Wednesday, 7 October 2015

More, better education pathways for Singaporeans

Work on this will go on while system expands in scale and complexity, say new ministers
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 6 Oct 2015

Both new ministers for the Ministry of Education (MOE) said they will continue building more and better pathways for Singaporeans to meet their aspirations.

This work will go on while the education system expands "in both scale and complexity", acting education ministers Ng Chee Meng and Ong Ye Kung said in a joint message to the education fraternity yesterday morning. Newly elected in last month's polls, both took on their new posts at the start of this month.

Mr Ng, 47, the former defence chief, oversees pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, and junior colleges. Mr Ong, 45, a former top civil servant, is in charge of matters related to higher education and skills training. This covers the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), polytechnics, universities, private education, and continuing education and training.

In their note, they said: "Having two ministers in one ministry is not new, especially in a large ministry such as the MOE.

"Our portfolios are quite distinct, and most of you will find your work falling into one or the other, but we must firmly recognise that our work is integrated and synergistic."

They added: "We must continue to ensure that students leaving the school system and entering the ITE, polytechnics or universities continue to do well, and do not fall out of school."

Mr Ng and Mr Ong said they will build on the work of their predecessor, Mr Heng Swee Keat, now Finance Minister, and many educators and staff over past generations.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last week that he had known Mr Ng and Mr Ong before they joined politics and that they "have potential but need the exposure and experience".

Mr Ong served as Mr Lee's principal private secretary from 2002 to 2005 and was deputy secretary- general of the National Trades Union Congress. Mr Ng retired from the Singapore Armed Forces last month after some three decades in service.

Yesterday, both men said that MOE will develop students to be their best in all aspects - morally, cognitively, physically, socio-emotionally and aesthetically.

It will also do more to drive SkillsFuture, they said, referring to the national movement to equip students and workers with industry- relevant skills. MOE will help Singaporeans hone and master their skills, they said, adding: "This will have important implications on the way people learn, when they learn, how they learn, what credentials they achieve, and how workplaces and society recognise them."

They also told educators that they will be visiting their schools to learn more and gather ideas.

When contacted, Mr Lim Biow Chuan, former chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said: "Many parents have shared that their children find the system stressful and their children have no choice but to have tuition to help them cope... I hope that MOE will find a way to make education more enjoyable for all students."

Additional reporting by Priscilla Goy

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Education driven by not just national needs, but bottom-up aspiration too: Ong Ye Kung
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 5 Oct 2015

The education system of the future will be driven not just by national needs, but also the "bottom-up" aspirations of Singaporeans, co-Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Sunday (Oct 4).

In his first public comments since his appointment, he said his ministry would pursue an education system "driven by bottom-up aspirations", which in turn would have a big impact on the way higher education is developing.

"It means that you will see a lot more diversity in our education system, not just in terms of the courses you attend, what university you attend, but how you learn, when you learn, who will learn," said Mr Ong, who oversees higher education and skills. This will lead to a diversity in credentials that people achieve, and impact how those qualifications are regarded and recognised in society, he added.

Speaking on the sidelines of a community event in Sembawang, Mr Ong noted that in the past, the education system was driven by national needs - such as training workers to attract foreign investment and companies into Singapore.

"It was top down, functional, efficient and some say, utilitarian," he said.

He did not go into specifics, but said this dual approach will recognise individuals for their passions, talents and abilities.

Singaporeans will see a "flourishing of different pathways" to develop their talents, he added.

Efforts have already been made on this front. In March, the Government launched the SkillsFuture scheme, which helps Singaporeans to keep on developing skills to advance their careers.

Mr Ong is one of two Acting Ministers for Education. His counterpart, Mr Ng Chee Meng, is Acting Education Minister (Schools).

Both are regarded as part of the Government's fourth-generation leadership.

Mr Ong said both he and Mr Ng have distinct responsibilities, but they will work closely together.

"We are very mindful that ours is a single ministry, with a very integrated and synergistic system," he said.

On Sunday, together with his fellow Sembawang GRC MPs and residents, Mr Ong planted 212 trees along a nature walk outside the Sembawang Community Club, which links Yishun Park to Sembawang Park.

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