Don shares insights into Singapore Education
Sunday, 26 April 2015
The Star Online
A person's capacity to “relearn and redo” is crucial as skills picked up can last only for a short while, according to a Singapore academician. “One of the current challenges is how to prepare schoolleavers to be an active and capable member of society.
“They need the necessary skills for employment and to be a responsible member of society...some of those skills could even overlap,” said Prof S. Gopinathan, an adjunct professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.
He cited taking the initiative and responsibility to oneself and the environment as examples.
“Drive, empathy for others and care for the environment are also valued. While there are some things that government policies can mitigate, people also play a role in moving society forward,” he said during a talk titled Education and Socio-Economic Transformations: Singapore’s Experience held at HELP University in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Prof Gopinathan’s presentation touched on education as a foundation of socio-economic transformation, globalisation and the post-development state, and challenges to existing education policies and reform initiatives.
He also spoke on the three reform transitions Singapore underwent - building a post-colonial education system, building a system for an industrial economy, and transitioning to a knowledge economy.
“The post-colonial education system saw the establishment of a state-funded national education system as a unifying factor,” said Prof Gopinathan.
“To deal with the problem of a multi-ethnic society that spoke multiple languages, a bilingual system was used in national schools, where students learnt English and their mother tongue.
“The second transition phase had, among others, a system-wide emphasis on English, Mathematics, Science and technical/ vocational education, and expansion of polytechnics.”
Having built an industrial economy, Prof Gopinathan said the challenge was on how to move on to the next stage of the knowledge-based economy and address issues of globalisation.
“Singapore is restructuring its economy to become a high-skills, high-wage economy.
“However, it also has to deal with issues of immigration, income inequality, and the feeling of lack of education and work opportunities by the middle class,” he added.
Prof Gopinathan said he was particularly passionate about teacher education, and had been involved in developing that aspect over a career spanning 40 years.
“One of the challenges Singapore faces is labour shortage of the teaching force.
“To address the problem of retention, the government introduced a three-track method that included leadership, classroom teaching, and research or specialisation.
“Beyond their role as educators, the policy also respects that they are professionals and prepares them to be professionals,” he pointed out.
Prof Gopinathan has been extensively involved in the development of teacher education in Singapore. He served as the Dean of the School of Education/National Institute of Education, Singapore from 1994–2000 and was appointed Professor of Education in April 1999. He also served as Dean of the School of Education (1994-2000) and Dean of Foundation Programmes (2000-2003) at National Institute of Education (NIE), Singapore.
HELP University English Department head Dr Hannah Pillay said the talk was part of a series of events hosted by the university for presenters to share the differential experience of various countries.
“We are also in talks to collaborate with Prof Gopinathan on our teacher education programme and postgraduate programme,” she said.
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Source: The Star Online