SINGAPORE - Students at polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will be getting more chances for industry immersion before graduation.
Their course curricula will also be updated with a framework for learning life skills, and more flexible course structures and offerings, said Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman.
He was speaking on Friday (Jan 7) at the launch of a new Integrative Built Environment Centre at Temasek Polytechnic.
These latest changes are the result of a review of Singapore's polytechnic and ITE education led by Dr Maliki that began in January last year.
A key plank of the review was to create more pathways for students to progress and pursue their interests.
This is the second set of changes to emerge from the review.
In April last year, Dr Maliki said ITE students can take a shorter route to a Higher Nitec certification, from four years to three.
About 2,000 students will enrol this year in 16 courses that have been chosen to transit first into the three-year structure, with the rest making the change by 2026.
Dr Maliki said polytechnics will create more opportunities for industry exposure such as job shadowing or short stints in workplaces, on top of their compulsory third-year internships.
He also said students will get an updated curriculum for life skills, focusing on skills that they will need for life and work in an increasingly complex world.
These include taking in global perspectives, critical thinking and curiosity, and the ability to learn independently.
This will be done through experiential learning as well as co-curricular activities, academic coursework and internships, he added.
Dr Maliki said: "With the resumption of travel arrangements in the future, we continue to aim for 70 per cent of our students in institutes of higher learning to participate in overseas exposure programmes, so that they are able to engage Asia and the region in particular.
"This is another facet of experiential learning, which will stand them in good stead when they enter the workplace."
Dr Maliki added that the Ministry of Education (MOE) will provide more flexibility in ITE and polytechnic education, as Singapore "moves away from a one-size-fits-all system".
To support student diversity, MOE has introduced more common entry programmes at the polytechnics and work-study programmes that provide an "apprentice mode of training", he said.
Dr Maliki added that polytechnic students enrolled in three-year courses will now be given more freedom to take longer to graduate.
This will benefit students who need more time or who are struggling academically, or those who want to take time out to pursue sports and entrepreneurship, he said.
About 7 per cent of polytechnic students already take more than three years to finish their courses.
Dr Maliki said: "With this enhancement, we hope more students will stay on to complete their education, rather than prematurely ending it."
He also said MOE will be working to increase pastoral support for students who have familial or other stresses, through more training for personal tutors at ITE and the polytechnics.
The institutions will also work on expanding career guidance for graduates, he added.
Mr Louis Teoh, director of customer advisory at American analytics and software solutions firm SAS Institute, said more work experience will help students figure out what they want out of their careers.
It will also help make them more employable, he added.
Mr Teoh's firm takes between 20 and 25 interns a year from the polytechnics.
He said: "A diploma or degree in my field of software engineering arms students with a relatively homogeneous set of skills, and that means they are already at a baseline level of competence to perform a job.
"More experiences at work can help them figure out if that particular sector of the industry is right for them, and can also boost their resumes to employers who are looking for relevant experience."