Speech by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education at the Launch of Collaborations Involving Apple, SSG, SUTD, RMIT Online and Pathlight School at Artscience Museum

Published Date: 13 March 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. There's a nice quote that I came across previously: There are three apples that changed the world. The first tempted Eve, the second inspired Newton, and the third was offered to the world half-eaten by Steve Jobs.

2. I am happy to join you today to mark the launch of the collaborations between Apple, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and three educational institutions – the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), RMIT Online, and Pathlight School.

3. Through these collaborations, Singaporeans across all ages will be able to pick up coding skills - from introductory courses for beginners, to Professional Conversion Programmes for those who wish to enter the sector, and specialised programmes for those who are already in the sector. I want to especially thank Apple for forging these partnerships, and initiating them to create learning opportunities for our people.

4. Literacy is a basic and big part of our education system. Language literacy is critically important, and has to start from young, because it is a generative skill that makes learning everything else possible. In Singapore schools, we focus on English because of its value as a global business language; and Mother Tongue literacy because it helps the different ethnic groups in Singapore know about our own culture.

5. Digital literacy could well be considered a critical third form of literacy for the future. Not everyone needs to be an IT expert, or a professional coder. But digital technology is going to be ubiquitous, and drive almost everything we do. All of us must be able to live alongside, and make use of digital technology, much like how all of us need to know English and our Mother Tongue languages to function happily in our society. With this in mind, we need to start to demystify digital technology for the masses, and make its learning accessible to everyone.

6. We have been expanding the range of digital-oriented initiatives across our education and training landscape in Singapore. For school-going young children, we do this through the Code for Fun enrichment programme, which has been available at all our primary and secondary schools since 2017. This joint effort between MOE and the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) exposes our students to coding and computational thinking, complementing what they learn in Mathematics class about logical thinking and problem solving. This lays the foundation for students to pursue their interests in digital technology further through Infocomm Club Co-Curricular Activities or Applied Learning Programmes in their schools.

7. Several schools have also started creating a digital environment where students use wearable technology to make electronic payments in the school canteens and stationery shops. Through an app, their parents can keep watch over their children's spending, savings, and eating habits. Some parents protested and said they prefer cash, because children can see that they are not saving when the cash disappears. But we have to get used to looking at digital numbers. We are progressively rolling out the Parents Gateway mobile app to all schools. It provides a digital platform for schools to communicate with parents on school programmes and activities, and handle administrative matters more efficiently. This also helps reduce administrative workload on teachers.

8. We have also leveraged technology in conducting lessons. Over the last two years, we have progressively rolled out the Singapore Student Learning Space (SLS). This online learning portal holds the materials for the entire curriculum of our school subjects – across all subjects and levels. It provides students with resources to prepare for classes and revisit lessons. Teachers, through the SLS, can see different approaches and ideas to conduct their classes. And if they come up with a good idea, they can upload it onto the app. It is a dynamic space which is still being built up. I think the growth will be exponential, and it will be strategic to education delivery in the future.

9. We have also started to explore e-examinations, beginning with the implementation of e-oral examinations – where students talk about a video instead of a picture - across all levels for Mother Tongue Language subjects. This will be extended to GCE “N” and “O” Level English in 2019 and 2020 respectively. We have also piloted computer-based writing examinations for Mother Tongue Language and Literature, and so far the feedback has been quite positive.

10. At our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), we are ramping up our digital talent pipeline to meet the growing demand for specialists in this area. Over the last three years, the intake for Infocomm Technology courses at the National University of Singapore has more than doubled, while Nanyang Technological University’s has grown by nearly 50%. SMU will be offering new computer-related courses such as the B.Sc. (Computer Science) with IT Solution Development major, for which they plan to double their initial intake over the next three years. And of course SUTD has always had a strong pillar in IT.

11. Our IHLs have also worked with various partners to roll out FinTech programmes, covering areas such as e-payment solutions, to students and teachers. Many IHLs have also created makerspaces and incubation projects, such as Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Sandbox for innovation and entrepreneurship projects, or the Singapore Institute of Technology’s SkillsCraft Community Innovation Makerspace. The experience of a student in an IHL today is so different. Back in the day, we spent most of our time in libraries. Today’s libraries do not even have books – everything is accessed digitally. Today, students are spending their time in makerspaces creating and tinkering with all kinds of gadgets instead. These spaces encourage our students to exercise their computational thinking skills to design, build and create things, using high-tech equipment.

12. As for our working adults, we have a programme called SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace, a short one- or two-day workshop, which is heavily subsidised, and rolled out nationwide. It is our basic community programme to help Singaporeans equip themselves with basic digital skills, so that we can all be users of digital technology. For the more initiated, they can also take up training programmes in data analytics or cyber security, which has been made available through Government programmes such as the SkillsFuture Series and the TechSkills Accelerator.

13. All these are part of the Singapore Government’s strong digital push in our education and training ecosystem. We will continue to press on ahead with this effort, and I welcome this latest collaboration centring around Apple. Since coding is as much about the application of computer science as it is about the art of creating innovative solutions, it is quite fitting that we celebrate their launch here today in this beautiful museum. And just like the lotus flower that this building resembles, I look forward to seeing these collaborations blossom and grow.

Share this article: