Tech will never replace teachers: Ong Ye Kung

LittleLives app founder Sun Ho (right) with principal of E-Bridge Pre-School (Bukit Panjang), Ms Chua Chai Yun. LittleLives, a pre-school management app, has launched a payment feature that will save pre-school operators up to 40 hours a month on pay
LittleLives app founder Sun Ho (right) with principal of E-Bridge Pre-School (Bukit Panjang), Ms Chua Chai Yun. LittleLives, a pre-school management app, has launched a payment feature that will save pre-school operators up to 40 hours a month on payment administrative tasks.PHOTO: DBS BANK

But it can assist them in identifying students' weaknesses in certain topics, says minister

Technology has changed various industries in Singapore, including education, but it will never replace teachers here, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday.

"I do not think that education, like some other industries, will be replaced by robots and computers. A teacher cannot be replaced, a principal cannot be replaced," he said. "This is a highly personalised, values-transmission process."

He was speaking as guest of honour yesterday at the Education Disrupt @ The Bay event at Marina Bay Financial Centre, where education industry players came together to examine the possibilities that technology could bring to education.

There was an exhibition of educational tech products, and panel discussions were held on the subject.

Mr Ong pointed out that Singapore operates differently from countries such as Indonesia, which may have to depend more on robotic teaching due to a lack of resources.

"Indonesia is really using technology to see how they can deliver education replacing the teacher," he said.

"But when you look at Indonesia, you can understand why they have to do that. It's not ideal, but when you have 17,000 islands and every village has a school with limited teaching resources, technology helps overcome that problem.

HUMAN FACTOR

A teacher cannot be replaced, a principal cannot be replaced. This is a highly personalised, values-transmission process.

EDUCATION MINISTER ONG YE KUNG

 
 

"Singapore being so small and compact, we don't have to resort to technology to overcome that kind of problem that a big country like Indonesia has. So ours will still be a very personalised model."

As relevant as teachers will remain in the Lion City, he acknowledged that they can turn to technology for assistance after seeing how computer systems have helped teachers identify students' weaknesses in certain topics.

At a panel discussion, Ms Janine Teo, chief executive of education technology not-for-profit Solve Education, said: "For autistic kids, the routine that they are used to has to be the same, and deviation from that can cause a meltdown.

"Tech is one of the most consistent teachers, because the content (of a tech learning platform) might be different, but the format and the look are the same. So autistic kids would feel very comfortable with that."

The same event also saw the launch of a new mobile payment feature on the LittleLives app, a pre-school management app used by one in three pre-schools in Singapore.

Developed with DBS Bank, the feature will allow more than 160,000 parents here to make payments for things such as field trips and uniforms.

It will also save pre-school operators up to 40 hours a month on payment administrative tasks, since the early childhood education sector here has tended to rely on cash payments for miscellaneous items.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2019, with the headline 'Tech will never replace teachers: Ong Ye Kung'. Print Edition | Subscribe