SINGAPORE: More students will stand to benefit from SkillsFuture work-study programmes, with authorities planning to grow this into a “mainstream pathway” by 2025, said Minister for Education Lawrence Wong, as he outlined how his ministry would support key priorities laid out on Monday (Aug 24) by President Halimah Yacob.
Delivering her address at the opening of Singapore’s 14th Parliament, Mdm Halimah spoke of the need to provide greater social support and strengthen safety nets for the long term amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an addendum to the President’s address released on Tuesday, Mr Wong touched on the importance of education as a social leveller as well as the need to support continuous learning.
As such, institutes of higher learning will continue to ramp up their capacity for continuing education and training, said the minister. In particular, they will increase their range of “industry-relevant modular courses” to support “lifelong learning”, he said.
The ministry will also grow the SkillsFuture work-study programmes into a “mainstream pathway” by 2025, said Mr Wong, so that “more students can benefit from learning opportunities both in the workplace and the classroom”.
“As part of SkillsFuture, our immediate priority is to support the efforts of the National Jobs Council in creating jobs, traineeships, and training opportunities,” said the minister, adding that mid-career workers in their 40s and 50s would receive additional help to refresh their skillsets.
READ: Four new SkillsFuture Work-Study programmes launched, with more than 140 places over the next 2 years
Mr Wong also urged educators to “embrace this mindset of continuous learning”, adding that the SkillsFuture for Educators scheme would support them in their professional development.
The roadmap, announced during the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Budget debates earlier this year, will help all teachers to grow in six areas - assessment literacy, differentiated instruction, inquiry-based learning, e-pedagogy, character and citizenship education (CCE) and support for students with special educational needs.
Institutes of higher learning will also expand efforts in interdisciplinary learning to prepare students for workplaces of the future, said Mr Wong.
“Students can look forward to more broad-based common core curricula and access to electives, as well as new industry-relevant degree programmes that integrate knowledge from different disciplines,” he added.
“We also aim to give students more room to decide on their academic specialisations by introducing more common entry programmes in the polytechnics and giving university students more time to declare their major.”
REIMAGINE TEACHING AND LEARNING
The disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have “opened up new opportunities to reimagine teaching and learning”, said Mr Wong.
The Education Ministry plans to make “blended learning” an integral feature of the curriculum next year, building on its experience with home-based learning, he said.
As announced in June, all secondary school students will get a personal laptop or tablet for learning by end-2021, said Mr Wong. This is seven years ahead of the original target of 2028.
A refreshed CCE curriculum will also be progressively rolled out in all schools, to give “added focus” to mental health and cyber wellness education, he said.
“In secondary schools, teachers will engage students in regular discussions on contemporary issues and equip them with critical thinking skills to navigate such issues.”
OPENING UP MULTIPLE PATHWAYS
In addition, the Education Ministry “will cater to the diverse strengths and aptitudes of students” through multiple pathways in the education system, Mr Wong said.
“We want to embrace a wider spectrum of skills and talents, and not just focus narrowly on academic achievements,” he added, noting that the Primary School Leaving Examination would have wider scoring bands from 2021.
Streaming will also be phased out and full subject-based banding will be implemented across secondary schools by 2024.
“This will offer students more opportunities to pursue subjects at a level suited to their strengths and interests,” said Mr Wong.
READ: MSF will strengthen social safety nets to ensure ‘no Singaporean is left behind’ amid COVID-19: Masagos Zulkifli
Post-secondary progression pathways will also be expanded for students with different aptitudes and skills, he added.
By 2030, all Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates will have “a range opportunities” to upgrade beyond a Nitec over their careers, according to their interests and learning needs, said Mr Wong.
The Education Ministry will continue to increase the number of places for ITE’s work-study diplomas and full-time Higher Nitec programmes, he added.
The number of places for working adults in full-time polytechnic diploma programmes will also be increased, and the adoption of aptitude-based admissions will be further expanded across the six autonomous universities.
AN EFFECTIVE SOCIAL LEVELLER
Education “remains the best way” to sustain and strengthen social mobility, said Mr Wong.
“We will ensure education remains an effective social leveller, by giving every child access to quality education and multiple pathways throughout life to pursue their aspirations.”
With COVID-19’s “disproportionate impact on the disadvantaged”, the Education Ministry is redoubling its efforts “to make sure no child is left behind”.
Adding that every child will be given a good start in life regardless of their background, Mr Wong noted that by 2025, the Education Ministry will operate at least 60 MOE kindergartens.
“We will also deepen support for students with special needs – by strengthening educators’ professional competencies in both mainstream and Special Education (SPED) schools, as well as opening new SPED schools and upgrading current ones.”
Through the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce (UPLIFT), MOE also plans to “deepen school-community partnerships” to support vulnerable students and engage their families, said Mr Wong.
He also noted that Singaporeans will benefit from the recently enhanced MOE Financial Assistance Scheme and Government bursaries for students in institutes of higher learning.
Former Education Minister Ong Ye Kung had said in August last year that about 55,000 undergraduate and diploma students will benefit from the enhanced bursary scheme.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat also announced in February increased bursaries for low- and middle-income students, as well as bursaries for full-time ITE students.
“We will create fresh opportunities for students of different backgrounds to interact and build bonds with one another,” said Mr Wong, adding that students from different schools will come together for inter-school activities like combined team co-curricular activities and the MOE-Outward Bound Singapore Challenge Programme.
“At the same time, we will continue to support all students holistically. We strive to foster the joy of learning in our students, so that Singaporeans are equipped not just with knowledge and skills, but also with the spark to pursue their passion and fulfil their potential.”