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

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.