This year, after the university cohort participation rate of 40 per cent is reached, the Ministry of Education intends to raise it even further, to 50 per cent.
But going forward, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, it may not make sense any more to plan in terms of raising the cohort participation rate, as the Government's focus should instead be on creating pathways that help people to go as far as they can while staying relevant to industries.
In an interview with The Straits Times published last week, Mr Ong also stressed that Singaporeans will have to move away from the idea of "front-loading" education, that is, completing their studies before going out to work. Work trends will demand that education be lifelong and interspersed with work.
Those attending The Straits Times Education Forum on Feb 15 will receive further insights into how Mr Ong sees the higher-education landscape evolving in the future. The Education Minister will deliver the keynote address, titled Reimagining Universities.
The forum will also feature a panel discussion. The panel will include Mr Hamoon Ekhtiari, founder and chief executive of the Toronto-based consultancy, FutureFit AI; Professor Lily Kong, president of Singapore Management University; and The Straits Times' senior education correspondent Sandra Davie.
Prof Kong shares Mr Ong's view that Singaporeans should build the habit of combining work and studies.
She said: "It used to be that a university graduate would start their first job around age 25 and retire at 55. But these days, we could be looking at working till 75 in a world where change is more rapid than it ever was before."
Prof Kong said it was imperative that institutions prepare students by weaving learning at work with learning in university to enable them to reach their maximum potential. She believes universities should have incentives to encourage prospective students to acquire broader experience through work or travel that helps them discover their interests. They will then enter university with new perspectives that enrich their learning.
Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez said the topic of reimagining universities is most timely and will, no doubt, spark much thought and discussion.
He said: "The world is going through a major period of disruption. Whether you are in banking, hotels, airlines or the media, just about every sector is going through wrenching change. Universities are not unaffected, and the way we prepare our young for the future is also being fundamentally rethought.
"This is not only about equipping them with the skills for the jobs of tomorrow, but also preparing them to make the most of their lives in a very different world."
The forum, to be held at the SMU School of Law Building in Armenian Street, will be moderated by Ms Lydia Lim, head of schools, education products and editorial training at Singapore Press Holdings.
About the Forum
The Straits Times Education Forum on Reimagining Universities is supported by the Singapore Management University.
- When: Postponed to a date to be confirmed
- Where: Singapore Management University School of Law Building, Basement 1 SMU Hall
- Cost: Free for ST readers
- Online registration: https://str.sg/JShn
- Limited seats available.