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Ministry of Education promotes applied and lifelong learning

In early November 2013, Singapore’s Education Minister Heng Swee Keat stressed the importance of applied and lifelong learning. And he added that in the years to come, Singapore’s education system will undergo a radical moetransformation, whereby students will not only acquire knowledge and skills in schools but also learn to integrate theory with practice. The world outside of the classroom is becoming more and more competitive and for students to survive and excel in such an environment, it is important for teachers to strengthen students’ practical skills, which can be directly applied in the working world.

Albert Einstein once said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”. It is true that learning never stops; in fact, learning takes place even after graduation and after retirement. Our passions and interests in certain fields of study do not cease upon the completion of examinations – they live on in our hearts and it is important to take our interests to a higher level by enhancing our skills in these areas. Lifelong learning not only keeps our minds alert but also enhances our performance at the workplace. By keeping ourselves abreast of the latest developments in our field of study, we will be able to keep our skills both up-to-date and relevant, which are essential for survival in this dynamic and competitive world.

Apart from stressing the importance of applied and lifelong learning, Minister Heng mentioned that the Ministry of Education (MOE) will develop a system to help students understand their strengths and identify jobs that are in line with their strengths. Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Many students, upon their graduation, search for jobs that pay well instead of searching for jobs that they are interested in. As such, they lose interest in their jobs at an early stage and become frustrated because they are unable to enjoy the work they do. To excel at any task, it is important that you enjoy it first. If you do not enjoy a task, you will not be motivated to learn more and do great things. Hence, Minister Heng stressed the importance of identifying interests and strengths of students and matching them with the relevant jobs so that students enjoy every minute of their work life and go on to do great things in future.

The Singapore government, in an attempt to strengthen applied learning and instil lifelong learning in students, will review the applied learning model employed by polytechnics and the institutes of technical education (ITEs). Key personnel and leaders in industry, the field of education, and government bodies will be involved in the review of the applied learning model, after which there will be discussions with students and key stakeholders on the impact of the model. The review committee will be chaired by Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah and it is hoped that after the review, new ideas will be generated that will not only enhance the ITE and polytechnic system of education but enable students to be better equipped to face the competitive world upon their graduation.

Applied Learning

MOE will be supporting secondary schools in their efforts to develop applied learning and learning for life programmes by 2017 and it will ensure that these programmes complement the schools’ existing academic and student development programmes. The applied learning programme is aimed at bridging the gap between academic knowledge gained through textbooks and skills that are expected of the workforce. In this programme, teachers will place emphasis on the application of thinking skills to industrial and corporate issues. This way, students will be able to appreciate what they are learning in the classroom and they will in turn be motivated to enhance their skills and gain more knowledge to boost their careers.

Lifelong Learning

In the learning for life programme, a student’s value system and character will be developed. In addition, teachers will cultivate positive attitudes in students with regard to education for life. Through lifelong learning, not only are an individual’s knowledge and skill-set enhanced but the nation’s social fabric is also strengthened. It is hoped that the learning for life programme will become an integral part of the Character and Citizenship Education (CCE), where students are instilled a sense of responsibility for the country and their fellow citizens. Through lifelong learning, the people of Singapore will be able to take the intellectual level of the nation to a higher level and at the same time, enrich the lives of others in the community.

Impact of Educational Policy on Students

The applied learning and learning for life programmes are being developed for the benefit of the students. To survive and excel in this competitive world, it is not sufficient to ace all examinations – one has to be street-smart and well-versed in practical knowledge and skills too. In the working world, theories that are stated in a textbook are not tested; on the other hand, the focus is on the application of theories for the benefit of a company or an industry. By making the applied learning programme an integral part of the education system, MOE is not only enhancing students’ practical skills but also helping them to become better leaders, who are aware of how the world functions even before they step into the working world.

The aim of the learning for life programme is to keep a student’s passion and interest in a field of study alive even after his graduation. Learning and education are not destinations but journeys, which ought to be embraced by every student. Every day, we witness new technologies taking over the world and to keep pace with the development, it is important to upgrade our skills and keep our knowledge up to date. To be an effective leader, it is important to keep the mind both active and alert. And this is possible through lifelong learning.

The benefits of applied and lifelong learning are numerous. And to ensure that students reap the benefits of these programmes, it is important for both teachers and parents to identify the strengths of students and encourage them to pursue careers that are in line with their strengths. Also, it is important for teachers and parents to lead by example and instil a culture of lifelong learning in students, which will go a long way in not only boosting the careers of the students but in enhancing the intellectual level of the entire country.

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