New national centre in Singapore designated to drive adult education sector further forward

Adult learners have diverse needs and higher expectations, and are likely to be more critical than full-time students, said Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – Workers in Singapore will have a new national centre to lead the adult education sector by pulling together and spreading new training knowledge and technologies across institutions.

Adult learners have diverse needs and higher expectations, said Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing, who on Wednesday designated the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) as the first National Centre of Excellence for Adult Learning.

“They are likely to be more critical than full-time students, and want to learn things that are relevant and applicable to their work,” added Mr Chan, who was speaking on the second day of the inaugural Global Lifelong Learning Summit at the Pan Pacific hotel.

The IAL, an autonomous institute within the Singapore University of Social Sciences, was established in 2008 to train adult educators and do research on adult learning. 

Going beyond its primary role as a training centre, IAL will now also be responsible for adult education in Singapore, with the aim of raising its quality. 

Mr Chan said the centre will gather expertise and knowledge already built up in local institutions, as well as local and international research. 

It will also conduct research in continual education and help translate findings into practice. 

IAL will work with institutes of higher learning and training providers to raise the quality of adult educators, with the contribution of leading industry professionals. 

It will also drive innovation and technology adoption in the sector, IAL said.  

In his speech, Mr Chan laid out Singapore’s approach to adult learning in six points. 

First, it involves helping workers to make sense of and take ownership of their skill needs; second, linking the demand for new skills with training by institutions; and third, better leveraging technology for learning. 

Fourth, the Government will deepen research into adult learning techniques; fifth, it will improve trainers’ skills; and sixth, it will tighten the connections between industry and academia.

Mr Chan said Singapore will strengthen support for mid-career workers, especially those in their 40s and 50s who face greater risk of displacement or stagnation. 

They are one of three groups identified by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam – in a speech at the same summit on Tuesday – as vulnerable to being left behind economically.

The other two groups are workers in small and medium-sized enterprises, and blue-collar and non-professional white-collar workers. 

Mr Chan said the Government is considering how to reduce out-of-pocket training costs through further SkillsFuture Credit top-ups. 

It is also studying examples of countries that provide allowances for individuals to pursue training to enable them to re-enter the workforce. 

Mr Chan also took part in a dialogue with Australian Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, SkillsFuture Singapore chief executive Tan Kok Yam said IAL should seek to bring in the best in their fields and equip them to teach as part of its new national mission.

He said: “IAL should not be trying to do everything (in adult education) by itself. We must also become a ‘node’ to drive partnership, to take the best lessons from and capabilities from specific institutions and spread them across the whole ecosystem.”

The summit, organised by IAL and SkillsFuture Singapore, featured panels, speeches and dialogues with global participants discussing issues like the social and economic impact of lifelong learning. 

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