MOE FY2021 Committee of Supply Debate Response by Second Minister for Education Dr Maliki Osman

Published Date: 03 March 2021 09:25 PM

News Speeches

Learn for Life: Equipping Ourselves for a Changing World

1. Mr Chairman, MOE is committed to bring out the best in every student, regardless of their starting point in life.

Uplifting Every Child

2. The "Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce", or UPLIFT, was set up in 2018.

3. Through UPLIFT, we aim to safeguard social mobility and strengthen support for students from disadvantaged families, by helping them to achieve their full potential.

4. Like Mr Eric Chua, many of us have come across these students in our work. They face challenges like irregular attendance, and some struggle with self-confidence and motivation. Oftentimes we find that they lack a structured home environment after school.

5. While the number of students facing these challenges is small, MOE is committed to ensure that all students have the support that they need to do their best and to grow up well.

Strengthening After-School Care and Support

6. One of UPLIFT's key strategies is to strengthen after-school care and support, especially for those who do not have conducive home environments.

7. I am pleased to inform Mr Don Wee that we have set up a Student Care Centre (SCC) in every primary school since last year.

8. The school-based SCCs provide a safe and nurturing environment for students after school hours, where they can enjoy lunch, an afternoon snack, complete their homework and participate in various enrichment activities. Schools prioritise their students from disadvantaged backgrounds when allocating SCC places, and are committed to expanding capacity where necessary.

9. We are concerned about students who may benefit from the SCCs but are not currently enrolled. Thus, all primary schools have started proactively reaching out to parents of these students this year, to encourage them to enrol their children in these SCCs. The teachers guided families through the enrolment process and streamlined the process for financial support.

10. Secondary schools have put in place the GEAR-UP programme, targeting students who would benefit from more structured after-school supervision and support. These help schools identify students' needs early, to better strengthen and customise their learning and socio-emotional support.

Expanding UPLIFT Efforts to Support More Students

11. Beyond our schools, UPLIFT seeks to provide the necessary support for disadvantaged students and their families.

12. This was why we started the UPLIFT Community Pilot, in Boon Lay, Kreta Ayer and Woodlands starting January 2020.

13. In these three towns, we introduced an UPLIFT Town-Level Coordinator or TLC to smoothen the flow of information and coordinate support for the family from community agencies.

14. The work of the TLCs is important, as community agencies might not always be able to identify the children and families who need their support. Conversely, schools might not be aware of all the community resources available to support their students.

15. We are also recruiting volunteers as UPLIFT family befrienders, to check in with the families regularly, mentor and guide them, and assist the TLCs.

16. The first batch of about 50 befrienders completed their training in December last year, and have recently been matched with families.

17. Let me provide an example of the wrap-around support provided by our TLC.

18. I recently visited Mohammed Nazri and his wife Mariana, both in their mid-30s. They have five children in primary school, and a sixth child who is just under one-year-old.

19. Nazri's TLC has been supporting the family since early 2020, when the children's school attendance was irregular.

20. The TLC first found out that Nazri and his children lived in Malaysia for several years. When the family returned to Singapore, the children found it difficult to adjust as they were behind their peers academically.

21. One of the first things that the TLC did was to enrol the children in MENDAKI's weekend tuition classes, and also worked with MENDAKI to source for volunteer academic coaches to mentor and inspire the children, and provide more individualised support.

22. As mentioned, UPLIFT's support goes beyond the children. The TLC has been supporting the parents too. For example, he linked Mariana up with AMP Singapore, which has schemes to support her interest in setting up a micro business, to enable her to earn an income while caring for her infant. When the child is ready to be placed in a childcare centre, we will assist her to do so, and help her look for a more permanent job. The TLC will also explore upgrading support for Nazri, who is a food delivery rider, to help him secure a more sustainable job.

23. Apart from the TLC, the family has been matched with two befrienders. One of them is an IT professional, Raj, who has helped the children ease into online learning.

24. I hear that the children's attendance has improved over the past one year, and they are more engaged in their learning. I wish Nazri and his family all the very best. Mr Speaker, their story is a powerful reminder of what we can achieve through UPLIFT. I am confident that together, we can secure a brighter future for Nazri and his family, and many other families like theirs.

25. The UPLIFT Community Pilot has yielded positive outcomes, with about 80% of the students placed in the pilot in early 2020 attending school more regularly.

26. As such, from February this year, we have expanded our coverage to include more students, such as students living in rental flats as we work closely with Community Link (ComLink) set up by MSF.

27. We will also extend the UPLIFT Community Pilot into Bukit Merah. Together with the coverage of students living in rental flats, we are working to support students from about 70 schools who are living in the pilot sites by the end of this year. This means we will surpass our original target of 300 students supported by the community pilot by 2022.

Deepening Partnerships with the Community

28. Community partnerships are key to the success of UPLIFT, and must continue.

29. Many community partners have stepped forward to support students from disadvantaged families, who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

30. We will continue to bring on board more community partners, work with them to curate suitable programmes, and connect them with schools whose students would benefit most.

31. Our work in UPLIFT is a whole-of-society effort. We will continue to press on, working hand in hand with the community to ensure no child is left behind.

32. When I took over as Chairperson of UPLIFT, I wanted to deepen our collaboration with Self-Help Groups and also brought People's Association on board the taskforce. They have brought valuable expertise and experience to take UPLIFT forward.

33. We will also continue to work closely with MSF and other government agencies to synergise across different initiatives, like ComLink, KidSTART, and community programmes like M3. This is part of Government's commitment to strengthen our social service delivery.

Review of Opportunities and Pathways in Applied Education

34. Mr Speaker, Ms Janet Ang, Ms Mariam Jaafar and Dr Wan Rizal have also spoken about how our applied education pathways must continue to prepare our graduates for the future.

35. We have made significant progress over the past few years and I am leading an ongoing review of opportunities and pathways in applied education to build on this foundation.

36. My team comprises representatives from the public, private and people sectors, many of whom have deep engagements and experience in the ITE and polytechnic sector, as well as ITE and polytechnic leaders.

37. Over the past couple of months, we have spoken to over 400 stakeholders, including students and graduates of the polytechnics and ITE, their parents, employers and industry partners, and the staff. Their perspectives have been valuable in shaping the review's early work. We plan to reach out to more stakeholders.

38. Mr Eric Chua reminded us of the important role deep technical skills have in our workforce and society. Our students know this too. Many shared their aspirations to upgrade themselves, building on the foundation they had acquired in polytechnic or ITE. All of them wanted to hone their skills to stay up-to-date in a fast-changing workplace, which is very heartening; some of course aspire for a university degree.

39. We also heard from employers who agreed with the value of upgrading, but were quite wary about hiring and training someone, only to have them leave in a few years for further studies. I hope we can find meaningful convergence between students' aspirations and the employers' needs. Ultimately, continued training and deepening of relevant skills must translate to better employment and salary outcomes for our polytechnic and ITE students.

40. We will continue these conversations over the next few months.

41. Allow me to share an overview of the ideas that have emerged so far, which I see as key priorities for us to address through the review.

42. First, we recognise our students' diverse interests and aspirations and support them in exploring different options. This includes strengthening porosity and flexibility in our education pathways, and ensuring strong Education and Career Guidance or ECG. We agree with Ms Janet Ang that we must help our students be, and I quote her, "always ready to learn", engaged in their studies and inspired about their future careers. We will look into how to do this better through our review.

43. Second, our courses and curriculum must remain industry-relevant and prepare students well to enter the workforce after graduation. But we have to balance near-term job readiness with career resilience. We want our students to be versatile, and able to seize emerging opportunities over the course of their careers.

44. Third, we must, and we need to, invest in life skills, including essential competencies such as cross-cultural communication, critical thinking and collaboration, which are relevant across jobs and disciplines, as well as life outside the workplace. We want to prepare our students well for life and work, regardless of the pathways they choose after graduation.

45. Fourth, as part of our ongoing efforts to help every student achieve their potential and find success, we will build on our experience with UPLIFT in our schools and leverage community partnerships, to strengthen support for students with higher needs, and enable more of them to achieve their full educational potential.

Enhancing ITE's Curricular Structure

46. Mr Eric Chua spoke passionately about how we should support our ITE students. I wholeheartedly agree and this is indeed a key priority. One of the first moves we will undertake in this review is to enhance the ITE curricular structure.

47. In 2019, we announced that by 2030, we would provide more opportunities for ITE graduates to upgrade beyond a Nitec qualification over the course of their careers, taking into account diverse student aspirations and learning needs. More than half of the 2019 cohort of Nitec graduates progressed immediately to a Higher Nitec, up from just under half the year before.

48. We will continue to progressively increase Higher Nitec places.

49. We will cater more polytechnic places for working adults and grow ITE's Work Study Diploma or the WSDip pathway.

50. We will also work closely towards expanding ITE's diploma programmes. ITE's WSDips and Technical Diplomas have a distinct applied focus and cater to students who benefit from a more hands-on learning style. This will strengthen opportunities for ITE graduates to upgrade to a diploma in the course of their careers.

51. I would like to assure Ms Mariam Jaafar that ITE employment outcomes are strong overall. About two-thirds of ITE graduates in full-time permanent employment reported that their job was related to their course. For polytechnics, it was about three-quarters. So having said that, we can always do better to ensure better salary outcomes for our ITE and polytechnic graduates.

52. ITE is committed to preparing its students well for the working world.

53. We agree with Dr Wan Rizal on the importance of providing meaningful and relevant internship experiences for our students. I recently met Siti Raudah, who graduated from the Nitec in Logistics Services in 2019. During her course, Siti interned at YCH Group, a home-grown supply chain solutions company, where she coordinated the movement of freight containers. She made a strong impression and was offered a permanent position after graduation. Today, she is a Logistics Specialist at YCH.

54. As the pace of economic change grows, our graduates will require deeper skills to stay competitive. Our companies will also need a more highly skilled workforce to transform.

55. Employers have an important role to play. They complement theory with critical on-the-job training, and this is especially evident in the WSDip pathway.

56. I recently met Alex, who is currently working at air services company dnata, and concurrently a trainee of our WSDip in Airport Operations.

57. While at dnata, Alex picked up specialised skills such as cool chain handling. He now leads an equipment operator team to ensure the safe and timely movement of inbound and outbound cargo.

58. There is scope to do more for ITE students like Siti and Alex, many of whom benefit from a more hands-on pedagogy which suits their learning pace and style.

59. To this end, we will make some structural changes in ITE. We want all ITE students to aspire to attain their Higher Nitec qualification when they enrol in ITE.

60. Today, ITE offers both Nitec and Higher Nitec courses, with the Higher Nitec building on the foundation established during Nitec. We will streamline the ITE curriculum, to provide more students the opportunity to attain a Higher Nitec in a shorter duration. This will equip our ITE graduates with deeper industry-relevant skills, which provide a stronger foundation for future skills upgrading.

61. We will also ensure sufficient flexibility for students of different profiles under this new system to cater to different learning needs and paces.

62. With this change, we hope to better meet students' aspirations for upgrading, while continuing to meet evolving industry needs.

63. We will share more details in the months ahead.

Growing Polytechnic Pathways

64. One point we heard in our engagements was the importance of course matching. When students are matched to a course that they are passionate about, they are more motivated to do well and succeed.

65. In recent years, we have taken steps to support students' progress from secondary school to polytechnics.

66. We have enhanced ECG in secondary schools, to help students explore different career pathways and education options.

67. In 2019, we expanded the Polytechnic Foundation Programme or PFP, which prepares selected polytechnic-bound Normal (Academic) students to enter polytechnics.

68. In the lead-up to the implementation of Full Subject-Based Banding in 2024, we are looking at how the PFP can cater to a more diverse profile of secondary school students, with different strengths and pace of learning.

69. We build on this when students enter polytechnic. One key effort is the introduction of Common Entry Programmes or CEPs.

70. In 2019, we expanded CEPs to the Business and Information & Digital Technologies clusters, complementing the existing Engineering CEPs. CEPs target students interested in a cluster but are undecided about their specific course that they want to undertake.

71. One student who has benefitted is Leonard, who applied for Temasek Polytechnic's (TP) Aerospace Engineering course in 2019 but did not meet the cut-off point.

72. Leonard entered TP's Engineering CEP instead, where he was given a feel of TP's other Engineering courses through modules like electrical circuit analysis, digital electronics and programming.

73. Leonard and his classmates also benefitted from talks and hands-on activities conducted by lecturers, ECG counsellors and industry professionals.

74. The CEP helped Leonard affirm his interest in Aerospace Engineering. Leonard worked hard and has since secured a place in the Aerospace Engineering course. I wish him all the best.

75. Leonard's experience is not unique. Out of the 2019 cohort of CEP students, 90% agreed that their CEP had helped them discover their interest and aptitude. This is an encouraging start.

76. There have been other moves since then. Republic Polytechnic introduced a CEP for the Sciences cluster, and Singapore Polytechnic rolled out a single "Media, Arts & Design" course, which functions like a CEP.

77. Building on this, we will introduce CEPs in the Arts, Design & Media and Sciences clusters in all the polytechnics from 2023. With this change, we expect 25% of Year 1 diploma students to enter polytechnic via a CEP, up from 20% currently.

78. Mr Chairman, allow me to continue in Malay.

79. Pendidikan perlu kekal sebagai pemacu kejayaan bagi golongan yang kurang bernasib baik dalam masyarakat kita dan bagi pelajar yang memerlukan agar mereka dapat mencapai potensi mereka sepenuhnya. Melalui UPLIFT, kami akan terus bekerjasama dengan masyarakat bagi melengkapkan usaha-usaha di sekolah.

[Education must remain an uplifting force for the less advantaged in our society, and help all students achieve their full potential. Through UPLIFT, we will continue to collaborate with the community to complement our efforts in schools.]

80. Satu perubahan utama ialah perluasan Program Perintis Masyarakat UPLIFT, termasuk melanjutkannya ke kawasan perumahan di Bukit Merah. Kami juga akan mempereratkan kerjasama dengan badan-badan bantu diri, termasuk MENDAKI, dan meneroka sinergi dengan daya usaha serupa seperti ComLink dan M3.

[One key change we are making is to expand the UPLIFT Community Pilot, including extending it into Bukit Merah. We will also strengthen our collaboration with Self-Help Groups, including MENDAKI, and explore synergies with other related initiatives such as ComLink and M3.]

81. Hari ini, di peringkat posmenengah, hampir 70% daripada setiap kohort memilih laluan politeknik dan ITE. Saya sedang menerajui satu semakan untuk peringkat ITE dan politeknikdengan tujuan membantu pelajar kita kekal relevan dan meraih kejayaan di tengah-tengah dunia yang berubah-ubah.

[I also spoke about what we will do for our polytechnic and ITE students. Today, almost 70% of each cohort choose the polytechnic and ITE route. I am leading the review on ITEs and polytechnics with the aim of helping our students stay relevant and find success amidst a changing world.]

82. Kami mahu semua pelajar ITE mempunyai iltizam untuk mencapai kelayakan Nitec Tinggi apabila mereka memasuki ITE. Ini bermakna kami akur akan potensi dan yakin akan keupayaan mereka. Oleh itu, kami akan memperkemas kurikulum ITE untuk menyediakan lebih ramai para pelajar mendapat peluang mencapai Nitec Tinggi dalam tempoh yang lebih singkat.

[We want all ITE students to aspire to attain their Higher Nitec qualification when they enrol in ITE. To this end, we will streamline the ITE curriculum, to provide more students the opportunity to attain a Higher Nitec in a shorter duration.]

83. Politeknik juga akan melalui perubahan-perubahan penting. Dalam tahun pertama pengajian mereka, kami akan memperluaskan CEP untuk memberikan sokongan yang lebih kepada para pelajar politeknik dalam proses pemilihan kursus mereka. Kami juga sedang meneliti cara-cara untuk memperluaskan PFP bagi memenuhi keperluan lebih ramai pelajar.

[Polytechnics are making important changes as well. We will expand CEPs to better support polytechnic-bound students in choosing courses in their first year. We are also studying how we might expand the PFP to cater to more students.]

84. Semasa perbahasan Belanjawan, Cik Mariam Jaafar mengutarakan tentang perwakilan masyarakat Melayu dalam STEM atau Sains, Teknologi, Engineering dan Matematik. MOE komited menyokong para pelajar, tak kira bangsa dan kami akan terus menggalakkan semua pelajar, termasuk pelajar Melayu, untuk membangunkan minat mereka dalam STEM.

[During the Budget debates, Ms Mariam Jaafar spoke about the importance of Malay representation in STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. MOE is committed to supporting our students, regardless of their race, and will continue to encourage all students, including our Malay students to develop their interests in STEM.]

85. Saya ingin meyakinkan anda bahawa kami bermula daripada kedudukan yang kuat. Kursus-kursus STEM amat popular dalam kalangan pelajar-pelajar Melayu kita juga. Hari ini kita dapati lebih separuh daripada pelajar-pelajar Melayu yang memasuki institusi-institusi pengajian tinggi kita menyertai kursus-kursus STEM.

[I would also like to assure you that we will start from a position of strength. STEM courses are popular among our Malay students as well. Over half the Malay intake in our Institutes of Higher Learning enters these courses today.]

86. Ini hanya permulaan suatu perjalanan yang menarik. Saya berharap kita boleh bersatu untuk merealisasikannya.

[This is just the start of an exciting journey. I hope we can come together to make these ideas a reality.]

Promoting the Malay Language

87. Dr Wan Rizal bertanya usaha-usaha MOE memupuk minat serta penghargaan para pelajar kita terhadap Bahasa Melayu, dan Bahasa Ibunda secara amnya.

[Dr Wan Rizal asked about MOE's efforts to foster students' appreciation of the Malay Language, and their Mother Tongue Languages (MTLs) more broadly.]

88. Tuan Pengerusi, saya akan mula dengan menerangkan usaha-usaha MOE untuk menyemarakkan penggunaan Bahasa Melayu.

[Chairman, I will start by elaborating on MOE's Malay Language efforts.]

89. Sistem pendidikan kita berasaskan dasar dwibahasa. Asas yang kukuh dalam Bahasa Ibunda kita akan membolehkan kita berurusan di rantau ini dengan lebih berkesan sambil terus berakarkan warisan kita. Ini penting kerana kita tahu bilangan anak-anak yang menggunakan Bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa utama di rumah sudah semakin berkurangan.

[Our education system is based on bilingualism. A strong foundation in our MTL will enable us to communicate more effectively in the region whilst retaining our roots. This is important as we know that the number of children who use Malay as their primary language at home is dwindling.]

90. Sepanjang beberapa bulan yang lalu, saya mendapat tahu daripada guru-guru Bahasa Melayu bagaimana kita membuat penyesuaian dengan cara dan apa yang diajarkan, untuk memastikan Bahasa Melayu terus hidup bagi generasi baru pelajar kita.

[Over the past few months, I heard from our Malay Language educators how we are making adjustments to how and what we teach, to bring the Malay Language to life for our new generation of learners.]

91. Sebagai contoh, Guru Peneraju, Cikgu Zainaba Omar dari Sekolah Rendah Clementi menetapkan murid-muridnya dengan tugas dunia sebenar seperti menyediakan menu untuk sarapan dan makan tengah hari semasa mengajarpenjodoh bilangan seperti "secubit garam" dan "secawan bijirin". "Pendekatan berasaskan tugas" atau "task-based approach" ini menjadikan pembelajaran bahasa lebih autentik. Saya diberitahu murid-muridnya lebih yakin bukan sahaja dalam menggunakan Bahasa Melayu tetapi juga dalam menyediakan hidangan harian mereka juga.

[One example is Lead Teacher Cikgu Zainaba Omar from Clementi Primary School. When teaching her students about classifiers like "a pinch of salt" and "a cup of cereal", Cikgu Zainaba sets them real-world tasks, like preparing menus for breakfast and lunch. This "task-based approach" helps make language learning more authentic, and I hear that her students have not only become confident in using the Malay Language, but also use Malay when preparing their daily meals.]

92. Ibu bapa dan masyarakat juga memainkan peranan penting dalam memperkukuhkan penggunaan bahasa Melayu para pelajar di luar bilik darjah. MOE komited dalam menyokong usaha-usaha ini melalui Jawatankuasa Pembelajaran dan Penggalakan Penggunaan Bahasa Melayu atau MLLPC.

[Parents and the community play a critical role in reinforcing students' use of the Malay Language beyond the classroom. MOE is committed to supporting their efforts through the Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee (MLLPC).]

93. Antara program utama MLLPC ialah Kem Perkasa Warisan, yang dianjurkan bersama oleh Persatuan Rakyat dan MESRA. Kem ini menyediakan peluang kepada murid-murid sekolah rendah untuk mendalami pengetahuan mereka tentang budaya dan warisan Melayu melalui aktiviti-aktiviti amali.

[One of MLLPC's signature programmes is the Perkasa Warisan Camp, conducted in collaboration with the People's Association and the Malay Activity Executive Council (MESRA). The camp provides primary school students an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of Malay culture and heritage through hands-on activities.]

94. Sejak diperkenalkan pada 2018, Kem Perkasa Warisan telah melibatkan lebih 1,400 pelajar di 39 sekolah rendah dan menengah.

[Since we introduced it in 2018, the Perkasa Warisan Camp has reached out to over 1,400 students across 39 primary and secondary schools.]

95. Akhir-akhir ini, usaha-usaha sedemikian telah dilanjutkan ke pelajar-pelajar posmenengah juga.

[In recent years, we have expanded our efforts to post-secondary students as well.]

96. Bak pepatah Melayu "Jika tidak dipecah ruyung, di mana boleh mendapat sagunya.". Saya sanjung usaha-usaha ini, dan saya yakin kita akan terus meneroka cara-cara terbaik untuk menyemarakkan Bahasa Melayu agar terus menjadi bahasa yang hidup di rumah, sekolah dan di masyarakat kita.

[As the Malay saying goes, "jika tidak dipecah ruyung, dimana boleh mendapat sagunya" (you will not be able to achieve your aim without hard work). I applaud these efforts, and I am confident that we will continue to find good ways to help the Malay Language thrive as a living language in our homes, schools and community.]

97. Mr Speaker, in English. Bilingualism is a cornerstone of our education system, and a good grasp of MTL can unlock opportunities for our students, in the region and beyond. MTLs also help us to remain connected to our heritage and our Singaporean identity.

Conclusion

98. Mr Chairman, let me conclude, we have come a long way, but our education system cannot remain static. We must respond to changing circumstances as we prepare our children to function confidently in the future. And our children must be at the centre of our education system. We must work together to ensure that education remains an uplifting force for all, and secure a brighter future for Singaporeans and Singapore. Thank you.

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