More industry exposure, flexible curriculum for polytechnic and ITE students among proposals by review panel
SINGAPORE: Polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students can look forward to gaining deeper industry exposure and having more flexible curriculums from this year.
These are some of the recommendations announced on Friday (Jan 7) by the committee reviewing opportunities and pathways in applied education.
The committee, led by Second Minister for Education Dr Maliki Osman, sought views from more than 2,000 stakeholders during the review, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) in a press release.
The institutions will progressively implement the recommendations from the 2022 academic year, it added.
The six recommendations cover three areas - enhancing students’ career readiness and resilience for the future economy, providing more flexibility and opportunities, as well as building stronger and more integrated support systems, said the Education Ministry.
"With these recommendations, polytechnic and ITE students can look forward to a more fulfilling applied education journey and graduating with deeper industry-relevant skills and broader life skills, and be better primed for future opportunities," said Dr Maliki on Friday.
"Students can also look forward to an improved student experience, with a stronger and more holistic support system."
ITE’s Nitec and Higher Nitec programmes will be streamlined into a three-year pathway, starting with eight ITE courses from the 2022 intake, MOE said.
As previously announced in April 2021, students under this curriculum will go through a three-year course for a Higher Nitec qualification, instead of four years.
The committee also made recommendations to expand opportunities for industry exposure, which is a “key feature” of applied education, said the ministry.
Under ITE’s enhanced curricular structure, students will have two linked industry attachments, comprising a three-month stint in their second year and another in their third year for six months.
“ITE will also engage employers to play a more active role in training students by appointing experienced workplace mentors,” the press release read.
The polytechnics will explore job shadowing and short job stints for students before their third year or during the school holidays, said MOE.
This is in addition to the current compulsory third-year internship for industry exposure.
“The polytechnics and ITE recognise the importance of strong industry partnerships and will continue to engage industry partners to curate quality workplace exposure opportunities for students,” said MOE in its press release.
From focus group discussions, MOE also received feedback that students would benefit from more opportunities to apply their skills in real-world settings, said the ministry at a briefing.
The polytechnics will also explore having a more flexible curriculum for selected students, such as those who are weaker academically, “who would benefit from spreading out their learning over more than three years”.
This means that students can take the same number of modules as others, but spread out over more semesters, up to five years.
There are also students today who have to take leave of absence from school to pursue entrepreneurial ventures or their sports interests, said MOE.
“In the future, with this flexibility, they will be able to then continue with a more reduced modular load, so it’s less binary in that sense,” it added.
Currently, about 7 per cent of polytechnic students take up extended candidature, said MOE at the briefing.
Fees are paid on a semester basis. There will be no change to that and the government subsidies that students receive, said the ministry.
After students complete six semesters and move on to the reduced modular load, the fees will be pro-rated, said the ministry.
The LifeSkills curriculum in polytechnics and ITE will also be revised, following the committee’s recommendation that it be strengthened.
“In an increasingly dynamic and interconnected world, it is important that students are equipped with non-technical skills to navigate work and life,” said MOE at the briefing.
Although the institutions already have a suite of programmes for students in areas like financial and digital literacy, feedback from engagement sessions indicate that there is scope for areas like self-awareness and resilience, said the ministry.
With students’ needs growing and becoming more complex as educational pathways are enhanced, the “ecosystem of support” also needs to be strengthened, said MOE.
The polytechnics and ITE will study how to enhance coordination of care and support so these students can receive what they need in a “more timely and effective manner”.
This would include coordination across academic staff, counsellors and financial aid offices, and with external community partners, said the Education Ministry.
Training for personal tutors in the polytechnics and ITE will be rolled out to enhance pastoral care support for students.
These tutors will then be better equipped to identify early signs of distress and provide timely support, said MOE in the press release.
The institutions will also look into providing more dedicated time for the tutors to check in with students, it added.
On the committee’s recommendation, post-graduation career guidance will also be enhanced as students enter the workforce or pursue further studies, said the ministry.
The institutions will improve outreach to graduates who would benefit from more support, including students who have completed National Service.