‘Institutions of continuous learning’ & future of education in S’pore, explained by Chan Chun Sing


Education Minister Chan Chun Sing recently gave an illuminating interview with The Straits Times on Jan 16, 2022, emphasising on the importance of continuous learning.

The need for that stems from the rapid change of today’s world, which will push students to keep updating knowledge and acquiring new skills, he said.

He went as far as referring the commonly-known institutes of higher learning as “institutes of continuous learning” in the interview.

That wasn’t the first time he used the term though. In a Facebook post December last year, he used institutes of continuous learning when cycling to the various institutions around the island at night.

“I don’t think learning has anything to do with higher or lower; it is continuous,” he explained.

He added: “In the future, it will also be unthinkable that students would graduate with a degree in engineering or a degree in business. These subjects will not be taken in isolation.”

In the Q&A with The Straits Times, Minister Chan further explained the continuous learning concept and the future of education in Singapore.

Students, once enrolled, will never graduate?

Minister Chan, citing the product cycles of mobile phones, explained that the pace of change has accelerated tremendously. Similarly, many emerging jobs may not yet exist today.

Just across the street from his office in Ministry of Education in Buona Vista is one-north and one can find “all kinds of jobs that didn’t exist just a few years ago” such as UX (user experience) design.

“This requires students to keep going back to institutes of continuous learning to upgrade their knowledge and skills. And we need flexibility in our system to allow students to take up different modules and extend their studies if necessary.”

To learn, unlearn and relearn

Having a strong foundation will allow students to learn continuously and most importantly, said Minister Chan, is that they must acquire the ability and mindset to learn, unlearn and relearn.

He then explained that the universities are moving towards a modular system, where students can take different modules according to their interests, or based on shifting market demands.

“Say, you have a student who wants to try his hand at entrepreneurship. With this system, the student can go off and develop their entrepreneurial ventures and come back and plug into the system at any point in time in the future. They would have gained valuable skills and experience and be clearer about what modules they want to take. This also helps the institutions be more targeted in what they deliver.”

He said that he’s prepared to have students chart their own paths in this new education landscape.

Advice for a young person heading to university

Finally, he hoped that students can look beyond just acquiring certifications but look at learning as widely as possible.

Speaking of his varsity days in Cambridge, he told The Straits Times that although he studied economics, he also read up on biology, behavioural science, history and other that were not directly related to the degree courses that he was taking. The reason? He wanted that span of knowledge and inquiry, and wanted new tools to help him think about the issues of the world,” he said.

“We must develop a lifelong passion of inquiry, to learn things beyond what is covered in exams. And that really enriches your perspective and helps you to have a much richer understanding of the subjects that you are studying.”

You can read the entire interview here.

Cover photo credit: Chan Chun Sing Facebook page