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Education disruptED: Resilience and adaptability needed

21 Feb 2018

Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information, spoke about how schools are adopting new ways of teaching including using digital tools and mobile applications.

As disruption brought about by technological advancements and globalisation continues to develop at a rapid pace and grow in scale, industries across Singapore and the world are compelled to adapt to new changes to thrive in a disrupted world. The education sector likewise, faces similar challenges. 

What skills will be in demand and of value? 

How must education adapt, evolve and challenge the status quo to better prepare learners for their future? 

On 3 February 2018 at the SIM Headquarters, these tough questions and more were addressed at inaugural The Straits Times-SIM forum entitled Disruptions in Education (DisruptED). 

In his opening speech, guest of honour Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information, sparked the vibrant discussion among panel members and the audience by urging the need to prepare students for new models of teaching and learning in the face of disruptions.

“We need to prepare our students for a very different type of world. We need to build in them the resilience and adaptability that if it takes a little bit longer to get exactly on the right track to follow your passion, that’s ok.”

He added: “It’s worth doing it because if we get it right, we build the next generation and every generation thereafter to be even more future-ready, even more resilient and more able to take on these opportunities in the world.”

In the same vein, Dr Lee Kwok Cheong, chief executive officer of SIM Holdings, stressed the importance of adapting to changes to stay relevant amid disruptions. He said: “At SIM, our passion is to open doors in life for those who come to us for education. We want our graduates to be ready for the world but the world is changing fast and businesses and jobs are being disrupted. So, we at SIM and the education sector, if we do not innovate and do not disrupt ourselves, we cannot even survive and not to mention… help our students.”

Citing the example of how newsrooms have transformed the way they work, Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group and editor of The Straits Times said, "We have transformed the way we operate, the way we think, into being a fully multimedia operation.”
He added that like the media industry, every other industry has to deal with disruptions. “The question for us is how do we prepare our people and especially our young people for this new age of uncertainty and change? …I think the best we can do is give them skills to learn and acquire knowledge and… (inculcate) the right attitude of mind to deal with change and the resilience to cope amid all that change,” he said.

Attended by over 400 guests, the event featured a host of local and international panellists. They included Mr Ben Nelson, founder of Minerva, a company whose goal is to reinvent higher education; Ms Kristina Kaihari, counsellor of education at the Finnish National Agency for Education; Dr Lee Kwok Cheong; Dr Charles Zukoski, provost and executive vice-president of academic affairs at the University at Buffalo, New York; Ms Sandra Davie, The Straits Times’ senior education correspondent and Mr Oswald Yeo, co-founder of Glints, an online talent recruitment and career discovery platform.

Panel moderator Ms Lydia Lim, Head, Training and Development, The Straits Times (left), pictured with Mr Ben Nelson (middle) and Ms Kristina Kaihari. Mr Nelson called for an overhaul of the traditional university model to be replaced by one that focuses on critical and creative thinking. Ms Kaihari spoke about how Finland has broken the typical education mould by focusing on learning through play during the early years of a child’s education.

On how established education models should be reimagined: Dr Lee Kwok Cheong (right) said that universities do try to innovate in their methods of teaching, but cautioned that innovations need time to take effect, while Dr Charles Zukoski suggested that universities consider real-world developments to provide students with relevant skills and experiences.

Mr Oswald Yeo kept the audience engaged as he shared how he took an indefinite leave of absence from the University of California, Berkeley, to focus on running his start-up, Glints, with his two partners. Glints has since raised more than $3 million in funding and has seen more than 9,700 companies signing up with it. 

Ms Sandra Davie shared various examples of aspiring young people who achieved success via paths less travelled.

There was active participation from the audience who posed challenging questions to the panellists throughout the half-day event.

Watch highlights of the event here.

Watch the panel sessions here.

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