SINGAPORE - While technology may have disrupted many industries including education, schools will remain the mainstay for learning, said Minister for Education, Mr Ong Ye Kung.
Technology, he said, can transform how education is delivered, but schools will remain relevant.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Ong said: "There is a lot of transmission of values, students learning from each other, from tutors, lecturers, mentors, working in teams. All this cannot be replaced."
He added that the Education Ministry (MOE) will continue to focus and support the use of Information and Communications Technology in learning, citing MOE's online platform, the Student Learning Space (SLS).
It will be rolled out to all schools under MOE as of end May.
The platform allows for customised learning, with interactive features for feedback from teachers and peer collaboration. It also includes videos, games and quizzes to enhance learning.
Mr Ong said the platform has "tremendous innovation potential".
Speaking at this year's International Conference on Teaching and Learning with Technology (iCTLT), which he opened on Thursday (May 31), Mr Ong said: "The tool is not to be rolled out uniformly across the system...every school, sometimes every teacher, every department, they are coming up with their own ways to use the tool, laying upon it their own ideas on how to deliver a lesson, how to teach the students."
While there has been some discussion about technology having the unintended consequence of worsening social stratification, Mr Ong said it is instead a social leveller.
The SLS will help level the playing field as it gives all students, regardless of school, the same access to quality learning resources.
He said students can also access MOE resources through the computer labs in schools. The platform has the potential for self-directed learning on the students' part, added Mr Ong.
He hopes it will encourage educators to incorporate their own ideas and eventually share them throughout the education system.
"Over time, we can have a marketplace of ideas, and the best ideas will be adopted and become the dominant way of delivering certain lessons," he said.
The theme at the 6th biennial conference is "Shape the Future, Be a Spark", focusing on the role of educators in nurturing future-ready and responsible digital learners, a key educational goal outlined by MOE.
The two-day conference is on Thursday and Friday at the Resorts World Convention Centre.
Over 1,500 local and overseas practitioners are presenting ideas, insights and practices in leveraging innovation and technology in learning, and also in helping students exercise responsibility and thrive in the digital space.
They include speakers from sectors beyond education, such as IT and social and family development.
The event on Thursday also saw individuals and schools lauded for bringing innovation into the classroom, and in the running of schools.
They included Ms Tay Hui Cheng, the mother tongue head of department for St. Anthony's Canossian Secondary School.
Ms Tay was awarded MOE's Outstanding Innovator Award last year for her work in developing an app, Chinese-Go, which turns the learning of key vocabulary into a game, to appeal to her tech-savvy upper secondary students.
The app even has a peer challenge board featuring top scorers in the game, to motivate students.
She said: "This generation is very different. They are digital natives and crave connectivity with their peers. Teaching also needs to evolve to engage them not only in play but also in learning."
She added that she was heartened to see her weaker students top the challenge board.
Other highlights of the conference include the hands-on Open-Concept Makerspace booth, where participants get to try technologies currently used in schools, including programmable robots and 3D-printing.