in schools towards learning in a real-world context, as opposed to studying purely out of textbooks.

Making these practice-oriented disciplines as viable as academic examinable subjects - they can be used for entry to junior colleges, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education - may encourage students and parents to view both tracks equally without any bias.

The subjects also open up opportunities for Normal (Technical) students and may help them to make better decisions about their further studies.

After all, every student has his or her own strengths - some learn best with their hands, fixing a machine or building a robot - and Singapore's education system should cater to all kinds of learners.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2016, with the headline 'Learning tuned to real world'. Print Edition | Subscribe