Speech for Second Minister for Education, Dr Maliki Osman Launch of Integrative Built Environment Centre Temasek Polytechnic

Published Date: 07 January 2022 10:00 AM

News Speeches

Distinguished Guests and Colleagues

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to be here today at the launch of the Integrative Built Environment Centre, in short IBEC.

Launch of the Integrative Built Environment Centre

2. The IBEC is a unique training facility, designed to provide students with multidisciplinary learning in areas such as architecture, design, engineering, IT and environmental sustainability.

3. I had the chance to tour the IBEC facilities earlier and was impressed by the wide range of integrated technology available. One example was the TP-NEC living laboratory, a facility developed by Temasek Polytechnic in collaboration with NEC – whose biometric technology is used worldwide. With this, students will be able to carry out cutting edge facial recognition and biometric research on campus.

4. Students can also apply their skills in a live environment by working alongside the technology and facility management systems deployed at IBEC. I am pleased to learn that IBEC has been recognised by the Singapore International Facilities Management Association as a critical training and research centre to equip students with emerging skills in the built environment sector. I am confident that the facilities available in IBEC will enhance the learning experience for TP students.

5. The built environment sector has experienced significant transformation in recent years, with increasing focus on digitalisation and sustainability, in order to build and manage smart, efficient and green buildings. For example, under the revised Singapore Green Building Masterplan released last year, we set a target to green 80% of Singapore's buildings by 2030, up from 43% in end 2020. The setting up of IBEC is therefore timely, and allows us to develop skilled manpower in the critical areas of digital architecture, building information modelling and smart building systems, just to name a few.

6. The launch of IBEC would not have been possible without the support of TP's industry partners which provided the latest technologies and expertise in the deployment of the centre. I would like to thank all industry partners for your contributions, and I hope you will continue to uncover new ground with TP.

7. My heartiest congratulations to TP and the industry partners for the successful launch of the IBEC.

Review of Opportunities and Pathways for Applied Education

8. The opening of new facilities like IBEC is deeply encouraging, as it shows commitment by all stakeholders in ensuring our training is up-to-date with latest industry developments, and provides quality learning experiences for our students.

9. Like our stakeholders, the Ministry of Education remains committed to studying how our applied education pathways can further enhance the educational experience and outcomes of our graduates.

10. We launched the Review of Opportunities and Pathways in Applied Education in January 2021. Our focus was to better support the diverse strengths and aspirations of our students from polytechnics and ITE, and prepare them for the future economy. Over 2,000 stakeholders, ranging from students, alumni, staff, parents, industry, and community partners shared their aspirations for the applied education sector. One thing was clear – everyone agreed that this is a critical sector that will help our next generation realise their full potential and fulfil their aspirations in an interconnected world full of challenges and opportunities.

11. Through these engagements, we identified three key areas of enhancements in the sector. They are:

  1. Strengthening students' readiness and resilience for the future economy;
  2. Providing more flexibility in academic pathways; and
  3. Building a stronger ecosystem of support for our students

12. Let me elaborate on these in turn.

Strengthening Students' Readiness and Resilience for the Future Economy

13. An important outcome of our applied education pathways is preparing our students well for the future.

14. As the economy evolves and market cycles become more compressed, the first key enhancement is to strengthen the nexus with industry and build up life skills, so that students are well-prepared and can thrive in the work environment and beyond.

15. In April last year, I announced the enhanced ITE curricular structure, which equips students with deeper industry-relevant skills. We have since identified two additional moves to strengthen our students' readiness for the future.

Deepening Industry Exposure

16. First, we will look to increase industry exposure opportunities for students. While we review our curriculum regularly to keep it up-to-date, the experience of applying their skills in a real-world setting and developing connections with the industry cannot be replicated as effectively in the classroom.

17. During our engagements, stakeholders shared their thoughts on how students could benefit from more industry exposure opportunities, which help bring classroom learning to life, and enable students to make more informed career decisions with a deeper understanding of the industry.

18. In this regard, the polytechnics will create opportunities for students to take on additional industry exposure opportunities, on top of their compulsory third-year internship. For example, this could take the form of job shadowing or short job stints during the vacation period.

19. A similar move is also underway in ITE, through the enhanced ITE curricular structure, where industry attachments for ITE students over the three-year curriculum will be better integrated to strengthen their workplace competencies and learning outcomes.

Honing LifeSkills

20. Second, in an increasingly dynamic and interconnected world, our students need to be better equipped with non-technical skills to navigate work and life.

  1. Across our engagement sessions, employers, educators and students affirmed the need to strengthen life skills, particularly in the areas of self-awareness and resilience, understanding global perspectives, and nurturing a sense of responsibility to the community, nation and the world.
  2. During our engagement sessions, we met Dawn, a Temasek Polytechnic alumnus who entered the workforce upon graduation.
  3. Dawn is currently working in an international firm in marketing and advertising. She shared with us how having good and effective communication skills and a global perspective gave her confidence to interact with her colleagues from around the world.

21. To strengthen the holistic development of our students, our institutions will enhance their LifeSkills curriculum, and focus on the competencies that students will need for life and work. The institutions will also adopt a range of experiential learning approaches, and leverage academic curricular, co-curricular activities and internships as avenues for nurturing LifeSkills competencies.

22. With the resumption of travel arrangements in the future, we continue to aim for 70% of our IHL students to participate in overseas exposure programmes, so that they are able to engage Asia and the region in particular. This is another facet of experiential learning, which will stand them in good stead when they enter the workforce.

Industry Support as Enabler

23. Next, we have seen the importance of industry partnerships through facilities like IBEC. In this vein, industry support will be key as we embark on these enhancements.

  1. I am grateful for the strong support from industry partners thus far to provide our students with good learning opportunities.
  2. One industry partner I met during our engagements was Bosch Rexroth, a company involved in the manufacturing of industrial and mobile equipment.
  3. Bosch Rexroth hosts interns from Singapore Polytechnic each year and is currently collaborating with Singapore Polytechnic to provide students with a one-year internship to provide them with more opportunities to learn on-the-job at the workplace. They also partner ITE on work-study diploma programmes, with two trainees currently in the programme.
  4. Bosch Rexroth is just one example of the many industry partners who collaborate with our applied education institutions today. I sincerely thank all our industry partners for your support.

24. Looking ahead, we need to further strengthen our industry partnerships to enhance our students' readiness for the future. I encourage more companies to provide industry exposure opportunities for our polytechnic and ITE students. Companies can also benefit from the students' fresh ideas, and invite suitable students to join their companies upon graduation. Content and learning will also be kept current and applied as companies and lecturers exchange knowledge and experience to benefit the students. This institution-industry nexus is indeed the cornerstone of applied education.

Greater Flexibility in Academic Pathways

25. The second key enhancement is continuing to provide more flexibility in our applied education pathways to cater to the diversity of students with different strengths, interests, and learning needs, as we continue to move away from a "one size fits all" system.

26. To support this diversity, we have introduced greater flexibility in our applied education pathways such as through common entry programmes and work-study programmes.

  1. Through the Common Entry Programmes, students benefit from exposure to different course options within a cluster, prior to deciding on a specific diploma course that they want to take. This gives them time to discover their interests and strengths before deciding on a specific course suitable for them.
  2. Work-study programmes also provide an apprentice mode of training, which benefits students or adult learners keen to pursue a higher educational qualification while honing their industry relevant skills through workplace learning and on-the-job training.

27. As we embrace multiple forms of success, the needs and aspirations of students will no doubt become more wide-ranging, and we must be prepared to support that in order to build a more dynamic workforce.

Flexibility in Polytechnic Curriculum

28. Today, polytechnic students enrol in a structured three-year curriculum leading to a diploma education.

  1. Students who wish to explore interests such as entrepreneurship may take a leave of absence to pursue their interests alongside their studies.
  2. Students who face challenges academically would also need to retake the modules they failed, in subsequent semesters. This may lead to some not completing their course, and others extending their studies beyond the typical duration of three years.

29. We will provide more flexibility in our applied education pathways for students to develop themselves at a pace that they find suitable and are comfortable with, and in areas which they are interested in.

  1. This was a common theme we heard from stakeholders during our engagements as well.
  2. One of the students we met was Arshad, a graduate from NYP.
  3. When he first enrolled in his course, Arshad initially struggled academically and was also suffering from depression. However, NYP gave Arshad the flexibility to complete his studies over more than three years, so he could pursue his studies at a pace that he was comfortable with. His lecturers also supported him throughout his journey with pastoral care and academic coaching.
  4. Arshad shared with us that having the option for students to learn at a more comfortable pace would allow them to strengthen their foundations, manage potential stressors and enable them to complete their chosen course.

30. To better support students like Arshad, the polytechnics will explore allowing students who need more time or who wish to pursue other concurrent interests to pace and spread out their learning, beyond three years. With this enhancement, we hope more students will stay on to complete their education, rather than prematurely ending their education.

31. Students with the aptitude to stretch themselves will also receive opportunities to enrich and challenge themselves during the three years.

Stronger and More Integrated Student Support Ecosystem

32. The third key enhancement is to strengthen the ecosystem of support for our students.

33. The success of our applied education must be complemented by a strong support system to help students navigate their education journey and provide a platform for them to achieve their hopes and dreams. This is particularly so in the context of societal changes and challenges that may adversely impact the financial and socio-emotional well-being of our students and their families.

34. We have put in place a wide range of support for students, from financial aid, to counselling to education and career guidance.

35. For any student facing complex family circumstances, a wide range of issues and needs have to be addressed not just by the school staff but also other community and government agencies.

  1. ITE shared one such case of a student, Muhd Fitri, who considered giving up on his studies as he faced overwhelming emotional and financial challenges. Fitri's father had to undergo a major operation due to a medical condition and was unable to continue working. To alleviate the financial challenges at home, Fitri had to take on part-time work. He was physically tired, emotionally drained and greatly disheartened as he fell behind in his studies.
  2. Fitri's personal tutor devoted much time and attention to motivate and counsel him. Additional coaching and financial assistance was also provided to help him with his studies. Beyond support on campus, ITE also reached out to other community and government agencies to provide additional support to Fitri's family. Eventually, Fitri's family managed to secure grocery vouchers and additional financial support from the local Grassroots Organisations and the Social Service Office.
  3. With the combined support and care from both within ITE, and the broader community, Fitri was able to successfully complete his Nitec in Product Design last month.

36. Fitri's example highlights the importance of coordination across multiple stakeholders to provide students with the support that they need. Our polytechnics and ITE will study how we can enhance coordination of care and support for students with complex needs. This may include enhancing our referral systems both internally across academic staff, counsellors and financial aid officers, and externally with community partners, as well as closer monitoring of support provided to students.

Pastoral Care

37. We will also enhance pastoral care support for students, as this is a critical layer in identifying students who require additional support and to foster quality tutor-student relationships. Personal tutors will be better equipped to identify early signs of distress, and encourage them to seek counselling support, if required. This will ensure that students facing distress will receive support in a timely manner. Polytechnics and ITE will also explore the provision of more dedicated time for personal tutors to check-in with their students. Enhanced pastoral care support will contribute to the ecosystem of support in the polytechnics and ITE, which includes peer support structures and in-house professional counselling support.

Post-graduation career guidance and lifelong learning support

38. Finally, we recognise that some graduates face challenges in their transition into the workforce or further education.

39. The polytechnics and ITE will explore how to strengthen their connections with recent graduates and offer post-graduation career guidance in a timely and targeted manner, including for those who are about to complete or have completed their full-time National Service. For example, this could take the form of more targeted outreach, with advice on upgrading opportunities suited to their strengths and interests to respond to evolving employment market and economic circumstances.

40. Collectively, these enhancements will help us to build a stronger and more integrated student support ecosystem.

Conclusion

41. Our applied education system has grown from strength to strength, and we continue to build on the progress made.

42. With these recommendations, polytechnics and ITE students can look forward to a more fulfilling applied education journey and graduating with deeper industry-relevant skills and broader life skills, and be better primed for future opportunities. Students can also look forward to an improved student experience, with a stronger and more holistic support system.

43. The success of our applied education pathway would not be possible without our industry and community partners. I am grateful for their continued support. As our institutions embark on these enhancements, I would also like to welcome more industry and community partners to step forward and volunteer with us in this journey. Together, we can make a difference to the student experience in our applied learning pathways, and ensure our students achieve success in work and life, and their future.

44. Thank you.

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