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We should not limit ourselves to what we’ve learned “for life in school”, but must prepare for the “school of life” and continue to engage in lifelong learning in the long term, said Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing.
In an exclusive interview with local Chinese-language broadsheet Lianhe Zaobao on Apr. 9, Chan shared several ideas on how he hopes to change mindsets about Singapore’s education.
The extensive interview was published in both text and video formats.
Each kid has different strengths and talents
In the video interview, Chan shared that he has three children – who are 11, 13 and 21 years of age respectively.
From his personal experiences, he realized earlier on that each child has different talents and strengths.
Hence, as a parent, the main thing he would request from his children was to possess discipline and perseverance in their endeavors.
His kids experience stress when it comes to examinations as well, to which Chan shared that he’d encourage them to “not give up”, as if they did not do so, then they would “not have failed yet”.
Chan shared that the scrapping of mid-year examinations did not mean a de-emphasizing of the importance of grades and exams in the education system.
However, what he hoped to achieve was to not just have one metric of testing for the evaluation of all students in Singapore.
“Everyone’s strengths are different, so the definition of success for us would be to cultivate the individual strengths and talents of our students, to give them the opportunities they need to develop them”, Chan said.
“What’s important is to understand our kids better, and encourage them to surpass themselves, and not just focus on surpassing others, especially just in the academic arena.”
Redefining success in education
Chan opinion that education in schools can only help to build one’s foundation, but the more important indicator of success is how we continue to learn throughout the “marathon of life”.
He added, “this is the first mindset change that is needed”.
“In the past, the thinking was that front-loading education could prepare us for the rest of our lives, or one examination would determine our future”, he said.
Chan said that this mindset is less relevant in these rapidly changing times.
In other words, if we can only learn one thing, it should be ‘how can I keep learning? Learn fast, and learn well ‘, “he noted.
To achieve lifelong learning, it is thus important to inspire the curiosity and thirst for knowledge of our children, said Chan, especially as the channels through which students can now receive information is also no longer limited to in schools.
Chan noted the example of his son and how he learned to solve the Rubik’s cube.
His 10-year-old son self-taught in two days from YouTube videos.
And after his son mastered the six-surfaced Rubik’s cube, he moved on to an even harder challenge – the Megaminx, a 12-surfaced Rubik’s cube.
In one week, he was also able to solve the new challenge with ease.
Lifelong learning in adulthood
The “next step” in evolving Singapore’s education system, would be to encourage the continuation of learning in adulthood, said Chan.
Speaking during last month’s Committee of Supply debate, Chan had announced that the government would be looking at enhanced structural support for Singaporeans who may need “significant” reskilling for a second boost in their careers, as part of the focus on “continual learning throughout life”.
The challenge here lies with tweaking the teaching materials and methodology to cater to adults, as most will have to juggle between jobs and additional responsibilities such as caring for a family, making a return to school less than ideal. Chan adds:
“The question is: How can we bring ‘the school’ to their doorsteps? This is so that they are able to learn what they need anytime, anywhere. It is not an unattainable goal, as with today’s technology and the Internet, we are able to bring the ‘institution’ to us. However, there’s much more that we can do to smoothen the process on this front. “
“The mode of learning for an adult as compared to for a younger person is different. At 25, 45, and 65, there’s an age gap of 20 years, and each generation’s mode of learning is different, and will require different technical expertise and innovation. It will not be useful to put up teaching materials for a 20-year-old on the Internet, and consider it as the equivalent for older adults. “
You can find the Zaobao video with Chan here:
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Top image via Chan Chun Sing Facebook