A Singapore Government Agency Website How to identify
Official website links end with .gov.sg

Government agencies communicate via .gov.sg website
(e.g. go.gov.sg/open). Trusted websites

Secure websites use HTTPS

Look for a lock () or https:// as an added precaution.
Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

MOE FY2022 Committee of Supply Debate Response by Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing

Published Date: 07 March 2022 06:00 PM

News Speeches

Learn for Life: Confidence for a New Tomorrow

Confident Singaporeans, Competitive Singapore, Cohesive Society

Mr Chairman

1. Chair, we thank members for your suggestions and the support for our education system and educators.

2. Let us also thank our educators on the frontline. In the past two years of COVID disruptions, they have taken on additional workload and have gone beyond the call of duty to keep our children safe, our schools open, and our learning undisrupted.

3. COVID has accelerated many trends and heightened the need to evolve our education system – urgently. Mr Patrick Tay and Ms Denise Phua also spoke on the future trends of education. We aim to emerge stronger from this pandemic. We will not waste the opportunities that have arisen from this crisis. We will lock in the gains from the disruptions to distinguish ourselves for the long term.

The Driving Forces for Change

4. Chair, three driving forces shape our education system.

5. First, technology and business cycles have become more compressed. Workers now take on multiple jobs in their lifetime and need to be reskilled regularly to remain relevant. How fast we evolve our skills, products, and services will determine our competitive advantage, both as individuals and as a nation, much more than our population size or our resources.

6. Second, the world is becoming more polarised and fragmented, even as we grow more inter-connected and inter-dependent. The geopolitical environment has become more volatile with the competition of ideas and values, and contestation for ideologies and influence, both of which will intensify. Countries that cannot create relevance for themselves will have to worry about having to choose sides. Yet, there are opportunities for those that can value-add and play the role of a connector to transcend these fault lines.

7. Third, our social fabric is evolving. Our people have more diverse aspirations and perspectives. The internet has increased access to information, but algorithms on social media can also skew the information that we are exposed to. They cater to our preferences and amplify our biases. Our youths are not just Singaporeans, but also digital natives. Technology and social media have allowed them to stay connected and organise around meaningful causes. But it is also easier to compare themselves: with their classmates and friends, as well as anyone else in the world, online. This has an impact on their sense of identity and self-confidence. We have seen other societies with longer histories fracture, as the values and aspirations of their people diverge. We are a young nation. Our challenges cannot be any less.

8. The definition of success for our education system must then evolve. It must enable every Singaporean to do justice to their own set of gifts, constantly seeking to surpass themselves (both individually and as a team), rather than just surpassing others, and contributing towards a better future for the wider community, Singapore and the world.

9. Chair, our vision for our education system has three elements: to develop Confident Singaporeans; to build a Competitive Singapore; and to forge a Cohesive Society.

10. Let me start with the first, Confident Singaporeans. Confidence starts from understanding our own strengths and interests. This starts from school. Then, confidence comes from knowing that we have multiple pathways that give our people lifelong opportunities to acquire the knowledge and skills for success through life. We must also have confidence in our values and solutions that we have the will and the means to chart our own destiny with our own solutions for our own context. Finally, we must be confident in our contributions to our society, to future generations and to the world.

11. Second, a Competitive Singapore. This comes from our speed of evolution and our superior connectivity. Evolution speed depends on us quickly learning, unlearning, and relearning, so that we can combine and recombine ideas and knowledge to always create something new and relevant. Superior connectivity enables us to go beyond geography and size, with the world as our hinterland and market. By connectivity, I refer not just to the physical dimensions of air-land-sea, or even to the non-physical dimensions of data, finance, rules, and technology, but also of ideas, cultures, and values. As the world threatens to fragment, we connect and value add. This connectivity is our special man-made competitive advantage.

12. Third, a Cohesive Society. We distinguish ourselves as a nation that celebrates our diverse roots, while forging a shared identity with a set of shared values. Our diversity unites, rather than divides. It is the substrate upon which our new ideas grow.

13. Therefore, Chair, we will take a life course approach to education. "MOE for schools", must become "MOE for life".

Taking a Life Course Approach

14. We begin by giving every child a good start in life. The early years set the foundation for healthy and balanced development for our children. We have invested in many quality and affordable preschools where our children can enjoy and learn through play, develop early literacy and numeracy, as well as social and emotional skills, ask questions and explore their interests, and most importantly – ignite their innate curiosity. We are updating the Nurturing Early Learners Framework to guide our preschool educators to incorporate social and emotional skills even more prominently, and emphasise core values of respect, responsibility, care, and honesty from young.

15. As they progress through our schools, we build on these fundamentals by giving our students greater confidence in themselves and their abilities, with more opportunities to explore their interests and cultivate their curiosity, so that they are unafraid to try. And if they fail, they pick themselves up and try again. We cannot shield our children from all uncertainties and imperfections of this world. Nor should it be our aim. But we certainly can and want to equip them with the skills to manage the uncertainties and navigate the imperfections.

16. This means creating time and space for our students to develop the life skills they need for success, including the ability to deal with failure, like inventive thinking, adaptability, and cross-cultural skills that Mr Darryl David and Mr Lim Biow Chuan raised. Over the past few years, we removed mid-year examinations for P3, P5, Sec 1, and Sec 3. We saw the positive impact. Schools and teachers can better pace and deepen students' learning. They use ongoing assessments to identify what students have mastered and the areas they have difficulties with. Students also focus more on their learning and less on marks. We will build on these gains by removing mid-year examinations for all primary and secondary levels by 2023. This frees up more time across all levels for self-directed learning and developing 21st Century Competencies.

17.We are also reviewing curriculum content and assessment demand. Any one standard curriculum will necessarily not be able to meet the diverse learning needs of our students. Any "average curriculum" will necessarily mean that many students will be overstretched while others are under-stretched. Hence, we must have a range of options to cater to our students' diverse abilities and learning needs. Our teachers must have the ability to pick and choose from a menu of options and customise them to suit the diverse and respective needs of our students. These moves seek to bring about a cultural shift, where our students learn holistically and master skills, driven by intrinsic motivation and future relevance, and not be distracted by incessant comparisons with others.

18. Next, we want to customise education as much as possible to bring out the best in every child.

19. We will give students more agency in their learning. Regular Home-Based Learning, which will be implemented for all secondary and pre-university students by end-2022. This lets students take ownership of their learning, at their own pace. Students will also have dedicated time and space to pursue their own interests outside the curriculum through Student-Initiated Learning, and we are studying how technology can further customise learning to help teachers better provide feedback and track students' learning progress. We will also explore the use of adaptive learning systems to tailor learning to students' needs.

20. We thank Ms Denise Phua and Ms Hazel Poa for suggesting a through-train system from primary to secondary education. Ms Denise Phua has raised this idea for some time. The PSLE remains a useful checkpoint for our students and parents. We made significant changes to the PSLE scoring system last year, to broaden emphasis beyond academic results. We will continue to look at ways to enhance the diversity of our school landscape. But there are some fundamental principles we must always maintain: To provide quality and holistic education for every child, no matter their learner profiles; and to give opportunities for children of different backgrounds to mix with one another to strengthen our social cohesion, and to ensure equity and fairness in admissions and posting.

21. In line with these principles, we will expand Full Subject-Based Banding (Full SBB) for more porous and diverse educational pathways, and encourage students to take greater ownership in their education journey. Mr Baey Yam Keng has asked for an update.

22. Our Full SBB pilot started in 2020. In the pilot schools, students taking different courses come together in mixed form classes. They take six subjects at the common level, which is one-third of curriculum time, and other subjects at different levels. The experiences from the pilot gives us confidence that we are on the right track. Students have made more friends across courses, learned new perspectives and how to relate better to their peers of different backgrounds, and they have become more confident in themselves and of their abilities.

23. From 2024, we will remove streaming totally. In secondary school, students will be grouped in mixed form classes. Students can choose to take different subjects at different subject levels, suited to their pace of learning. These subject levels are known as G—for General—G1, G2 and G3. They are broadly mapped from today's N(T), N(A) and Express standards respectively. There will be greater subject-level flexibility. Those who are strong in a subject may take it at a more demanding level, while those who find it difficult to cope with a subject may offer it at a less demanding level, based on their school's guidance. We will also shift away from course-based subject offerings under Full SBB. For example, students currently in Express and N(A) courses who face exceptional difficulties with Mother Tongue Language (MTL) learning may take MTL 'B'. With Full SBB, they can now study MTL at a level that better meets their learning needs – whether G1 or G2. We will thus discontinue MTL 'B' from the 2024 Sec 1 cohort. MOE will provide more details later in the year on other curriculum changes that accompany Full SBB.

24. To allow more students to benefit, MOE will extend Full SBB to more schools. Crescent Girls' School, Tanjong Katong Girls' School, and Tanjong Katong Secondary School currently admit only students in the Express course. From 2024, they will go on board Full SBB and admit a wider range of students, including students taking mainly G2 subjects. Students of more diverse learning profiles can then benefit from these schools' distinctive programmes.

25. Full SBB represents a major shift to customise learning for each student according to their strengths. However, Full SBB does require more resources. It entails more complex coordination of time-tables and requires our teachers to adapt their teaching methods for a wider range of students.

26. Customisation also means giving schools the flexibility to best support their students' needs. Mr Jamus Lim spoke on later school start times. In MOE, we have a simple baseline – schools are not to start before 7.30am. Beyond that, schools decide when to start and end – based on factors like their unique needs, student profiles, and the local transport situation. For example, Junyuan Secondary School starts at 8.30am twice a week, and 8am the other three days. It is not the only school that has different start times.

27. We will also adjust post-secondary admissions, to better recognise students' individual strengths.

  1. First, we will expand the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP) and relax selected grade requirements for entry from Academic Year 2024. A wider group of learner profiles can benefit from a practice-based preparatory pathway to the polytechnics, while still ensuring that students can cope with the rigour. We expect another 200 more students every year to benefit, in addition to the 1,500 today. We will continue to review admissions for other pathways to better recognise the different subject levels under Full SBB.
  2. Next, we will expand Direct School Admission (DSA) for Government and Government-Aided Junior Colleges (JCs). Starting from 2022, these JCs can admit up to 20% of their non-Integrated Programme intake through DSA, up from 10% today. This move recognises other forms of merit beyond academic grades.

28. Our efforts to customise education continue after secondary school. Last year, 2M Maliki led the Review of Opportunities and Pathways in Applied Education. The review aims to enhance Polytechnic and ITE education to support our students' diverse strengths and aspirations. Its recommendations include providing students with greater flexibility in their pathways and supporting them in navigating these pathways, enhancing their career readiness and resilience for the future economy, and equipping them with lifeskills and expanding opportunities for deeper industry exposure. 2M will update more later.

29. We must also help our students to be curious about the world. Around two-thirds of our schools have established partnerships with their overseas counterparts. Building on this, we want every school to have an overseas partnership. This facilitates more student exchanges, so that students can broaden their horizons and learn about different cultures. While the exchanges have been virtual for now because of COVID, technology allows our students and their overseas peers to still learn, play, and celebrate special occasions together. In the same spirit, the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) will continue to work towards the 70-70 target disrupted by COVID. 70% of all students will have an overseas experience, of which 70% will be in ASEAN countries, China, or India.

30. We will give our students greater confidence to venture beyond Singapore. We will pilot a Modular Third Language Programme, so that more secondary school students can learn new languages and discover other cultures. Starting with one or two of our existing Third Language offerings, students can pick up the language from different starting points, or at different levels, build on their proficiency, and "stack" modules towards a certificate.

31. At the same time, our students must have a sense of rootedness and identity. As Dr Wan Rizal said, our bilingual ability helps us to navigate across cultures. Every student should learn their Mother Tongue Language (MTL) to as high a level as possible. Hence, we have a range of MTL special programmes, like the Language Elective Programme, which we have expanded to our secondary schools in 2020. It allows those strong in their MTL to learn it at a higher level and nurture their interest in literature and culture. The Elective Programme in Malay Language for Secondary Schools (EMAS) is another example. EMAS is offered at three host schools today. We will expand EMAS to a fourth host centre, Raffles Institution, from 2023 so that more students can access it, including students from other nearby schools. Students with a strong proficiency in the Malay Language can develop their interests for Malay Language and culture.

32. Across the system, we continue to pay special attention to students with greater needs. They too, must have the opportunities and resilience to overcome challenges and do well in life. Our philosophy is this: no student should be held back from their dreams and aspirations because of his or her starting circumstances. So, we will press on with UPLIFT (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce) in schools, ITE, and the polytechnics, to support students with Special Educational Needs, and to support the mental well-being of our students. My MOE colleagues will elaborate.

33. This is our social compact. To continually invest in our people, enable every Singaporean to develop to their fullest potential regardless of their starting point, and to partake in the country's growth, so that we can strive towards a fairer and more inclusive society.

34. Previously, we have focussed on investing in the first 20 to 25 years of our people's lives. On average, we spend a quarter million dollars on each child to prepare him or her for their first job.

35. But now, firms and workers face greater disruption and faster skills obsolescence. Therefore, upfront investment is necessary but insufficient. On the other hand, beyond paper qualifications, those with the relevant skills and can take advantage of new technologies will benefit the most. Therein lies our challenge and opportunity.

36. Therefore, we will need to seriously intensify efforts on continual learning throughout life, as Mr Yip Hon Weng and Ms Mariam Jaafar mentioned.

  1. The Government started SkillsFuture seven years ago. In 2021, we spent nearly $1.2 billion in skills training for our workforce. This is 40% more than 2019 and it excludes spending on COVID-related programmes.
  2. We will do more to support Singaporeans to achieve career resilience and job mobility through a major investment in skills refresh. This will be the next needle-mover for the competitiveness of our people, beyond their first work-ready qualification.
  3. This will become a key pillar of our social compact with Singaporeans: we will invest in every Singaporean not just in school, but throughout life.

37. We are focusing on two areas: Providing more opportunities for our people to pursue a degree, or diploma, especially as working adults, and enhancing structural support for mid-career reskilling.

38. Today, we have a 40% cohort participation rate target for subsidised university places for fresh school leavers, and an additional 10% allowance for adult learners. As we increasingly move towards interspersing working and learning throughout life, we should look beyond the proportion of each cohort that goes to university before starting work. We should focus instead on ensuring that Singaporeans can upskill continually, according to their needs and aspirations.

39. This ties in with our major efforts to transform our economy. The refresh of the Industry Transformation Maps (ITM) aims to create more good jobs for Singaporeans. With more and better job opportunities for degree holders, we will study increasing the "lifetime cohort participation rate". This will provide more opportunities for working adults to pursue a degree at a suitable point in their life and supports key growth areas in our economy. MOE, together with MTI and MOM, will further study the mix of the increase in places to better cater to the needs of our learners and the economy.

40. Beyond expanding degree places, we need other ways to strengthen support for our mid-career workers, especially those in their 40s and 50s. They are more vulnerable to retrenchment and long-term unemployment and need greater support to pivot to new job roles. This structural challenge is here to stay post-pandemic.

41. During the pandemic, to help mid-career individuals move to new sectors or job roles, we introduced the SGUnited Skills and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways – Company Training programmes.

42. We will bring these programmes to a close and transit to a new SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme (SCTP). This will be a permanent feature of our training and placement ecosystem. Courses under SCTP will be highly subsidised. The SCTP will support the career transition needs of Singaporeans, with industry-relevant training involving potential employers and employment facilitation into sectors with good hiring opportunities. MOS Gan will elaborate later.

43. Beyond these moves, MOE, MTI, MOM and MOF are studying how we can enhance structural support for Singaporeans in their 40s and 50s who may need significant reskilling to provide a second wind in their careers. Regardless if our workers are looking to switch industries or jobs, they recognise that their current jobs need upgraded skills to keep pace with evolving business models and technologies. Reskilling can help them to keep up with the changes and remain employable. We will take a holistic review of the accessibility and the different types of support that adult learners need, to help every Singaporean enhance their career resilience by refreshing their skills throughout life.

44. We need to strengthen and transform our higher education and training ecosystem. Rather than simply ramping up quantity, we must also enhance quality and accessibility. We must accelerate the transformation of our training to better cater to adult learners, leveraging technology to enable every individual to learn at their own pace, anytime and anywhere. We will improve how we reach out to individuals and support their upskilling as they pursue their career goals, through new partnerships with companies, trade associations and chambers, and our unions. All three pillars of our ecosystem – IHLs, private training providers, and employers – must pull together in the same direction towards these objectives. Let me elaborate.

45. First, the IHLs must grow into institutes for continual learning.

46. While the number of adult learners trained by our IHLs has more than doubled from around 165,000 in 2018 to 345,000 in 2020, we can expect this number to increase further.

47. To cater to more diverse learners, IHLs need to review their programmes. Adult learners' needs, commitments, and prior experiences differ from our younger learners.

48. This means improving andragogy, or adult education, by using technology to make learning accessible and achievable, and making learning bite-sized and on-the-go, building on their existing skills foundation.

  1. For instance, the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)'s flexible, modular, and applied curriculum, accompanied by online provisions, caters well to adult learners. Curriculum is taught by a mix of SUSS full-time and associate faculty, many of whom are industry practitioners. It is supported by learning analytics to tailor learning to individual students.
  2. New pathways are also being created, like Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)'s new Competency-based Workplace Learning pathway. Skills and competencies acquired through prior work experience also count towards the graduating requirements. This brings the university to the workplace.
  3. All IHLs also offer stackable pathways for learners to take bite-sized modules that count towards a full qualification. This gives our adult learners more flexibility to juggle work, study and family responsibilities.

49. Second, we need a stronger nexus between the IHLs and industry, as Ms Mariam Jaafar suggested. Industry and workforce transformation must go hand-in-hand.

50. Our IHLs need to do so in three ways:

  1. One, partnering industry to provide more workplace learning opportunities. For example, internships, job-shadowing or work-study programmes. By 2025, work-study programmes will be a mainstream pathway catering to 12% of each age cohort, up from 4% today. We will support industry partners to develop in-house on-the-job training capabilities through the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning. Industry can also offer industry micro-credentials that are recognised by employers alongside IHL credentials.
  2. Two, ensuring that IHL faculty remain industry-relevant. We must encourage faculty to gain industry-relevant knowledge and competencies, and most importantly, to keep them current. The IHLs will ramp up industry engagement and attachment opportunities and hire faculty with industry experience to complement existing faculty.
  3. Three, collaborating with industry on research and innovation projects. We will provide additional support to our Centres engaging in Technology, Innovation and Enterprise activities in the Polytechnics and ITE. They can then partner more SMEs on innovation projects and that will allow our SMEs and companies to be a ready receptacle for our upgraded workers and students.

51. Companies need to take ownership too, by transforming themselves to attract, retain, and upskill local talent. Over the past year, MOE, MTI, and MOM initiated efforts with industry leaders, unions, other Government agencies, and educators, to strengthen the employability and career prospects of our Polytechnic and ITE graduates in the future economy. We looked into raising the quantity and quality of internships and on-the-job upskilling opportunities for our students, starting with sectors like Manufacturing, Built Environment, Information Communication Technology (ICT), Retail, and Food Services. We have developed strategies to promote access to jobs with good career prospects, encouraged companies to recognise the skills and competencies of our polytechnic and ITE graduates, to invest in talent attraction and retention, and also to invest in their workers' continued education. Good internship experiences and progression pathways are key to encouraging our students to join and stay in the sector they were trained for. Some of these initiatives were announced at MCI's and MTI's COS, such as the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) for ITE and Polytechnics (TIP) Alliance, and the Accelerated Pathways for Technicians & Assistant Engineers (Manufacturing) Grant.

Partnering Society to Drive Change

52. Chair, MOE cannot transform our education system by ourselves. We need and want to partner educators, parents, industry, and our community to achieve this vision.

53. First, our educators. Mr Darryl David, Dr Wan Rizal, and Mr Louis Ng have spoken about them. To inspire our students, we need to inspire our teachers. To widen the exposure of our students, we need to widen the exposure for our teachers. To empower our teachers to steward change, we will partner with the people, public, and private sectors, so that teachers can take up more short-term attachments. Through the Teacher Work Attachment Plus programme, our teachers can broaden their perspectives, enhance their skills, and build connections. Our teachers must then be able to grow as they help our children grow. Many Polytechnic and ITE educators have prior working experience from industry. However, we also need to help them keep current amidst the fast pace of change in the industry. We will therefore send more Polytechnic and ITE educators for industry attachments and for more of them to have collaboration projects with our companies, including SMEs. This will refresh their skillsets and keep their competencies at the frontier.

54. Our educators have worked much harder and for much longer hours in the last two years. As the saying goes "One cannot pour from an empty cup". Hence, we will continue to take care of our teachers' mental well-being and workload. Schools are committed to ensuring that the workload remains manageable and we continue to work towards all schools having Wellness Ambassadors. To strengthen the culture of care and peer support for our teachers, staff Well-being Committees will place more emphasis on the mental well-being of our teachers, with support from MOE HQ. These efforts complement free in-house counselling services at iCARE and the free 24/7 Whole-of-Government counselling hotline.

55. Mr Louis Ng also asked about teachers' appraisal. We appreciate his concern for their wellbeing. Our teachers are driven by a strong sense of mission and responsibility for our students, and it shows in their work and attitude. Therefore, it is important for us to recognise and affirm deserving teachers, especially those who have gone beyond their call of duty, those who have excelled, and those who have set the pace for the fraternity. At the same time, we need to identify teachers who require more support, so that we can build and sustain an excellent teaching workforce. Our appraisal system must therefore ensure consistency and fairness in the ranking of our educators. Mr Ng can be assured that we are constantly updating our policies, so that all our teachers can continue to have access to training programmes, to be guided to improve, and better nurture our students.

56. We also hear Mr Edward Chia's call to support instructors and coaches. MOE and our partners like SportSG, the National Arts Council, and the National Instructors & Coaches Association, recognise the important role they play. We have platforms for regular engagements and have been working closely with them, including reviewing our procurement processes and contractual terms to mitigate the impact of COVID, and we will continue to do so.

57. Our second group of partners are our parents. As Dr Tan Yia Swam said earlier, all of us want the best for our children. But our definition of success must evolve beyond just getting good grades in exams. Let us help our children acquire that skill, based on their interests and strengths, that will allow them to have a unique value proposition when they join the workforce. This strengthens their value proposition, our collective diversity, and resilience. Let us work together to support the wellbeing and development of our children, not to chase after the marginal last mark, instil fear of failure, or excessively compare our children's achievements with others. Let us help them surpass themselves throughout life, rather than surpass others only in exams.

58. MOE will continue to partner and support parents. We provide parenting resources and tips through our platforms and work closely with Parent Support Groups. Our partners, like council members from our COMmunity and PArents in Support of Schools, or COMPASS, have also initiated ground-up efforts to support parents. MOS Sun will elaborate.

59. Our third partner will be our industry. As I stressed earlier, industry needs to work closely with our institutes for continual learning, to provide learning opportunities for our students to prepare them for the workforce and transform themselves to create good jobs for our graduates. Companies who partner our institutions well, will also have the first call to the next generation of talent. This is a significant competitive advantage.

60. Our fourth partner is our community. As they say, "it takes a village to raise a child." In this spirit, we partner the community to support students with higher needs including through UPLIFT, ComLink and other efforts. But this is not all. All of us can contribute to this effort as well. For example, as school alumni, we can give back to our alma mater, by mentoring younger students and giving them career advice. Let us all acknowledge the support we received from the community and the opportunities we received from society. Therefore, it is our responsibility to give back where we can, so that others may benefit as we have. This will enable every generation of Singaporeans to aspire to do even better than the previous generation. Only so, will we continue to preserve education as an uplifting force for all Singaporeans.


61. Chair, my MOE Colleagues will elaborate on the various MOE policies please.