In an increasingly digitally-connected world, where overload of information becomes a risk, the ability to makes sense of things is especially important for learners to make sense and choices anchored by values, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.
He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Ninth Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference, at Nanyang Technological University on May 30, 2022, speaking to some 700 educators.
The education minister also gave six other shifts that Singapore’s teaching and learning systems must strive to achieve.
1. Learning the art of sensemaking
As information overload is becoming a real risk, the art of sensemaking is crucial for learners and they must start young, said Minister Chan.
“We must help our students acquire the skills of critical thinking, verification of sources of information, and appreciate diverse perspectives to come to their own deeper conclusions and understanding of an issue. This is part of our overall Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) roadmap,” he said.
2. Finding tomorrow’s solutions and framing tomorrow’s challenges right
“Beyond understanding yesterday’s solutions for yesterday’s challenges; teaching and learning must now increasingly focus on finding tomorrow’s solutions and framing tomorrow’s challenges right,” said Minister Chan.
He went on to give two examples of this.
Over at Commonwealth Secondary School, students are taught Design Thinking. By working with grassroots and other community organisations to understand their needs first, students then design the appropriate solutions.
“Through these experiences, students are trained to exercise empathy, ask the right questions and then prototype out-of-the-box solutions. Hence, to ask the right question is fundamental.”
And at Singapore Polytechnic’s Learning Express programme, selected students go on overseas trips to learn new languages, experience new environments and build relationships with others.
“All these are just a few examples of how we want to help our students frame their challenges right before they even begin their attempt to find the next solution,” he added.
3. Providing diverse methods to meet the diverse learning needs of students
The early method of training our people using a standardised model was born out of necessity as we had fewer resources.
Today, other than the Independent Schools, Integrated Programme schools, Singapore has a range of school models such as NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, the School of the Arts, Singapore Sports School, Assumption Pathway School and Crest Secondary School.
He added that the diversity of schools, coupled with the Subject-Based Banding model, “cater to the diversity of our students’ strengths, interests and aptitudes”.
“Unlike the previous “one-size-fits-all” approach, customising learning like this requires more resources. But where we can, we will give our students a diversity of choices to maximise their potential. And this an ongoing journey… Ultimately, diversity will also strengthen our system resilience in an uncertain world by enhancing our ability to constantly evolve new solutions,” he said.
4. Teaching and learning better beyond the physical classroom
Beyond teaching and learning in a physical classroom, we have to learn and teach beyond the physical and virtual domains; both in schools and outside the school, he said of the fourth shift.
To that end, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is developing an Adaptive Learning System for Mathematics that recommends a step-by-step pathway customised for each learner and a Learning Feedback Assistant for English that provides immediate feedback on their writing.
Such adaptive learning tools powered by Artificial Intelligence can provide personalised guidance to students. he said.
On the teaching front, MOE is also developing teachers’ proficiency in e-Pedagogy via professional development resources and online learning modules.
And to inculcate lifelong learning, Institute of Adult Learning has also been set up to facilitate research in adult learning and build a stronger adult learning ecosystem.
5. Leveraging on team strengths to evolve, progress and rollout best practices faster
To achieve this, there must be more sharing across context and even across generations, enabled by technology, data and analytics, said Minister Chan.
One example he cited was the Singapore Learning Designers Community. Consisting of more than 20,000 educators, they come together to share, learn and collaborate on technology-enabled learning.
He added: “How well we are able to collaborate with one another will determine the speed of our evolution within our education system. The better we are able to do this, the faster we evolve, and the better we are able to serve our cause of bringing up a new generation of learners.”
6. Focusing on the socio-emotional and mental resilience foundations for learners
The shift from the pursuit of educational excellence to focusing on socio-emotional and mental resilience foundations is an important one as it helps develop students with broader perspectives and, importantly, emphasises on mental health and cyber wellness.
“Schools will sensitise students to their sense of personal well-being and mental health, and equip them with help-seeking and peer support competencies,” he said.
An enhanced LifeSkills curriculum by the Institutes of Higher Learning also develops competencies such as critical thinking, communication and engagement skills, self-awareness and mental resilience in students, helping broaden students’ perspectives on local and international issues.
7. Leveraging on the strengths of our community networks
“It has often been said that it takes a village to bring up a child. If so, then the art of mobilising the village strength must be a core competency for our teaching fraternity,” he said.
But first, teachers must understand the village.
Current examples on broadening teachers’ perspectives on what is happening in the community and the world include short-term attachments outside of the education system – in the public and private sectors.
“We want our teachers to go out to learn, to grow and to bring back new perspectives to enrich our own fraternity in order to improve the way we teach and learn in our schools.”