Singapore’s education system to be less exam-focused, more geared to lifelong learning, says education minister

Education Minister Lawrence Wong giving a speech at the National University of Singapore on Dec 3, 2020. — Screen capture via YouTube
Education Minister Lawrence Wong giving a speech at the National University of Singapore on Dec 3, 2020. — Screen capture via YouTube

SINGAPORE, Dec 5 — After years of placing a strong emphasis on exams and results, Singapore is ready to move towards an education model — including for university — that is less exam-focused, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said on Thursday.

However, this does not mean that exams and assessments do not have a role to play in the education system, he said.

Rather, there should be a balance between academics and other learning opportunities.

These learning opportunities should also be spread out throughout a person’s life and career, said Wong.

He made the comments during the first session of a webinar series held by the National University of Singapore (NUS) to commemorate its 115th anniversary.

The NUS115 Distinguished Speaker Series invites guests to share their perspectives on pressing issues that are of national and global concern.

Focusing his speech on the future of education in Singapore, Wong said the Singapore government intends to shift the focus of the education system here to place greater emphasis on lifelong learning, rather than learning for the sake of acing exams and assessments.

As for how it intends to do so, he said discussions are still underway on what would be the best approach as the area of adult learning and training is a “more complex space” with many stakeholders, including companies, third party training providers and the unions.

That being said, Wong said the institutes of higher learning (IHLs) can play a part in achieving this shift.

For instance, they can collaborate more with firms and industries to strengthen workplace training capabilities.

“Employers must take responsibility and ownership of skills utilisation. If it is just led by training providers or universities, it will not work,” said Wong.

Pause in overseas learning trips ‘temporary’

During the session, Wong was asked about how the ongoing pandemic will affect overseas learning field trips and exchange programmes as global travel has been put on pause to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In his reply, Wong reassured students that the halt in overseas learning programmes is only temporary and such opportunities will resume once the pandemic is over.

Though he could not say for certain when he expects mass travel to resume, Wong said the latest developments in finding a viable vaccine candidate for the coronavirus are promising.

“I am quite confident we will see safe and effective vaccines being available sometime next year, including in Singapore,” he said.

Wong said that developments in testing methods here also hold much promise in allowing more face-to-face activities, which are critical for learning, to resume.

For example, the Health Ministry is validating an antigen rapid test for Covid-19 from Abbott Laboratories which costs only S$5 (RM15.21) and can be administered within 10 minutes, he said.

“It’s not perfect, for sure... I don’t pretend that it’s the same. When the Covid-19 situation is under control, and the situation permits, we will want to encourage more such overseas trips for our students in a safe way,” said Wong. — TODAY

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