Trainers need to be equipped with skills, tools to help lifelong learners in workforce: Chan Chun Sing

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said trainers must have the right skills to meet the demands of a fast-evolving market. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Aspiring lifelong learners in the workforce will need effective trainers with the right skills, tools and mindsets, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Speaking to an audience of about 700 people at the opening of the sixth International Technical and Professional Education and Training Conference on Tuesday (June 28), Mr Chan talked about how trainers would be equipped for the future.

The conference is hosted by the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) at Marina Bay Sands with both in-person and virtual participants and will run until Wednesday.

First, said the minister, trainers must have the right skills to meet the demands of a fast-evolving market

This means institutions must not only hire the right people, but support them in keeping up to date throughout their careers as educators.

He added that to this end, Singapore's polytechnics have partnerships with industry in place, and ITE has worked to involve the industry more in teaching and learning.

Mr Chan said: "We must have a system to ensure the currency of our trainers' skill sets for us to enable the currency of our students' skill sets. Everything starts with the currency of the trainers."

Second, trainers must be given the right tools to design engaging and personalised learning experiences for lifelong learners, Mr Chan said, adding that: "A one-size-fits-all model no longer works for us."

Technology is one such tool they can use to engage with and personalise learning for their students, he said.

Giving the examples of augmented and virtual reality technology, Mr Chan said these can be used to enhance traditional teaching methods by bringing learners into immersive, practical environments.

He added that tools to collect and analyse data can help educators respond to students' diverse needs, and technology also provides an opportunity to personalise learning.

While Singapore's institutions are exploring these technologies and encouraging educators to use them, technology is simply an enabler and what matters more is whether it is used efficiently and effectively, Mr Chan added.

He said: "Through professional development opportunities, teaching and learning guides, we can build our trainers' capacity to leverage these new technologies to redesign the classroom experience."

Third, educators must have the right mindset, Mr Chan said.

He added: "Our educators need to learn alongside our students and learn from the frontier industry and business practices constantly.

"They will need to go beyond their existing expertise and be willing to upgrade and retrain themselves to acquire the right skill sets."

He added that educators can be the most powerful testimony for lifelong learning if they can demonstrate this mindset to Singapore's students.

To get staff onboard with this mindset, Singapore needs to establish the right culture and attitude towards continuous learning, he said.

"We are developing an employment model where educators can enjoy the flexibility of spending time both in the workplace and in the classroom."

One way to do this is through staff exchanges, Mr Chan said, where academic staff take on industry attachments, and industry experts serve as adjunct lecturers in the institutes of higher learning.

To do all this, support from the industry will be crucial, he said.

He added: "This, in turn, will translate into more relevant curriculum, and better skilled learners entering the workforce.

"Hence, it is in the interest of our industry partners to work closely with our institutions, to equip our trainers so that they can in turn effectively train our learners."

Tuesday morning's programme also included speeches from the director of the directorate for education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Andreas Schleicher and the Minister for Education, Youth and Sports of German state Baden-Wurttemberg Theresa Schopper.

Ms Schopper spoke about her state's vocational education system and how it fits into its broader skills training framework.

Singapore's adult education system has come into the spotlight in recent years as the country's economy works to keep pace with rapid technological shifts hastened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

At The Straits Times Education Forum in February, Mr Chan said Singapore's education system must gear up to retrain about half a million adult learners each year.

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