Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing has been giving a very different take of what we think going to school means on his TikTok channel @chanchunsingsg.
These past few weeks, he has been busy visiting school students across Singapore, experiencing the skills they acquire in (and out) of class.
We are not talking about techniques for speed-writing GP essays, or solving abstract mathematical quandaries involving Helen’s & Ivan’s coins.
We are looking at vertical farming for veggies, how to secure aircraft and why rock-climbing up a transparent “Circuit Board” is great for including people with disabilities (PWDs).
Minister Chan’s visits reflect how education in Singapore is moving away from a “meritocracy of grades, towards a meritocracy of skills” with the PAP Government.
Singapore University of Social Sciences: The farming
“Fresh and sustainable,” reads Minister Chan’s video caption (Apr 21) about the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) Fish Tank — and the greens which students grow there.
The Fish Tank is a co-working space which currently houses high-tech vertical farming facilities under the SUSS Agri-preneur programme.
Minister Chan planted veggies there too, adding seeds and carefully (check out the video, he is really careful) transferring saplings around the Fish Tank.
Considering how land-scarce Singapore is, the Agri-preneur programme is one where students are concretely making a difference.
We are looking at a cohort that can potentially feed Singaporeans healthy food from a small yet effective farming plot.
Nanyang Polytechnic: The aircrafting
Minister Chan spent another visit learning how to do pre-flight safety inspections at Nanyang Polytechnic and its Aerospace Hub.
He checked the wings and propellers of a small plane for defects, all the way down to their nuts and bolts.
“My teacher,” reads Minister Chan’s caption when an NYP student shows him exactly how to secure those nuts, bolts and other fasteners on the aircraft so that it stays together throughout its journey.
Vibrations, Minister Chan notes, do loosen the parts of the aircraft during flight.
This is applied and practical knowledge which Minister Chan has picked up on his school visit.
And very pertinent each time people travel overseas for work or play.
Republic Polytechnic: The climbing
The first thing you might notice about the 3–storey-high rock-climbing “Circuit Board” wall at the Xperiential Learning Centre in Republic Polytechnic (RP) is that it is totally transparent.
“We will be able to monitor the participant who may have hearing impairments,” explains RP student Jia Hui, who is Minister Chan’s climbing demonstrator for the day.
“We can also follow the person on the other side of the wall, and we can also make sure they are doing well,” she adds.
Anyone who has done rock-climbing knows how important it is to be on the same page as the people below who have the rope (aka “your very life”) in their hands.
Here, the clear Circuit Board includes people with disabilities in rock-climbing safely; this by helping others observe and guide them smoothly through the climbing route at all heights.
Indeed, as the video shows (Apr 13), Jiahui and her coursemate reach the top together.
#skillup for Singaporeans
So, the PAP Government’s education plan for Singapore focuses on skills, not just grades.
“We will press on with our efforts to develop 21st Century Competencies in all our students, so that they can thrive amidst constant changes in our world,” said Minister Chan recently (Apr 18).
He added the Government will regularly refresh the curriculum to meet student needs while strengthening all-round learning.
“This will allow our students to develop an empowering portfolio of skills that will serve them well whatever they end up doing, including adaptability, resilience, and the ability to think critically and inventively,” said Minister Chan.
“We value our people’s diverse abilities. We will continue to move away from evaluating our people’s diverse abilities by any single, static, and narrow metric — be it PSLE results, grade point averages, or whether they hold a degree or diploma.”
This valuing of diversity goes with how the PAP Government is encouraging diverse (and lifelong) learning journeys, fairly rewarding “heart” and “hand” skilled work, uplifting disadvantaged students and nurturing public-spirited people which give back to society.
Minister Chan will be there to see these changes through. Both at the level of policy and on the ground.
Afterall, he visited 55 schools in 2022 — or more than one a week. 2023 looks to be similarly hands-on for him.