Opening Address by Mr Ong Ye Kung at the Lifelong Learning Festival 2015

Published Date: 07 November 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Tan Kay Yong,
Chairman, Lifelong Learning Council

Mr Ng Cher Pong,
Chief Executive, Singapore Workforce Development Agency

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning. I am happy to join you at the Lifelong Learning Festival 2015.

Last year, we launched the SkillsFuture movement. It is partly to respond to a changing world with changing demands for skills and knowledge. It is also to open up opportunities for our young to pursue their passions, fulfil their aspirations, and develop to their fullest potential regardless of their starting points. In an earlier speech, I have explained that these need not be trade-offs, just as the society is ultimately made up of individuals and individuals cannot live without society, and the fates of individuals and society are intertwined and mutually dependent.

Mindset of Lifelong Learning

A key thrust for supporting SkillsFuture is fostering a culture of lifelong learning amongst Singaporeans. It takes an entire community to build this mindset. Thus, the Lifelong Learning Council, comprising representatives from the private, people and public sectors, was set up in October 2014 to inspire and lead community efforts to promote lifelong learning.

The Council has held several focus group discussions and engagement workshops with Singaporeans from all stages of life - parents with young children, adults and seniors. The Council spoke with, listened and co-created solutions with them.

A key finding by the Council was that lifelong learning must begin with the individual. The Government will provide the supporting systems, but lifelong learning must start with the individual wanting to take ownership for his or her learning and development. In our day to day lives, we will come across many individuals who are eager to learn regardless of their ages. That is why IT courses for seniors at the Community Clubs are always well subscribed.

Mr Morris Ng is such an individual. When he retired after a career spanning 38 years, he decided to pursue music - an interest which he had deferred due to his busy work-life. Two years ago, at the age of 73, he started to learn to play the ukulele. He took the opportunity during ukulele lessons to learn from his younger classmates to use social media. But Mr Ng did not just stop at ukulele lessons. He recently completed a Performing Arts course at the LASALLE College of the Arts, and performed in two stage plays. His latest project is learning to play the drums for Chingay 2016. Mr Ng is truly an inspiring active ager who shows that it is never too late to pursue one’s life interest and to keep learning new skills.

Personal Ownership for Learning - SkillsFuture Credit

To encourage personal ownership for learning, Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam had announced during Budget 2015 that Singaporeans aged 25 and above will receive $500 of SkillsFuture Credit in 2016. This is over and above the significant upfront subsidy of course fees of thousands of courses available in the market. SkillsFuture Credit is not meant to be just a monetary grant, but is also a clear signal that each of us is empowered, and need to take charge of our own skills advancement.

I am pleased to announce that the SkillsFuture Credit will be available for use for skills-related courses starting from 1 January 2016. Every Singaporean will receive a letter in January informing you of your SkillsFuture Credit account activation. The Credit can be used to pay for the fees of these courses, on top of existing Government course fee subsidies. The Government will also make periodic top-ups to the accounts. So, I encourage Singaporeans to take time to plan your learning journey, and make the best use of the Credit.

For a start, the Credit can be used for about 10,000 approved courses. These include courses subsidised or approved by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), including online courses; selected courses offered by the Ministry of Education (MOE)-funded institutions; courses supported by public agencies; SkillsFuture@PA courses offered by the People’s Association and courses offered by the Infocomm Development Authority’s participating Silver Infocomm Junctions. These courses span 57 areas of interest. More details will be made available by WDA in the next few weeks. WDA will continue to work with training providers and government agencies to build up the range of the courses available for use over time.

Co-creating Community-Led Learning Opportunities

Besides personal ownership for learning, the Lifelong Learning Council also found that it is important for individuals and communities to co-create learning activities and experiences.

Thus, with WDA’s support, the Council will be launching a $3 million LearnSG seed fund. The Fund encourages and empowers Singaporeans to come up with ideas, and organise learning activities and projects. We hope to grow many ground-up projects to encourage learning and benefit the community. The Council can also collaborate with you to scale up some of these projects to a national level. You will be able to submit applications from January 2016 and more details will be released by the Council soon.

Lifelong Learning Festival & lifelong learning initiatives

This weekend’s Lifelong Learning Festival augments the many SkillsFuture initiatives that have been introduced. This festival, which will be held annually, is a new initiative that brings together community partnerships to raise awareness and inspire lifelong learning. I am heartened to see participation and support from over 35 partners, showcasing various learning activities on both work-skills and life-skills.

The Council will also be rolling out another initiative called Tinkerama, in partnership with National Library Board. It is a hands-on experiential learning activity to encourage both children and adults to learn through play. It seeks to make learning fun and enjoyable for all. The Council will bring this activity around the island to various parts of the community so that more can benefit from the experience.

The Council will continue to work with partners to integrate learning efforts across communities, employers, unions, education and training providers, trade associations and the Government so as to make learning more pervasive. It welcomes more partners to come on this journey together.

Conclusion

Lifelong learning is intensely rewarding and fulfilling. It increases our confidence, keeps our minds alert and helps us stay in touch with what is going on in the world. Today, we are building a new culture - one that celebrates and values learning for the joy and sense of fulfilment that it brings, one where learning is an intrinsic part of daily life, and deeply entrenched in the social fabric. On this note, I wish you an enriching time at the Festival today and to make every day a learning day.

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