Wednesday, 1 June 2016

DPM Tharman at Pre-University Seminar 2016

Singapore in 2035: Inclusive and innovative
Education will be more flexible, Tharman tells Pre-U Seminar
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 31 May 2016

The Singapore 20 years from now will be an innovative and deeply inclusive one, where a new generation of Singaporeans define their own purpose in life, each with a sense of individuality, in a society that is bound together and at home with itself, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

Painting a picture of what the Republic will be like in 2035, based on a poll of students, he said: "Twenty years from now, we will still be a little red dot, always will be.

"But it will be a deep red dot. The colour of the Singapore heart."

Education, he said, would become more holistic, flexible and encouraging.

A more flexible system and a focus on skills and job performance, rather than qualifications earned early in life, will be needed instead for the fluid job market of the future, noted Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies. He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Pre-University Seminar held at the Nanyang Technological University.

About 550 students from 30 pre-university institutions, including junior colleges and polytechnics, attended the event, whose theme this year is "Living the Singapore Spirit". It is co-organised by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Hwa Chong Institution.

Citing an informal survey MOE did to find out the aspirations of seminar participants, Mr Tharman noted that students ranked job satisfaction and the ability to make the most of one's talents, above factors like pay and career progress. Most also felt the Singapore of the future has to be innovative and inclusive.

Whether or not these aspirations could be met would depend on how Singapore reacts to changes in areas such as technology and geopolitics, said Mr Tharman.

Some jobs - such as software engineers, data scientists and healthcare professionals - could be in demand, while demand for lawyers, accountants and real estate or insurance agents could taper off.

While there is a "real fear" in many advanced countries that the jobs lost will outstrip the jobs created, Singapore can avoid that by responding in advance to what is coming, said Mr Tharman. Studies show it is more productive for humans to "cobot" - collaborate with robots - than to have enterprises that rely purely on humans or robots alone.

Education will also evolve, with a premium on original thinking, which breeds the innovative spirit.

The way students and parents go about selecting schools will change, he said, with people valuing schools that develop their interests rather than schools with the highest cut-off scores.

But there is a "deeper tension" between innovation and inclusiveness, said Mr Tharman. While young Singaporeans will have a stronger sense of individuality, Singapore must not become an individualistic society but maintain a "spirit of solidarity" with "diversity of thinking".

"It is a tension, but how this plays out depends on us," said Mr Tharman, who also fielded questions from students on issues such as meritocracy, media freedom and cultural preservation. The Pre-University Seminar, which has been held yearly since 1970, ends on Thursday.

More freedom of speech, but some restrictions necessary: DPM
By Neo Chai Chin, TODAY, 31 May 2016

Singapore society should evolve towards more freedom of speech but some restrictions, such as on hate speech, are necessary, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday at the Pre-University Seminar.

He was responding to questions from students about freedom of speech in Singapore, media censorship in the context of the need to develop originality of mind, and on remarks against Islam made by teenage blogger Amos Yee. Had the authorities’ response to Amos given him more support and attention internationally than he would otherwise have garnered, questioned a student from River Valley High School.

Mr Tharman did not comment on Amos as his court case is ongoing, but said some restrictions are necessary all over the world, with hate speech featuring prominently in the law of the many Western democracies. Enforcement against hate speech is needed, he said. It does not mean all comment and expression is scrubbed out, but individuals have to be responsible.

There is more freedom now compared to a decade ago, “let alone when I was your age”, said Mr Tharman. “I was a dissident, a government critic. It was completely different then, compared to where it is now. We have evolved into a society that has more freedoms, but it has some restrictions and they serve a purpose.”

He also spoke of the need to let values in Singapore “evolve quietly”, instead of having a debate to decide on values for the future, because it was not how societies evolved. Each generation, he added, would have its own sense of purpose and values, but rarely totally divorced from their parents’ or grandparents’.

On media censorship, Mr Tharman said it was not the only test of a liberal, progressive society. In some countries with looser reins on the media, there is much less freedom to walk safely on the streets and to advance oneself regardless of ethnicity or religion, he said.

Society has to find the right balance and some freedoms have to be curbed for it to evolve in a way that advances other freedoms, he said. “Every society faces this. We haven’t found the perfect balance, and we have to keep evolving.”

Future schools will cater to students’ interests, strengths
By Neo Chai Chin, TODAY, 31 May 2016

In Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s vision of Singapore 20 years down the road — shaped after a quick survey of pre-university students — Jurong Secondary School would be a very popular school where primary school students compete to get in for its basketball programme and scholarships.

Jurong Secondary’s environmental science programme would be known nationwide and abroad, with students developing sensors to detect the species and number of fish in neighbouring Jurong Lake.

As lifelong learning gains traction here and jobs and tertiary education evolve, so will the school system, said Mr Tharman, who quipped about his bias for Jurong Secondary as it was in his constituency.

Parents would select schools based on what they offer and their children’s interests rather than cut-off points, while schools would place a premium on original thinking and strength of character, said Mr Tharman, who was speaking at the Pre-University Seminar opening yesterday.

More open and flexible learning would stem from employers being more focused on skills and job performance. This form of learning would also cater to how people develop, because passion for learning develops at different stages of life, said Mr Tharman. Some people were “switched off” when they were young, while others thrive in a team or when doing something that fascinates them.

Tertiary education will change. “The campus-only model will be outdated, and the dominant form of learning will be what they call ‘blended learning’. Some face-to-face interaction with your peers and lecturers on campus, but also learning at the workplace, structured, longer internships, and learning online,” he said. Universities and other tertiary institutions will want to provide quality lifelong education that blends the academic with the practical, he said.

Asked by students after his speech if a more modular approach would mean students having to make choices from a young age, Mr Tharman said it would not be so. A modular approach provides a taste of different things. Quite a number of people today do not embark on careers they were trained for, he added.

And in seeking a new balance in meritocracy that gives recognition to a wider range of talents, Singapore is taking a bit of a lead on Asian countries with highly competitive exam meritocracies, he said.

More flexible ways of learning needed for jobs of future: DPM
Tharman shares with students his vision of an innovative, deeply inclusive society in 2035
By Neo Chai Chin, TODAY, 31 May 2016

Imagine a future where one’s chip-sized wearable device monitors his vital health statistics and reminds him of what he needs to do.

Or one where bundled mobility solutions are the norm, offering commuters some hours of car usage, a number of public transport and taxi rides and unlimited bicycle usage — the way telcos today offer bundled plans to consumers.

And instead of cleaning hawker centres, which would be taken care of by machines, some Singaporeans would be smart-home handymen earning good wages.

Sketching out a vision of an innovative and inclusive Singapore 20 years down the road at a seminar for pre-university students yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam called on them to develop a sense of individuality as well as a spirit of solidarity.

Jobs and learning will be very different, resulting in a cultural landscape that is less hierarchical, he told about 550 students from junior colleges, polytechnics and Millennia Institute at the opening of the four-day Pre-University Seminar, held at Nanyang Technological University.

Before the seminar, Mr Tharman had asked for a survey of what the participants hoped to achieve from their education and the factors that would influence their career choices, among other things.

Facilitated by Hwa Chong Institution, which co-organised this year’s seminar with the Ministry of Education, the online survey of about 330 students found that satisfaction at work and the ability to make the most of their talents factored “quite strongly” in career choice, said Mr Tharman.

And more than 90 per cent of respondents felt an innovative society, as well as social harmony and understanding among people, were qualities important in shaping Singapore’s future.

Painting a vision of Singapore in 2035 from the students’ views, Mr Tharman said it would be an innovative and deeply inclusive society.

Jobs in demand could include software engineers and developers, data scientists, various healthcare professionals, professions facilitating lifelong learning such as freelance lecturers, and designers, he said.

There would be less demand for lawyers, insurance and real estate agents, radiologists, and accountants. This is because technology would make it possible for customers to get what they want at low cost, he said in his speech.

How demand balances out is too early to say. Mr Tharman noted that many societies fear job losses will exceed jobs created, but Singapore can avoid this because it is small but has a global market. However, it needs to respond quickly and take advantage of technology as well as the productive combination of humans collaborating with robots, he said.

A more fluid job market will mean the blurring of lines between the academic and practical, degree and non-degree, and white- versus blue-collared, said Mr Tharman. Education will become more flexible and open, with the intense rush to learn as much as possible in the first stage of life to become “hopelessly outdated”.

Mr Tharman also expressed confidence that innovation would result in Singapore firms and brands being leaders, with a reputation for being safe and ethical, and with attitude and character. “We would have had our Angry Birds moment in the 2020s,” he said.

Inclusiveness would see a future where children who benefited from the KidSTART pilot initiative — which provides low-income and vulnerable children aged six and below with early access to health, learning and developmental support — are among the top band of PSLE scorers, Mr Tharman said.

Co-curricular activities would be less ethnically defined while retaining their authenticity, and Singaporeans would be resilient and remain bonded in the wake of any terror attack.

But there is a deeper tension between innovation and inclusiveness, he said. Innovation and breakthroughs spring from original minds, but such individuality must not mean Singapore becomes an individualistic society where it is each man for himself, he said.

Individuals must respect one another and Singapore must retain strong consensus in the middle of society even as its people have diverse views and lifestyles, he said. “It is not a contradiction; it can be achieved and we will achieve it. And your generation especially is going to make that Singapore possible for yourselves. Twenty years from now, we will still be a little red dot, always will be. But it will be a deep red dot, the colour of the Singapore heart.”

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