Singapore Government aims to develop lifelong learners in preparation for dynamic future

During the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore Committee of Supply (COS) Debate on March 5, it was revealed that the MOE will expand reskilling and upskilling opportunities, through industry-relevant and bite-sized modular courses.

Late last year, the SkillsFuture Series of training programmes was introduced focusing on eight priority and emerging skills areas, drawing reference from the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) and feedback from industry partners: Data Analytics; Finance; Tech-Enabled Services; Digital Media; Cybersecurity; Entrepreneurship; Urban Solutions; and Advanced Manufacturing.

Since then, the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) have taken the lead to offer modular courses in these emerging and critical areas. There are currently around 800 courses, and over 4,900 individuals have signed up for them as at February 2018.

These courses are funded at up to 70% upfront. Many of them will be structured as Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs), with more generous funding. The PCPs aim to support mid-career switchers, to undergo skills conversion and move into new occupations or sectors that have good prospects and opportunities for progression.

As of February 2018, more than 4,900 adult learners have enrolled in SkillsFuture Series courses.

The ultimate objective is to transform the education system to promote lifelong learning.

Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), Mr Ong Ye Kung, said, “SkillsFuture is not just about the Credit. Neither is it just about getting IHLs to deliver training programmes for adults. It requires a transformation of the education system as we know it; it requires our young to uncover their interests and passions and commit to learning their whole life; it requires employers, private training providers, and IHLs to all do their part for lifelong learning; and it requires society to celebrate and recognise a broad range of success.”

He announced that the annual funding of IHL lifelong learning programmes is expected to be increased by S$100 million from S$210 million today. Due to budget constraints savings of S$25 million annually from a review of subsidies for full-qualification Postgraduate degree by Coursework programmes (International Students will not be subsidised, while they will be reduced for Permanent Residents) will be channelled towards the expansion of modular courses at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

To further support lifelong learning, the Autonomous Universities (AUs) are also expanding the range of micro-credentials. These micro-credentials are awarded to provide recognition of an individual’s learning achievements in a focused, industry-relevant niche, without the need to undertake a full degree programme. The AUs will progressively roll these out in the coming years.

In line with the Government’s policy objective of developing lifelong learners, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is expanding its lifelong learning initiative which was launched in May 2017, allowing all alumni to take up to two modules for free over a three-year period. There was an overwhelming response with more than 8,000 applications for 404 places in 79 courses received during the pilot phase.

Consequently, NUS is expanding it into a programme called NUS Lifelong Learners.  NUS will recognise every NUS student enrolment as valid for a period of 20 years from point of undergraduate admission.

Upon graduation, all current and future NUS students would therefore have ready access to a curated catalogue of publicly available skills-based, industry-relevant Continuing Education and Training (CET) courses for upskilling or reskilling, and remaining competitive in the future economy. Similarly, all 288,600 NUS alumni would be automatically eligible for these courses. The University will offer virtual vouchers that offset the cost of one NUS CET course to alumni who are new to lifelong learning at NUS.

CET courses under NUS Lifelong Learning Programme will match the eight areas identified under the SkillsFuture Series. Beyond the publicly available courses, they will include courses currently offered to NUS students, as well as those designed specifically for adult learners.

More Common Entry Programmes at polytechnics in Business, and Information & Digital Technologies (IDT) clusters

The polytechnics in Singapore will introduce more Common Entry Programmes (CEPs) in the Business, and Information & Digital Technologies (IDT) clusters. This will account for about 30% of intakes in those clusters from Academic Year (AY) 2019 onwards.

CEPs provide students with the opportunity to learn foundational skills and be exposed to different specialisations within their chosen discipline, before they decide on one that suits their interests and strengths at the end of their first or second semesters. For instance, a student in the Information and Digital Technologies cluster will take foundational courses in Computing Mathematics, Introduction to Programming, and Networking Fundamentals during his/ her first year. From their second year, they decide on their specialization

Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), Mr Ong Ye Kung, said, “In tandem with the introduction of more foundational skills through CEPs, the polytechnics will also streamline the number of courses they offer. By simplifying course offerings and avoiding over-specificity, the polytechnics will better prepare students to be more versatile in the face of fast-changing sectoral needs.”

MOE will work with the polytechnics to reduce the number of courses by around 20% over the next two to three years.

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