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Singapore must value diverse talents, move away from static metrics like PSLE results: Chan Chun Sing

SkillsFuture credit top-ups, more targeted training for mid-career workers are among ideas being considered to help Singaporeans upskill and remain relevant throughout life.

02:40 Min
Singapore must value diverse talents and move away from using static metrics such as examination grades and differentiations between degree and diploma holders, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Apr 18). Richa Matthew with more.

SINGAPORE: Singapore must value diverse talents and move away from using static metrics such as examination grades and differentiations between degree and diploma holders, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Apr 18). 

This is one of the key areas the government is focusing on to keep Singapore’s meritocracy resilient and sustainable, he said.

During a parliamentary debate over President Halimah Yacob’s address, Mr Chan highlighted ongoing efforts such as the shift to full subject-based banding which will be implemented next year, replacing the existing Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams. 

Under the new system, students will have greater flexibility to study subjects at levels that suit their interests, aptitudes and learning needs. 

However, he stressed that these efforts require support from parents.

“We must welcome schools to have their unique value proposition. This can better cater to the diverse needs of our children and help them to realise their full potential," he said. 

“Hence, it is not necessary or meaningful for us to constantly compare why one school’s offering may be slightly different from another’s."

“The more appropriate question is not ‘is this a good school?’, but ‘is this a good or appropriate school for my child?’," he added. 


To better support progression, post-secondary and tertiary pathways will provide more flexibility such as allowing students to spread out their learning to pursue side interests or build up a stronger academic foundation, said Mr Chan.

He added that publicly funded university degrees will also have a higher lifetime cohort participation rate, so that more can look forward to obtaining a degree from autonomous universities not necessarily before starting work, but "at some point in their working lives".

Beyond the classroom, efforts to help Singaporeans stay relevant and competitive will be intensified.

This may include more targeted training support for mid-career workers, top-ups to SkillsFuture credits, and making training more accessible for working adults with competing commitments and responsibilities, said Mr Chan.

He called on industries to do their part, and not passively wait for the "perfect worker" to be developed for them. 

"They must be active partners in shaping students’ interests and skillsets even before they enter the workforce," said Mr Chan. "After that, industries must also be prepared to invest the time and resources to support our workers to upskill continually.

"I can understand the challenges for industries to commit to the training of our workers, especially in uncertain times. But if we don’t grow our own timber collectively, we will all be fighting over a stagnant talent and skills pool."


During his speech, Mr Chan emphasised the importance of “heart” and “hand” work - referring to blue-collar and community service roles.

Such work, he said, must be fairly rewarded and remunerated, commensurate with the “head” - or intellectual - work, as society needs all of these roles to complement one another to function well.

While this may translate to higher costs for some services - such as essential services - Mr Chan said society must be willing to accept this. 

"Otherwise, no matter how much we broaden the dimensions of merit in our school system, none of it will ultimately work because it does not translate into tangible differences in earnings and at the workplace."

He added that society must also do more to uplift those who are less privileged and also stressed the need to imbue the right values in people from young, so that they grow up to become individuals who are willing to give back to society and create more opportunities for others.

Pointing to efforts such as Singapore's progressive tax system and educational initiatives to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds, he said these ensure that the gaps in society are not "too stark".

"We must never degenerate into a system where everyone thinks they deserve more relative to others," he said. 

"The ultimate measure of our success as a society is not how many people we can help because they are unable to keep up; but how few people we need to help because we have enabled them to thrive."

Wrapping up his speech, Mr Chan said that in an increasingly volatile and uncertain environment, Singapore needs to avoid over-structuring its system and processes to give people a false sense of security.

Instead, it must allow people to chart their own way forward, according to their strengths and talents, as well as strengthen the sense of solidarity and collective assurance. 

"The Singapore Story is a living story," he said. "Do not be taken by hubris to think that we have 'arrived' or can ever 'arrive', and need not evolve or improve anymore.

"We understand the merits of our system and how far it has helped us to come this far as a society, by unleashing our potential as individuals. Yet we are not complacent to think that we can ever stop improving our system.

"Any living system that doesn’t grow will wither."

Source: CNA/vl(rj)


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