Singapore’s Education system has played a crucial role in the country’s stunning transformation over the past 50 years.
As the Republic enters the beginning of its next half a century as an independent nation, much thought and reflection is being directed toward the Republic’s future and how its high-performing system should evolve to best serve the country and its citizens.
On February 24, The HEAD Foundation (THF) invited a panel of distinguished educationists from the National Institute of Education to discuss the future of Singapore’s education system.
Nearly 130 people gathered to hear A/P Ng Pak Tee, Associate Dean of Leadership Learning; Dr Dennis Kwek Beng Kiat, Assistant Dean of Research Communications; and A/P Tan Seng Chee, Associate Dean of Learning and Instruction share their thoughts. THF’s Academic Director, Professor S. Gopinathan, moderated the panel discussion.
Professor Gopinathan opened the session by stressing the need to set the nation’s sights on the next 50 years, given the great stake in the next generation’s future.
Dr Ng posited that in trying to plan for the future, we cannot map forward in linear fashion given the uncertainty of societal trends. However, an important philosophy that must not change is that education must continue to be seen as an investment and not as an expenditure.
Constants that “should not change,” such as fundamental civic values we hold dear, should then become beacons that guide us. Another important, unchanging factor should be that of the teacher.
“I see that 50 years down the road, e-platforms become ubiquitous,” acknowledged Dr Ng. But one who has sat in a classroom before stands a “premium” chance because of the importance of the teacher’s pedagogy that technology cannot substitute.
Dr Kwek explored the notion of Future-Thinking, in which future scenarios are created from either past or alternative narratives. These models provide a guidance for modern education’s standardisation and competition, yet the importance of education remains in the equipping of students with skills, knowledge and dispositions.
Dr Tan wrapped up the presentations by reiterating the dynamics of both technology and teaching as a platform to train the young to take on the future. Somewhat opposite to Dr Ng’s view, however, Dr Tan posited that technology will come to play a more pivotal role than teachers in shaping learning.
Dr Tan also looked at methods to improve knowledge representation through a forward looking mentality, not by simply comparing grades or answers but using experiments to demonstrate the progress from hypothesis to theory.
In this way, students begin to think about performance, highlighting the agency in which students take on experiment rather than the wholesale reliance on textbooks. The approach of learning through collaborative idea improvements among a group of learners was also recommended, where each product aims to be better than the last version.
Professor Gopinathan concluded the discussion by highlighting a noticeable absence on the subject of schools. A lot of talking had been about the nature of learning, but not the schools as an instrument of learning and schools as the social institution.
Given the interest in the audience to such a relevant topic as Singapore’s own future, all the more should the focus be on the framework of schools in developing young minds.
What is the role of the external environment in the lead up to 2065? One needs to move from the micro aspects of pedagogical methods to the macro system of schooling as a whole, in order to fully appreciate the process that ensures the stability of Singapore’s education in 50 years’ time.
A lively Question and Answer session followed, with audience members raising a wide range of issues from the definition of education and its role in preparing students for future job markets, to the consideration of neuroscience in curricula development, and the ways in which policies can be implemented more effectively as well as how to effectively bolster parents’ capacity to support their children’s learning, especially in the lower income bracket.
Full lecture of the panel discussion can be viewed here.
Excerpts of the panel discussion can be viewed here.