Saturday, 11 January 2014

ASPIRE: Poly, ITE review aimed at keeping young in work

Panel holds first townhall meeting to get views
By Sandra Davie, The Straits Times, 10 Jan 2014

THE extensive review of polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) being undertaken by the Government is aimed at "future-proofing" Singapore youngsters against unemployment.

Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah, who leads the review, noted that despite having sound education systems, countries such as Finland and South Korea are grappling with rising youth unemployment. "It tells us that qualifications alone are not enough - there must be a match between the educational qualifications and the skills needed for available jobs."

Ms Indranee was speaking at the first townhall meeting held by the review panel yesterday to canvass views from some 150 polytechnic and ITE students.

She said the review, called Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE, or ASPIRE for short, is aimed at drawing up a plan to increase the number and range of employment opportunities for these students. It will also ensure there is a match between the skills and qualifications that students attain and the jobs which are in demand by industry.

Ms Indranee highlighted the case of Germany, which has managed to keep youth unemployment at bay. Key to the country's success has been a dual learning system, where students on the vocational track receive job training in companies while pursuing courses in vocational schools. She said this form of education, called applied learning, integrates work and study and focuses on developing capabilities that are needed for jobs in industry.

The applied learning pathway that the review team has in mind goes beyond the short internships that polytechnic students undertake, she told the media, at the event at the National Library.

"Currently the internship is an add-on. The applied learning pathway we will look at is where the apprenticeship or internship becomes part and parcel of the learning process," she said. For example, companies that take on students as interns must ensure that the student's work experience builds on what he is learning in school.

The review panel will look at piloting applied learning for jobs in some industries where there is a shortage of skilled workers, including manufacturing, aerospace, early childhood education, nursing, and building and construction, she added.

She admitted that changing the mindsets of students, parents and employers about paper qualifications would be a key challenge for the review team.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Yeap Yi Xuan, 20, who studies mass communications, agreed that most of her peers were set on the university route. "It is entrenched - that the only way to succeed is by going to university. It will be difficult to tear down this belief. After all, you can have very good skills, but employers still want to see that degree."

Altogether, 98 people from business, industry and education will be involved in the review. The group will comprise a 35-member steering committee, and four other committees looking at different aspects, such as strengthening links with industry.

In response to why such an unusually large group is involved in the review, Ms Indranee said it is an extensive review involving many different industries, educational institutions and stakeholder groups, including students and parents. "It's a complex undertaking... a lot of work, a lot of moving parts and you need to be able to drill down into the different issues," she said.

The committee is expected to complete its work in the second half of this year.

Diverse team to review poly and ITE education
Group's 98 members drawn from business, industry and education
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 9 Jan 2014

WITH nearly 100 figures from business, industry and education involved, a review of Singapore's tertiary technical education system is set to be a lively affair.

Led by Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah, its aim is to help keep polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) in tune with the changing economy.

When asked how it settled on a 98-strong team for the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review, or ASPIRE for short, the Ministry of Education (MOE) explained that the members "bring with them rich knowledge, experience and perspectives".

"The industry representatives were selected from different sectors so that a range of industries would be represented," added its spokesman.

The group will be divided into a 35-member steering committee, an engagement committee to reach out to parents and other stakeholders, plus three review committees which will look into different aspects. These include improving career and academic prospects of students and strengthening links with industry.

MOE announced yesterday that the steering committee will include the principals of all five local polytechnics, ITE chief executive officer Bruce Poh, Singapore Institute of Technology president Tan Thiam Soon and SIM University president Cheong Hee Kiat.

Also in the group are chief executive officer of Cathay Organisation Holdings Suhaimi Rafdi and Sakae Holdings founder and chairman Douglas Foo, who hopes to use his experience in hospitality to help bridge the gap between education and demands of industry.

"Going forward, skill sets are changing. Training and learning don't just take place in schools, but at the workplace too," he said. "That's why there are so many members in the committee. We come from different backgrounds... so that we can cover a broad range of sectors."

MOE's permanent secretary Chan Lai Fung and its director-general of education Ho Peng are also part of the steering committee.

The ASPIRE committee, which will take study trips to institutions and industries in Singapore and abroad, is expected to complete its work in the second half of this year.

Said Ms Indranee: "Each individual matters, and we must ensure that our approach to technical education can help ensure that polytechnic and ITE students will continue to be well equipped for work and life, even as the operating environment evolves.

"We also want to avoid a mismatch between industry needs and student qualifications, skills and capabilities."

No comments:

Post a Comment