Friday, 1 May 2015

Singapore's relevance hinges on innovation: Heng Swee Keat

By Ong Kai Xuan, The Straits Times, 30 Apr 2015

EDUCATION Minister Heng Swee Keat has urged Singaporeans to continue innovating in order to remain relevant.

"The key is to not lose the ability to adapt and innovate. If not, we will become history," he said to the 200 Harvard Business School alumni and guests at Capella Singapore on Tuesday.

The comment came after DBS Group Holdings' head of consumer banking and wealth management, Ms Tan Su Shan, raised issues concerning Singapore's future. She said: "In the short term, we have to worry about resilience. In the long term, I'm concerned about relevance.

"As we grow, so will others... How do we stay relevant?"

While Mr Heng was less pessimistic about the country's future, he believes that "Singapore can continue to thrive and succeed only if we offer something unique and relevant".

The discussion, which took place at the launch of the Harvard Business School Club of Singapore, also covered education.

Mr Heng picked out three key shifts in this sector.

He said learning has to be for mastery instead of grades. He asked the audience - some of those present are responsible for recruitment in their organisation - if they looked at grades in recruitment. He said students will focus on studying if the labour market focuses on grades. "The shift that we need to make goes beyond the ministry... to the labour market," he said.

Next, he highlighted the importance of lifelong learning. He said concentrating our learning into the first part of our lives is "not a tenable proposition any more".

"We need to redesign education - that's why we started SkillsFuture," he said, referring to the government programme to upgrade the skills of workers.

His last point was that learning had to be for life and not for work. "We cannot compartmentalise learning," he said. He added that if learning were pursued only to increase productivity, it would be less effective as learning for an incentive would mean that once that incentive is removed, learning would stop as well.

Ms Tan agreed about the need for a shift in learning. "We need to open ourselves to potentially unorthodox methods of learning."

Harvard Business School grads to mentor students from 5 schools
Each pair of mentors will guide batches of six students of three polytechnics and two universities over six months
By Lee U-Wen, The Business Times, 29 Apr 2015

STUDENTS at five post-secondary institutions here will soon get the opportunity to be mentored by graduates of the prestigious Harvard Business School (HBS).

The mentorship programme, to be rolled out at the end of this year, was announced on Tuesday, at the launch of the HBS Club of Singapore.

This club was set up to serve the Boston-based business school's 800-plus alumni now living and working in Singapore, which has one of the largest HBS alumni communities in a single city anywhere in the world.

Speaking at a dinner at the Capella Hotel, the club's founding president Omar Lodhi announced that the mentorship programme would involve students from Nanyang Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, the Singapore Institute of Technology and the Nanyang Technological University.

The plan is to have a ratio of two mentors to every six students, and for them to meet every month for a six-month period.

Some 30 HBS graduates have already signed up to be mentors, said Mr Lodhi.

The programme will cover various areas such as business ethics, innovation, how to develop a spirit of entrepreneurship and the importance of building self-awareness.

"We also hope that this mentorship scheme will set the stage for reverse mentoring, which would allow us, the at-times jaded alumni, to gain from the fresh insights of these young students," quipped Mr Lodhi.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat hailed the programme as a "meaningful" way to give back to the local community, compared to other methods such as providing financial assistance.

The minister, a former managing director at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, is himself a Harvard alumnus, having obtained a masters degree in public administration from Harvard University back in 1993.

"All of you have a wealth of experience and expertise, you run businesses in various forms, you hold professional jobs of different types and have such a diverse range of skills," he told his 200-strong audience at the event.

"It is much more meaningful to mentor our students and teach them important life skills, rather than just give financial aid. This is a much more unique value proposition that does demand a lot more of you."

HBS Club of Singapore chairman Seah Kian Peng said the new club would help fulfil the school's ideals of service to one's community, country and region, as well as to advance the school's interests and welfare.

The club will also provide a platform to stimulate a discussion of regional business and social issues, both among the school's alumni and with business and government leaders.

Mr Seah, who is also the chief executive officer of NTUC FairPrice and Singapore's deputy speaker of parliament, urged all alumni, regardless of the organisation to which they belonged, to give back to society in different ways.

"We all have a duty to make the world a better place, wherever we are working. We should always do our part to be a part of the community and to help the less-privileged. Our most valuable asset is our members, and I urge all alumni to step forward and do your part," he said.

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