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Three questions for Education Minister and DPM by ex-GIC chief

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The online publication Mothership published an article titled, ‘These 2 speeches by Ong Ye Kung should be read by everyone from NUS/ NTU/ SMU graduating class‘ on 12 Jul. The article quoted Acting Minister for Education, Ong Ye Kung as saying:

“From time to time, we, including DPM Tharman, meet these industry captains to hear their views. They are telling us, ‘Singapore graduates know a lot of stuff, but those can be learnt on the job. What’s more important are the practical and soft skills that can help them excel at the workplace.”

AND:

“IHLs (Institute of Higher Learning) must help students to build up their essential soft skills, such as interpersonal skills, working in teams and across cultures, the ability to communicate well, negotiate effectively, and be resourceful and enterprising. These are skills that industry leaders told us are lacking in Singapore students, as I have mentioned earlier.”

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The publication postulated that what the Minister means is that, “Captains of the industry have the impression that Singaporean students are a bunch of nerds who may be too awkward in team settings and perhaps too sheltered to survive in the real workforce.”

Sharing Mothership’s article in his Facebook, Mr Yeoh Lam Keong, former chief economist of the GIC, welcomed Mr Ong’s speech. He said:

“Kudos for Minister Ong for saying it precisely like it is. We at IPS and other educators have been saying for many years that not only is our education system (not just tertiary but more importantly primary and secondary) unnecessarily stressful and competitive, it is also not preparing our students adequately for the knowledge economy of the future.

So what are he and DPM Tharman going to do about it to reform the education system ?

Are they going to reduce unnecessarily streaming and mass testing (starting with the PSLE) , introduce smaller class sizes where more emphasis can be given to the essential soft skills he talked about that many Western education systems already have?

Will we invest heavily in more teachers and the better teacher training needed to to so?

These necessary and fundamental reforms which have also been discussed for many years will take over 10 years to implement and bear fruit.

Or is it just going to be more talk and little serious policy action, like it largely has been for the last wasted decade?”

Mr Yeoh further added:

“These essential soft skills need systematic education from primary and secondary school levels too, not just university. Most developed countries have managed to train good, well paid teachers and lecturers in sufficient numbers. We can always supplement with foreign teachers till we have enough. It’s a matter of policy will.”

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