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Universities must prepare to retrain half a million Singaporean adult learners every year: Chan Chun Sing

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SINGAPORE — To keep pace, universities in Singapore need to do more than produce new graduates for the job market.

They should pay attention to those who have already graduated and retrain around half a million adult learners every year, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said Thursday, February 10, as he outlined his vision. the role of universities in meeting the needs of the population. future.

These institutions, Chan said, must focus on lifelong learning, connect with others beyond their lands, and be confident in charting their own path.

He added that society’s definition of success needs to change as it is not about how a person achieves at a particular point in their life, nor about focusing on education at a young age.

On the contrary, learning should take place throughout a person’s life and universities should be places where people return regularly to be equipped with new knowledge and skills.

Mr Chan was speaking at the Straits Times Education Forum 2022 on the changing role of universities, organized in partnership with the Singapore Management University (SMU).

The event, held in a hybrid format, discussed how the work of universities must extend beyond their campuses and adapt to changes in society, whether due to technological, social or economic forces.

The session, held at SMU Yong Pung How School of Law, also featured SMU President Lily Kong and Mr. Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills and Special Advisor on education policy to the Secretary General of the Organization. for economic cooperation and development.

In his speech, Mr. Chan said that in the past it could take a person almost 20 years to prepare for their first, and possibly only, lifetime job.

“But what if we have to do 10 different jobs for life, changing every four to five years on average? That’s our generation,” he said.

Upgrading people’s knowledge and skills as they take on new jobs every four to five years would mean upgrading around a quarter of Singapore’s roughly three million workforce each year, he said. added. That would equate to about half a million adult workers each year.

“Therefore, the definition of success for our education system cannot simply be how we prepare a cohort of 30,000 to 40,000 students for the job market each year. It should be that, plus retraining and upgrading. up to half a million adult learners each year, he said.

“Therefore, instead of focusing on the challenges of shrinking cohort sizes, we should actively seize the opportunity arising from a growing number of workers who need reskilling and upskilling,” Mr. Chan said.

Stressing the need for lifelong learning, he said there is no set path to success. It is not so much about the number of students in a cohort who enroll in universities and polytechnics or the Institute of Technical Education at some point in their lives, he said .