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Speech by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Education, at the Nus115 Distinguished Speaker Series – Shaping the Future of Education

Published Date: 03 December 2020 12:00 PM

News Speeches

Professor Tan Eng Chye, President of NUS

Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,

1. I am very happy to join you this morning as the inaugural speaker for this series on shaping our future. Let me also thank Eng Chye for his kind words during his introduction, especially on the work of the Multi Ministerial Task Force. Each time someone tells me that they depend on me to keep Singapore safe, I get very worried. I tell them that we are all in this together, and that I depend on everyone to keep all of us safe. Hopefully, all of us continue to cooperate with the measures, stay vigilant and keep our guard up.

2. Let me start by also congratulating NUS on your 115th anniversary. You are more than double the age of our independent nation, and one of our most valuable public institutions. Many NUS faculty and graduates have played important roles in the pivotal milestones of our history, and I am sure many more will continue to shape Singapore's future. So, it is fitting that you mark this anniversary year not just by looking back on past achievements, but also thinking about the future. I understand NUS has a whole slate of speakers lined up. I am sure the perspectives from this series of speeches will be useful in helping NUS plan for its continued success.

3. As an education institution, NUS will naturally be focused on the future of education. And that is also our preoccupation in MOE. We all know the world is changing, so how should our education system in Singapore evolve, to better prepare our students for this new world?


4. To answer this question, we will need to think first about what the future holds for all of us. No one can predict the future. The phrase "This Time is Different" is sometimes regarded as the four most dangerous words in Finance, because there are many instances where someone said "This time, it is different, so you better invest". These predictions have turned out to be wrong with disastrous consequences for investors. But there is good reason to believe that we are entering a new phase, and the world as we know it will be quite different at some point during our lifetime, and possibly within the next 10-20 years.

5. What are some of these changes? We can expect a more complex and fractured world. Across countries, we see the international order becoming less benign and more unpredictable, and tensions and rivalry amongst great powers will continue to rise. Within countries everywhere, there is a sense of growing divisions and inequalities, of tribalism within organisations, and people sorting into "us" vs "them" camps.

6. Meanwhile, we continue to see the relentless advance of the digital age. There is more information generated in a year today than in all the previous existence of humankind on earth. Our ability to harness this information is also increasing because the cost of processing, bandwidth, memory, sensors are falling exponentially; and therefore you see the rise of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The fact is that we are only scratching the surface of what these technologies can help us accomplish; there are still tremendous benefits to be reaped, but we also know that it will be a bumpy journey ahead with major disruptions to businesses and workers everywhere.

7. COVID-19 will intensify and accelerate many of these large-scale societal, economic and technology trends. There are major trends that are already underway, which will continue to accelerate – things like online shopping, digital entertainment, virtual communications and even virtual presence. We have already seen a sharp acceleration this year and these trends will surely continue after COVID-19. There will be unequal recovery across industries and across countries, post-pandemic, and there will surely be lasting effects on how we live, work and interact with each other for the foreseeable future.


8. We know there is no single way, there is no single formula for preparing our young for this new and more complex future. But let me outline four broad strategies to build on what we have achieved in education so far, and to seek further improvements in our system.

Levelling up Through Education

9. First, we must double down on our ongoing efforts to maximise opportunities for the more disadvantaged groups, and ensure that education remains an uplifting force for society.

10. We all know that the first few years of life are critical. So we must start early and ensure that every child gets a good start, and that is why the Government has already invested significantly in pre-school affordability, accessibility and quality over the past decade, and we will be doing more. We want to invest more to even out the differences early in life, and give children full access to appropriate health, learning and developmental support. Our interventions will be guided by additional investments in R&D, so we will be putting in more monies into R&D in this area to guide and inform our efforts.

11. In the schooling years, we have provided more resources to students who do not do so well in school, or who come from more challenging backgrounds. We call this "needs-based resourcing", so every school is a good school but some schools get more funding than the others, and the schools that get more funding are the ones with a higher proportion of children who do not do so well, or who come from more challenging family backgrounds. The schools with a greater share of such students need more support and deserve more support, and we give it to them so that they can organise themselves better to give more support to these children, be it in the form of smaller classes or after-school programmes.

12. We are also expanding our UPLIFT programme so that schools and partners can provide better wrap-around support for students from disadvantaged families. UPLIFT is a programme where it is not just outreach with the schools, but we work together with the community and partners to support children from disadvantaged homes. In fact in the last four months since joining MOE, I visited about ten schools. I made it a point to visit schools with a higher proportion of students on financial assistance. I have spoken to the Principals, and they are all very happy with the extra support that they are getting from MOE because they can see this making a real, concrete and tangible difference for their students.

13. So going forward, we will continue this approach of needs-based resourcing and we will look at additional ways where we can tilt our support and resources in favour of the students who need help. One emerging area of focus is mental health. Working with our schools and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL), we want to do more to destigmatise mental health issues, strengthen peer support, recruit more full-time counsellors and have more educators trained as para-counsellors to provide all the support we can for students who need help. We will also continue to strengthen support for children with special needs, in our mainstream as well as our Special Education schools. So that is our first area where we want to level up through education.

Excellence across Multiple Pathways

14. Second, we have long recognised that every child is unique, and we need different approaches to help them learn and grow. So we talk about multiple pathways, and that is an area we must continue to work on. The second area of building excellence across multiple pathways.

15. Over the years, we have created a wide range of options for our students, and they can find the option that suits their strengths, learn at their own pace, and do their best. For example, for those with specialised interests, we have schools like NUS Math and Science School, we have School of Science and Technology, Sports School, and even the School of the Arts.

16. For those who thrive in a more practical, hands-on learning environment, there are schools like Crest and Spectra. Every school across Singapore has its own niche areas where they excel, and so there is excellence across the board in our system. But this work is never complete, and we continue to strive for many more peaks of excellence.

17. But we should also be careful about taking this customised approach too far. For example, in the case of streaming, which is really about a customised approach, this has unfortunately led to stigmatisation and labelling, and a self-limiting mindset amongst students from what they perceive to be a 'lower' stream, and that is why we have decided to make a major move to remove streaming. And by 2024, all students will be on Full Subject-Based Banding, with students mixed together in the same form class, and the flexibility to take subjects at different levels based on their subject-specific strengths, and to learn at their own pace.

18. Multiple pathways must extend beyond schools to tertiary education, and we now have a range of more varied and high-quality institutions – comprehensive universities like NUS and NTU, more focused ones like SMU and SUTD, as well as applied universities like SIT and SUSS; we also have specialised institutions like NAFA and LaSalle; and we have strong skills and vocational pathways anchored by our Polytechnics and ITE.

19. This diversity is a major strength, which we must continue to uphold, because we all know that around the world, too many countries have shifted to an overly academic model of tertiary or university education. In the UK, for example, there was a report commissioned not too long ago. Many of you might have heard about it – the Augar Report on higher education. It highlighted that universities were offering, to quote them, too many "low value" courses. The courses do not deliver outcomes that are in line with the aspirations of the students choosing to study them, or provide a return on investment for the taxpayer. Therefore, the report recommended a rebalancing away from universities towards greater emphasis on lifelong learning and vocational training.

20. Now, this is the UK report. I'm not talking about Singapore. I think, in Singapore, we have been fortunate, to avoid some of these imbalances, because we have paid a lot of attention over the years towards technical and vocational training. That is why we have always said that ITE is the jewel in our education system.

21. Of course, the gold standard for technical and vocational training is Germany – under their "two track" apprentice system, students complete a 3-year apprenticeship with a company, and then they spend about half their time learning on the job, and half at a vocational training school. In Germany, about half of the cohort will go to universities, while the other half undergo such a dual track educational and vocational training, which is regarded very highly by society.

22. We, too, have started Work-Study Programmes in our IHLs, especially in our Polytechnics and ITE. ITE now offers 24 Work-Study Diploma programmes. So, ITE is not just about NITEC and Higher NITEC, it now offers technical Work-Study Diploma programmes. These are 2.5 to 3-year apprenticeship-based programmes, with 70% of the programme delivered through structured on-the-job training. They are an important applied pathway for students to learn, acquire deep skills and relevant work experience.

23. We are starting from a strong position but there is still more that can be done in this space, and therefore I have asked my Second Minister, Dr Maliki to lead a review to see what more we can do to ensure that all ITE and Polytechnic Graduates acquire deep skills and competencies that are well matched to their interests and also the needs of employers and the industry.

Attitudes and Skills Beyond Book Knowledge

24. Thirdly, we need to develop attitudes and skills beyond book knowledge. People worry about robots taking over from humans in the digital age, but there are many things that humans do, which robots and machines will never be able to do.

25. So the way forward for us is to continue to emphasize our competitive advantage and our human strengths: our ability to build relationships with one another, to collaborate and work in teams, to be able to think creatively, to keep on learning spontaneously, serendipitously, to brainstorm and challenge one another and then develop better solutions together. These soft skills may sound like the most natural things in the world and everyone can do that, but in fact, they ought to be practiced continuously.

26. And so, we are doing this early, starting from primary school. We are freeing up time and space by removing assessments and examinations. And with that time, we are focusing on developing what our educators call 21st Century Competencies – Core values like Respect and Resilience, Social-Emotional Competencies like Responsible Decision-Making, and skillsets like Critical and Inventive Thinking.

27. We are also locking in the gains from Home-Based Learning during the circuit breaker. The experience during that period has shown us that HBL can encourage students to be more self-directed in their learning rather than going to class and expecting to be spoonfed with information; they learn to be more independent and adapt to a more unstructured environment. So we are integrating blended learning and flipped classroom concepts into the schooling experience at suitable levels.

28. We are also implementing a new character and citizenship curriculum starting next year, CCE. We are putting greater emphasis on moral values and character, and more time on cyber-wellness and discussion of contemporary issues. This will be weaved into lessons and activities, so it is not just about the CCE subject but CCE becomes an integral part of school life. This is important because we all want our children to do well individually, but it is also very important that they are committed to a larger purpose beyond themselves. Our students should feel a strong sense of duty and responsibility to their fellow citizens; and a readiness to serve and help others succeed.

29. As the Chinese saying goes, 修身齐家治国平天下 – improve upon yourself first, through education, you manage your household, govern the state, and you bring justice and virtue to the world. So we must develop a next generation of Singaporeans who are not only well-skilled, well-trained, able to fulfil their potential, but who are also rooted here in Singapore and have a shared sense of mission to take care of their fellow citizens and our country. All that I've said about what we are doing for life skills, character, values in our schools, must continue in our IHLs.

30. There are various things that IHLs and universities can do. One way is to provide more opportunities for students to engage in innovation and entrepreneurship projects. It is not just about doing a start-up, but because when you engaged in a project like this, you are approaching real world issues with a problem-solving mindset; you don't just get overwhelmed, but you see how to actually tackle the problem and come up with a solution. It is an opportunity to imagine, work together and develop creative solutions. I am glad to see that all universities are building up their innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, as well as giving the students more industry exposure. NUS, for example, has Independent Study Modules where students from diverse disciplines and specialisations come together to tackle specific problems.

31. One team, as I understand, comprised students majoring in Economics, Marketing and Business Analytics - they were attached to an agritech start-up working on alternative meat, like your Beyond Meat and Impossible products. They put together a business and branding strategy proposal for potential investors. They carried out industry research, market sizing and segmentation, as well as consumer perception studies. They had to understand and explain the technology and manufacturing processes used by the company. So they were able to apply the knowledge in their different courses in a real-world setting, and they learned how to work in a diverse team.

32. This is just one example, and there are so many more in NUS and across all our universities. And certainly, this is one way that we can help our students develop their life skills.

33. Another way is to give our students more exposure overseas. Going overseas is not just about spending time abroad and having an excursion or a field trip, but it can be a profound learning experience for our students – a chance to apply what they are learning in a real-world environment overseas, and also importantly, to better understand the region that we are operating in.

34. Hence, our "70-70" target for our IHL students – which means 70% to have general overseas exposure; and 70% of this group to have specific exposure to ASEAN, China and India. We are coupling this with many more opportunities, such as to learn Southeast Asian languages at a conversational level.

35. Currently, about one in two local students go on overseas trips, so it is about half, and slightly more than half of these students go on overseas trips to ASEAN, China and India. So, our target is "70-70", and we are about "50-50" today. We still have some way to go towards our target.

36. Some university faculty have told me that it is not so easy as many of their students would like to go overseas, but they want to go to America and Europe. I am sure many of our faculty in NUS can relate to that too. Therefore, we need to work much harder in creating meaningful overseas opportunities, including work internship opportunities in this part of the world. Here, I would say that NUS is clearly ahead of the game because of your overseas college programmes and extensive linkages to the region. It is important that we do this because Singapore is part of Asia, and the centre of gravity of the world economy is shifting to Asia. All the more for Singapore, which is at the heart of Asia, to have our students understand the region and to be able to operate effectively in the region.

37. The Government will do its part to help in this endeavour. For example, through initiatives like the Singapore-China Youth Interns Exchange Scheme. This is a reciprocal arrangement that will allow up to 500 full-time students and recent graduates from our universities and polytechnics, to take on internships in China for up to six months. This is our first bilateral internship exchange scheme that Singapore has signed with another country. We want to secure more of such bilateral win-win agreements. It will help Singaporean students understand more cultures, gain new insights, broaden their horizons, and hone their soft skills.

Inter-disciplinary learning

38. Fourth, we will need more pervasive inter-disciplinary learning to support career mobility and learning and cognitive agility. We need to do this to prepare Singaporeans for a more dynamic and uncertain future.

39. This concept of inter-disciplinary learning is not new. The debate over the breadth and depth of learning has recurred over the centuries.

40. The earliest institutions of learning in fact emphasised broad-based knowledge. Scholars like Aristotle wrote about a wide range of subjects – from logic, to ethics, to rhetoric, to mathematics, to political theory, to physics, a whole range of subjects. This is not just in the West, because if you look around the world at that time, in the medieval world, wide-ranging knowledge was in fact held in high regard.

41. In China, you see this reflected in Chinese words, like 博学 (broad studies) and 博物 (broad learning). All of us who watch Chinese drama would know that successful candidates selected as mandarins in their system were expected to be generalists, not specialists. The exam for entry, a very high bar, covered subjects such as the Confucian classics, history, law, mathematics, poetry, and proficiency in compiling documents.

42. Islamic scholars too at that time embraced the breadth of knowledge. One study of medieval Damascus noted that, to quote, "exposure to many fields and many teachers was the ideal; rather than specialised training in single subjects". But of course, later on with the industrial revolution, the knowledge of information emerging in so many different fields, the model of a university with individual academic disciplines emerged. This was out of necessity, and understandably so, you cannot have someone looking at many things from a superficial basis, you need to go deep. But, over the years, specialisation has been carried too far. It has been likened by some as a "balkanization" of knowledge, by others as "disciplinary chauvinism".

43. As early as the start of the 20th century, a well-known British sociologist and philosopher wrote, and I quote, "to specialisation, we owe the efficiency and accuracy of modern science. To it, we also owe a loss of freshness and interest, a weakening of the scientific imagination, and a great impairment of science as an instrument of education". This was in 1901, and already people were observing that specialisation had been carried too far. That is why courses like Philosophy, Politics and Economics in Oxford and Cambridge came up shortly after that. Then the idea of cooperative research and cross-fertilisation of knowledge continued to grow through the 20th century. In fact, the term "inter-disciplinary" only came into general use in the 50s, and overtime this has continued to gain momentum.

44. Now, the pendulum has shifted back. From institutionalised specialisation, we now talk about institutionalised interdisciplinary learning. So, it is important to get the balance right. We do not want to swing from one extreme to the other. Subject specialisation is still necessary and will still be important. The explosion of knowledge, particularly in the digital age, makes it impossible for any single person to keep up with what is happening in even a few disciplines. Maybe you have a polymath genius who can straddle a few, but even so it is very difficult.

45. Moreover, different methods will still be needed to tackle different problems. So, we should encourage students with the aptitude and passion to go as far as they can, and excel in their chosen fields. Do not see specialisation as a negative, but at the same time we must think of individual discipline as the different branches on a tree of knowledge. The branches are constantly growing and producing new twigs, but remember we are ultimately part of the same tree. We must nurture the ability to see the broader connection of things and to work seamlessly across different disciplines. Because often, it is in the borders or the gaps between disciplines where we find opportunities for new discoveries and we can advance the frontiers of knowledge.

46. We must prepare students to appreciate the realities of life, where many issues are complex and cross-cutting. Problems in the real-world cannot be solved by an engineer alone, or an architect or a scientist, or anyone from a single discipline —it really needs different skillsets to come together.

47. I have visited many of our IHLs over the recent months, and I am very glad that they are all very focused on ways to introduce more inter-disciplinary elements into their curriculum.

48. They are reviewing common core curriculum before specialisation in order to give students a wider exposure across different subjects, to see connections and to improve the understanding of global issues. NUS, again, is ahead of the curve in this respect. The IHLs are also looking at important foundational skills, competencies such as data and digital literacy. It is not just for STEM students, because in a digital world, everyone must be comfortable with the use of data, as well as analytical and digital tools.

49. One approach is to have a common curriculum before you specialise. Others are looking for more flexibility for double degrees and double majors, and to give students a wider exposure to elective subjects. Yet, another approach is to have inter-disciplinary project teams as part of the curriculum, so students from different majors come together and tackle a project, often together with the industry.

50. These are the different things institutions are doing. I was happy to see quite a number of institutions thinking of more radical ideas and taking bolder steps. For example, I visited Nanyang Polytechnic and they have designed a diploma programme in Business Intelligence & Analytics with quite a different approach. They started out by challenging the lecturers, asking them if they were to think through to design a polytechnic diploma from scratch today, what would it be? Set aside subjects and departments, just think about today, and a fresh start, how would you do it?

51. They decided to teach by competencies rather than traditional subjects. They designed a course on Business Intelligence & Analytics and thought about the competencies needed. For example, one module would be on statistical research methods. In teaching that competency module, you would bring together different subjects like probability, statistics, data analytics, and even business writing and communications. So, you are no longer teaching subjects in silos, but you look at competencies, and you bring the subjects together. Which means that for every competency unit, there will be different subject teachers coming together to co-develop and co-teach.

52. You can already imagine that this is a massive endeavour, it is very complex and you need to get the buy-in from all the lecturers. NYP has started this for one diploma programme, and I think it is a worthwhile endeavour. To make sure they were on the right track, they discussed with the industry and were very happy to see that this new approach was endorsed by industry leaders like Google, Microsoft, Oracle and SAS.

53. I have tried to describe all the different approaches that institutions are doing in this space. I think it is exciting to see the innovation, the preparedness to be bold and to be radical. I would encourage all our institutions, universities, polytechnics and ITE, to continue to challenge yourselves to go further and push the boundaries of interdisciplinary learning.

SkillsFuture and Lifelong Learning

54. Finally, everyone must embrace lifelong learning as a personal habit and an integral way of life. The traditional way of thinking is that academia and industry inhabit two separate worlds. IHLs focus on educating students, and companies recruit the students for work, and never the twain shall meet. But this model is outdated, and it is no longer fit for purpose.

55. Graduates will have to learn new things multiple times in their working lives. This also means that there is less pressure for IHLs to front load knowledge during their formal years of studies. We can stretch out education and learning with regular injects throughout a person's career. Individuals can learn and train from the company itself. They can get high-quality programmes offered through third parties and there are many offerings now-a-days, or they can also take up modules offered by IHLs. These modules can be stacked and can lead to a specialist diploma, a post-diploma, a degree, or a Masters.

56. Several Singaporeans are already embracing this concept of lifelong learning. For example, Mr Eric Liu, who is in his late 30s and graduated from NUS with highest honours last year with a degree in electronics engineering. He started his career as a production technician, then he found his work too routine and wanted to upgrade himself. So, he enrolled himself in a part-time diploma programme in Electronic Engineering from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Later, he did a part-time degree programme at NUS. With his new skills, he continued to progress in his career, and he has just started a new job last week as a digital hardware engineer in ST Engineering. Eric's story is an inspiration to all of us and we want to see many more like him, who will pursue active learning throughout their careers.

57. Our IHLs and universities must support this endeavour. How would you do so? Firstly, by forging closer links with industry. Facilitate more industry exchanges and collaborations and help build up industry workplace training capabilities. Because employers must take responsibility and ownership of skills utilisation. If it is just led by training providers or universities, it will not work. Companies and employers must be an integral part of this process.

58. Hence, the importance of workplace learning. Because we all know a lot of learning takes place on the job. It is often of learning by doing, it is a process of trial and error, but sometimes it is also through feedback and tips from colleagues, or just by watching how other people do it. Too much of learning is ad-hoc today, it is not systematic, it is not structured, it is not even deliberately thought-through. It is just ad-hoc.

59. We need to do better in terms of workplace learning, and that is why we have collaborated with best-in-class partners from Switzerland and Germany, and we have set up a National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (NACE). We will be launching more of such centres within our IHLs, we already have a few - in the polytechnics and in the Singapore Institute of Technology - and together we can reach out to many more companies, especially SMEs, and help them develop best practices in workplace learning capabilities.

60. So, this partnership between universities and companies, through workplace learning is an important strategy.

61. Secondly, all IHLs, especially our universities, must build relationships with your graduates. It is not just about a 4-year relationship, but you will need to build a lifelong relationship with all of your students.

62. It is not just about getting them to donate as alumni, but it is about supporting your students after they enter the workforce. Continuously engaging your alumni to update themselves on latest trends in industry, to help them grow their professional networks, and encouraging them to proactively upskill and reskill.

63. That is another new area for universities, thinking about this whole phase of continuing education and training (CET). In my visits to all the universities, I am very happy to see that in the last five years, there has truly been a sea change, all the universities are putting in a lot of effort into this area and building up their CET departments and offering more modules. This is truly a growth area because we have to build this up.

64. This goes back to a more fundamental point that we need to think about, how we evolve our system of education to support learning through life. It is not just about front loading in the early years, but learning through life and we need a whole infrastructure to support this.

65. We started by putting SkillsFuture Singapore under the Ministry of Education. And that is an important first step – we have broadened the mandate of MOE. But we are still fairly new in this journey, and there is still a lot of work to be done.

66. As I said, we need to build up a whole nationwide infrastructure for continued education and training. It is more complex than doing it for pre-employment training. Because in this space, on the supply side and on the training side, there are many players. We have online training providers, companies doing in-house training, and training by private and public institutions, including IHLs and universities. So what is the right balance and model that we should adopt?

67. At the same time, on the demand side, from the individual's perspective, we do want to encourage them to be more self-directed, to take charge of their own learning journey. Hence, we have set up individual learning accounts and given everyone SkillsFuture Credits.

68. Overall, we have to develop a new model for Singapore. We will be investing more in SkillsFuture and lifelong learning; we want to put in more investments in this area. But we will have to think through how the funds are allocated, on the supply and demand sides, and how we shape individual and firm-level incentives to achieve the best outcomes.

69. We are working on this in a systematic fashion. It is not just in MOE alone, but across the whole of Government. We have looked around the world – no country has a good model for adult education and training in place today.

70. In many ways, we are already at the forefront of policy thinking in this area, and we will have to continue to innovate and experiment with new programmes and ideas. So we look forward to working with all stakeholders, especially with our universities, to advance our SkillsFuture movement, and to better support every Singaporean in this journey of lifelong learning,

71. So I have described some fundamental changes that will be needed in our education system, including at the tertiary level. The critical success factor behind all of these plans is effective implementation – we can talk about plans all day, but we need to see it translated into action on the ground. And I recognise that this is not always easy, especially in universities.

72. Someone told me that the basic structure of a university course has not changed in a hundred years. Maybe that is an exaggeration, but there are some truths to that. Another person shared with me recently that it is easier to change the course of history than to change a history course in a university. It may be so.

73. But these are observations, not just in Singapore but around the world. I am glad that in Singapore, our universities do take a different mindset. All of our universities are breaking new ground and staying on the cutting edge of teaching and research.

74. I have spoken to all our University Presidents over the recent months. They are determined that institutions should not be ivory towers, but they should be towers of excellence, contributing to the health and wellbeing of our people and our nation.

75. I am especially inspired by how all our university and IHL educators have responded during this period of COVID-19 and circuit breaker. Because all of you had to quickly switch to online teaching, many of you have seen the tremendous potential in using technology to improve teaching and learning outcomes. And you are advancing new models of teaching and learning.

76. For example, by mainstreaming blended learning, flipped classrooms, things that we talked about in schools earlier, I am sure many of you are already pushing the boundary in our universities. You are using AI and analytics to improve real-time learning feedback, and to better understand student profiles and learning outcomes.

77. It requires a lot of work on the part of the professor. I see this in our schools too; our teachers tell me it is a lot of work. And I can imagine it is a lot of work too, especially at the higher level. It is not just about bringing in the technology alone, but integrating it with the application, from pedagogy to lesson design to capability development. But I want to appreciate and thank all of you for taking this extra step to enhance teaching and learning for the benefit of our students.

78. NUS can lead the way in this journey of transformation. You are already doing so and you can continue being the leader. You may be our oldest university, but you are not old in your mindset and thinking; you continue to have a start-up mindset.

79. You are already making bold transformations in your curriculum, for example by pushing ahead with inter-disciplinary changes, launching new inter-disciplinary undergraduate programmes in order to equip students for the future.

80. But you are going beyond curriculum changes, you are even looking at organisational changes, new organisational structures for your faculty, like the idea of creating a new College of Humanities & Sciences.

81. These are bold, radical moves. I recognise that it is not easy, but the leadership of NUS has taken it upon itself, recognising the importance and imperatives for change, engaging faculty across the universities and deliberately implementing these changes step-by-step.

82. NUS is also at the forefront not just in the education space, but also in the research space. You have distinguished yourself with your rapid response in working on a vaccine and developing test kits for COVID-19, by tapping on your world-class research capabilities and networks. You saw that in the video just now, but there are a whole range of different research areas in which NUS is excelling.

83. So you are truly upholding your mission - to be a leading global university shaping the future. And I want to commend all of you in your efforts, and I encourage you to continue pushing the boundaries, transforming the university, to be even further at the frontiers.


84. Singapore's continued success and the quality of our education system are inextricably linked. Singaporeans are our only natural resource, and we must do everything we can to prepare every child and every worker for a world of change and opportunity.

85. For a small city state, this is an investment that is worth making. As a nation, by making such investments, we can maximise our human capital and capabilities. But more importantly, as individual Singaporeans, we can realise our human potential, fulfil our aspirations, and lead more meaningful lives.

86. In conclusion, we all know that this year has been a tumultuous year, it has been an exceptional year, but I would say this: it is often in our darkest hours that we find motivation and strength to evolve and emerge stronger.

87. This is true for everyone, it is just human nature. When things are comfortable, it is so easy to just settle back for the status quo, and there is a reluctance to push yourself out of your comfort zone. But when we talk about transforming our education system, it is necessary to get out of the comfort zone.

88. Let us make use of this opportunity, let us make use of this crisis, to transform the education system, to make it better, and to better benefit all Singaporeans and Singapore. Thank you very much.