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Poly and ITE students benefit from applied learning

Republic Polytechnic's Aviation Management students have access to a virtual aerodrome laboratory, while industry partners are involved in shaping the curriculum of ITE's marine offshore engineering courses.  

SINGAPORE: In his National Day Message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the government is helping Singaporeans acquire the relevant skills, but the academic route is not the only way up. Educators have said that working with the industry to develop their curriculum helps to ensure the skills students learn are relevant to the real world. 

Republic Polytechnic's virtual aerodrome laboratory is the first of its kind in a polytechnic. The simulator was set up late last year with the help of industry partners ST Electronics and Changi Airport Group, and is closely modelled after Changi Airport's Terminal 2. It gives Aviation Management students a taste of working at the airport, and dealing with situations such as bad weather or a fire on the tarmac.

Mr Daniel Kwek, an academic staff at Republic Polytechnic's School of Engineering said: "Going into airports is highly restrictive, but having a virtual aerodrome lab allows students to literally step onto the runway, the tarmac and the aerodrome without having to gain entry into the airport.

"The industry told us that to better prepare students from the Diploma in Aviation Management, we do require students who are more well-equipped in terms of industry knowledge of the airport, airsite markings and airsite operations, and have a better appreciation of the technical terms that are being used in the industry."

Mr Kwek said the students are also more engaged as they are playing and learning at the same time. One third-year student in Aviation Management, Ms Nurul Amira Md Ibrahim, said she is confident the experience will prepare her for the workforce. She said: "I plan to work first and learn more from the people in the industry and build up on my knowledge that I have already learnt in school."

With a Diploma in Aviation Management, students can work as air traffic controllers, ground controllers, cabin crew members or move on to train as pilots. Other than polytechnics, there is also close collaboration between industry and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

ITE's marine offshore engineering courses began in 2008 and the institute said its industry partners were involved from day one to shape the curriculum of the course. Using actual equipment - some of the engine parts were given by the institute's industry partners - the students learn how to maintain engines, check for defects and build ships and rigs.

"We tear the engines down into pieces and understand each component and the parts, so that we will understand and get better familiarised. So in the real industry, we will have more confidence to deal with this type of thing, as tearing down these engines is pretty dangerous, so we need to be prepared," said Mr James Koh, a second-year Higher Nitec in Marine Engineering student at ITE.

Dr Ang Kiam Wee, principal of ITE College Central at the Institute of Technical Education, said courses are structured with an emphasis on hands-on work: "We do not want our students graduating and the industry finding them irrelevant. Our course is structured in such a way that about 40 per cent of the time, the students are doing theory, but 60 to 70 per cent of the time, they are in workshops doing hands-on work. So far, industry partners have given us feedback that they like our students and our graduates because they can go to the industry and immediately go to work."

Dr Ang said ITE's academic advisory committee is made up of mainly industry players. The committee gives advice on what the industry expects of ITE graduates and how ITE should conduct its courses. 

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