Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the National Technology-Enhanced Learning Conference (NTEL 2022) at Singapore University of Technology and Design

Published Date: 27 October 2022 06:00 PM

News Speeches

Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chair, SUTD,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

NTEL

1. This year's theme, "Empowering Learning in the Cyber-Physical Era", is a timely call to action.

  1. Today, teaching is no longer just the transmission of knowledge.
  2. Likewise, learning is no longer just the absorption of knowledge.
  3. Success is also not just about knowing yesterday's solutions for yesterday's problems.
  4. Rather, success is the ability to produce tomorrow's solutions for tomorrow's problems, through collaboration, connection, and creativity.

2. Our world is changing fast. We want to help our people keep pace. But no amount of frontloading can prepare our people for an ever-evolving world.

3. Lifelong learning is not just a good-to-have, but a necessity for us to stay competitive and relevant.

4. So how do we leverage technology to help our people evolve faster, and stay competitive?

5. Technology, integrated purposefully, can be a catalyst to transform teaching and learning.

  1. Imagine lessons where the pace and path of learning are customised to cater to students' individual needs.
  2. Imagine classrooms no longer defined by physical walls. But are as big as the world around us – both physically and virtually.
  3. Imagine learning experiences where students are empowered to pursue their interests, where curiosity is the engine of discovery and fuelled by the joy of learning.

6. MOE has over the years, been building a robust foundation to enable our students to master technology.

  1. MOE's ICT Masterplans, first introduced in 1997, have helped schools to progressively integrate the use of ICT in the curriculum and to improve teachers' pedagogy over the years.
  2. A significant recent milestone has been the launch of the Singapore Student Learning Space (SLS), our national e-learning platform, in 2018. All students and teachers in our schools today have access to SLS to enhance both in-class and self-directed learning.

Reimagining Education

7. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption and acceptance of technology.

  1. The full Home-Based Learning (HBL) experience during Circuit Breaker accelerated the adoption of technology by students and teachers, and demonstrated new possibilities for teaching and learning. We are now trying to lock in these gains.

8. Our experiences from full HBL have further opened up new opportunities for us to reimagine teaching and learning in the post-COVID education landscape, and build on the growth that we have seen in our students and teachers.

  1. To cement these gains, we accelerated the roll out of personal learning devices (PLDs) under the National Digital Literacy Programme (NDLP) so that every secondary school student owned a school-issued PLD by the end of 2021, instead of by 2028 as originally planned.

9. However we must not rest on our laurels. Many less well-resourced countries are adopting new teaching and learning technologies and pedagogies to leapfrog more advanced countries.

10. We too, must evolve quickly to stay ahead. I will now share some paradigm shifts that have reshaped our education landscape.

  1. Firstly, technology has enabled schools to provide even greater customisation of learning for their students.
    1. SLS houses a comprehensive and growing pool of digital learning resources developed by MOE curriculum experts that are available to all students for self-directed learning.
    2. Teachers can easily adopt and adapt these digital resources, customising them for the unique needs of their students.
  2. Second, multiple pathways. In our nation's early years, our resource constraints meant we had to prioritise training our people efficiently using a more standardised model.
    1. Today, we have a wide mix of school models, from specialised schools to independent schools, integrated programme schools and so forth. We enjoy greater flexibility in our post-secondary education pathways, and provide students with a wide range of course options across the polytechnics, Institute of Technical Education and autonomous universities.
    2. This diversity of pathways reflects the diversity of gifts and talents we have in Singapore. It represents the evolution of our education system from a course-centric to a student-centric model. To create these diverse peaks of excellence for our students, we need multiple pathways to ground them with strong foundations both in their respective subject domains as well as interdisciplinary skills that allow them to pivot in a rapidly-changing economy.
  3. This brings me to the third shift, lifelong learning. Today, the half-life of knowledge is shrinking and what we teach or learn today may not be relevant by the time our students graduate.
    1. Of paramount importance then, is not just to prepare our students with specialised knowledge, but to inculcate the right learning dispositions to prepare them for life.
    2. To be a lifelong learner does not necessarily mean physically returning to school. But rather, the school is always in our pockets, so that we can learn anytime, anywhere, anything.
    3. Technology has enabled us to do so in the form of online learning, blended learning, or other modalities. For instance, watching a YouTube or TikTok video can be an educational experience, depending on the content.

11. Against this backdrop, I would like to share three new competencies that we need to build. These three new competencies involve teaching new competencies in learning and new competencies to connect ourselves with the rest of the world.

New Teaching Competencies

12. Let me start with the new teaching competencies.

13. Today's learners have different needs from yesterday's learners. Our youths grow up in an increasingly digitalised world, surrounded by internet-enabled and increasingly intelligent digital devices and services. Our educators must constantly observe, adapt and develop new teaching competencies that connect with this new generation of learners.

14. For example, MOE is developing tools that will allow teachers to better cater to the needs of different student profiles.

  1. Presently, teachers can use the Heatmap feature in SLS, which is a dashboard that makes it easy for teachers to monitor how students are performing in their assignments individually or as a class. The learning data provides teachers with necessary insights to plan subsequent lessons that address the specific learning gaps for the class, specific groups or individual students.
  2. MOE is also developing adaptive learning systems that can support teachers in catering to a wider range of students. In particular, such adaptive learning systems can provide high needs students with additional practice and support to master concepts and skills, while allowing higher ability students to move on to other topics more quickly. In this way, technology augments the teachers' abilities to meet every student's needs by creating customised learning experiences at scale.

15. I mentioned earlier that teaching and learning extends beyond the transmission of knowledge.

16. Instead, education is increasingly about acquiring the art of sensemaking. In a society overflowing with information, wisdom is a prized commodity. From noise, we must learn to distil and discern, to make sense and make meaningful choices guided by our values. We must help our students become critical thinkers who triangulate sources of information, embrace ambiguity in the sense-making process, and appreciate diverse perspectives before arriving at their own deeper conclusions and understanding of an issue.

  1. To help students sense-make, our teachers need exposure to diverse and rich experiences beyond the classroom. By giving our teachers short-term attachment opportunities beyond school, across the public and private sectors, we help broaden our teachers' perspectives on the wider community and the world. When our teachers venture outside to learn and grow, they return with fresh perspectives and insights that enrich our students' learning. They also become leading examples of lifelong learning for our students.

17. There is a proverb that says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We want to go both fast and far. To do that, we must go beyond the talents of the individual teacher, to leverage on the strengths of our fraternity to test and implement best practices faster and more efficiently. Technology is a key enabler in this marketplace of ideas, where best practices can be shared with one another.

  1. One such effort is the SLS "Community Gallery" feature, where teachers can share their good lessons with colleagues across every school. This allows teachers to build on one another's effective lesson designs, adapting them as required to the needs of their students.
  2. There is also the Singapore Learning Designers Community (SGLDC), a vibrant online community consisting of more than 20,000 educators who come together to share, learn, and collaborate on technology-enabled learning experiences. They share their technology-enabled lessons, crowdsource for lesson ideas, and help one another troubleshoot technical challenges.

18. So how well we are able to collaborate with one another will determine the speed of our evolution within our education system. The better we are able to do this, the faster we evolve, and the better we are able to serve our cause of bringing up a new generation of learners.

19. For our students to become competent in digital learning, we must also enable our teachers to become designers and facilitators of meaningful, tech-mediated learning experiences. This can be achieved through the continuous upgrading of our teachers' skills through technology.

  1. To achieve this, MOE is developing teachers' abilities to use e-Pedagogy, enabling them to teach effectively with technology to help students learn in an active, connected and reflective way.
  2. The needs for continuing education and training (CET) are also addressed with the set up of a joint Living Lab through the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that SUTD will be signing with SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Institute for Adult Learning (IAL). This approach allows for the constant innovation and adoption of new pedagogies and technologies, which suit the needs and expectations of both tertiary lifelong learners as well as the training and adult education (TAE) sector. Under the SSG-SUTD-IAL 3-party collaboration, this joint Living Lab will support the capability development of adult educators and CET learners through the provision of cyber-physical learning for skills training and workforce development.,

New Learning Competencies

20. We must also inculcate new learning competencies in our students.

21. The acronym "VUCA", which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, should be familiar to all of us by now. In this VUCA world, we need to nurture our students to have strong foundations in their knowledge as well as the right learning dispositions and suitable competencies to succeed in life. One critical competency is our students' ability to be self-directed in their learning, and to learn for life.

  1. Building on our gains from the COVID-19 experience, MOE has also integrated regular Home-Based Learning (HBL) Days as part of the school experience for secondary and pre-University students. This provides students with more opportunities to learn at their own pace and to be empowered to take charge of their own learning. HBL Days also include student-initiated learning, where students are given dedicated time to initiate and pursue areas of interest, developing intrinsic motivation to learn outside of the curriculum. These are critical skills for them as they go into the workplace as well – because learning goes beyond the classroom.

22. Adaptive learning technology supports our efforts to help our students develop as self-directed learners, instead of passive consumers of knowledge. That is when teaching and learning is at its most effective.

  1. MOE is developing such adaptive tools within the SLS that students can use for self-directed learning. This includes an adaptive learning system for Mathematics, which will recommend a step-by-step pathway customised for each learner. We are also developing a Learning Feedback Assistant for English Language that provides students with personalised feedback on their writing. These systems encourage students to take ownership of their learning and complement teachers who provide more detailed guidance and instruction.

23. By analysing and interpreting students' learning and assessment data to continually improve the design of learning experiences, we will also allow our students to grow as independent learners who can learn at their own pace, revisit concepts when necessary, and pursue other areas of interest.

  1. At the higher education level, SUTD's campusX initiative seeks to draw on data-driven insights to develop digital competencies in both students and staff. CampusX looks at how new or existing technologies can be used to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at SUTD and beyond, as well as to help refine and implement SUTD's pedagogy more effectively in a dynamic learning environment.
    1. For instance, sensors networks in a classroom can gather anonymized data from eye trackers and wearables to provide live feedback to instructors and students. The data can then prompt learning interventions such as gamification, or even activate robots and chatbots to offer students with help or simply send words of encouragement to boost their morale.
    2. Through adopting emerging tools or possibly innovating its own technological tools, SUTD's campusX aims to allow students to engage in collaborative and personalised learning from anywhere in the world without the need to be in the same physical classroom, through a cyber-physical campus platform in SUTD that also connects IHLs, industry/global partners, government agencies and R&D organisations from around the world.
  2. I am happy to hear that SUTD will be signing a Project Agreement with Technologico de Monterrey (TEC), Mexico, on cyber-physical learning.
    1. As part of the agreement, SUTD and TEC will conduct joint experiments and research, such as evaluations on learning analytics for real-time analysis of live feeds and learning interventions.
    2. For example, video and voice analytics were used to analyse student engagement during SUTD's "Freshmore Asian Cross-curricular Trip" (FACT) programme, which allows first year students to experience 1-week short immersion programmes with partner universities in ASEAN and China. For the FACT programme that was conducted virtually this year, virtual reality and data analytics were used to encourage engagement in an ice-breaking activity between students of SUTD and those from Northeast Normal University and Shenzhen Technology University, who were physically located in China. In this inaugural trial of the virtual reality programme, SUTD used video analytics to measure the engagement level of students. I am heartened to hear that students enjoyed the activity and that SUTD will conduct further testing to enhance the students' experience and ensure that they are accustomed and comfortable to collaborate with their peers from around the world.

24. This spirit of connectivity brings me to my final point.

New Connections

25. We must develop new competencies for our citizens to connect effectively with the rest of the world. As a small country, our competitiveness is not measured by how many Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans we have in Singapore alone.

26. Our competitiveness is measured by how much talent we have access to in the global talent network, including Singapore, so that we can have the most competitive team to win the contracts and deliver the unique value propositions to our worldwide customers.

  1. I will share an example. In Fusionopolis, there is a building called The Sandcrawler, which houses Industrial Light & Magic Singapore, Lucasfilm's visual effects and animation studio. Though the Sandcrawler serves as the studio's regional headquarters, the company is able to access global talent sited all around the world to collaborate seamlessly on video editing and production. For example, the office in Asia can work for 8 hours, before handing over the project to another office, say, in Europe, for another 8 hours, before passing the task again to another office in the US to work for the next 8 hours before finally handing the project back to Asia again. So when offices all around the world can pour 24 hours into an ongoing project, global talent is leveraged.
  2. Our competitiveness is not dependent on how many locals or foreigners we have in Singapore. It will be measured by our ability to chorale and mobilise resources from beyond our geographic borders, to get ahead in the global competition for jobs and projects.

27. Technology has given us new capabilities to collaborate, connect and create – we must dare to leverage these technologies to further our objectives to remain competitive. We must build and pioneer new virtual and physical connections with local and overseas counterparts, and we must start from a young age.

  1. For instance, our students have leveraged video-conferencing platforms to connect with their peers abroad, learning about each country's unique cultural practices through live virtual school exchanges enabled by video-conferencing tools. And indeed, during the COVID-19 period, we have stepped up in this.
  2. Pasir Ris Secondary School has experimented with a virtual learning field-trip that can be used to teach the concept of communal spaces in Geography. The teacher, located off-site at a nearby town centre, live-streamed the sights and sounds of what she was experiencing to two classes of students located in school. The experience was interactive and participatory, with the students in school interacting with the off-site teacher. This teacher could have been in Singapore or anywhere in the world.

28. In an ever-changing world, we must go through new dimensions of experiences for us to be able to evolve faster. We must avoid the herd mentality and the well-trodden paths – instead, we must be first-movers who dare to take the road less taken. Our students need to be resilient individuals who, in the headwinds of uncertainty, have the confidence to ideate and innovate – skills that are essential for lifelong learning.

  1. For example, in Commonwealth Secondary School, students are taught Design Thinking via their TrailBlazer programme. Through the programme, students work with grassroots and community organisations to understand their needs and design appropriate solutions. From these experiences, students are trained to exercise empathy, ask the right questions and then prototype out-of-the-box solutions.
  2. At the institutional level, I am glad to hear that SUTD is forging a path in educational technology and publishing a white paper on cyber-physical learning to commemorate NTEL 2022. The white paper is a study aimed at providing an overview of the barriers and challenges in digital transformation, with contributors from SUTD, TEC, Zhejiang University, Singapore Poly, SUSS, and the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL).
  3. As part of the potential next steps to move forward on cyber-physical learning, the white paper calls for the formation of an international alliance/consortium on cyber-physical learning and for greater collaboration. I look forward to how SUTD will collaborate, connect and create with its partners in this exciting field.

Closing

29. Today I spoke on the three new competencies that we must build into our education system- new competencies in teaching, new competencies in learning, and new competencies to connect with the world. Both physically and in the virtual domain.

30. Instead of focusing on the pupil-to-teacher ratio, let's work on increasing the number of teachers who are enabled by technology to bring out the best in our students. And finally, our input indicator for our education system is not the pupil-to teacher-ratio. That is passé. Going forward, our input indicator should instead focus on how many quality teachers we have supported and enabled through technology to bring out the best in our children.

31. On that note, our outcome indicator is also not about how well our students do in their exams for the first 15 years of their school life. Our outcome indicator is how well our students do in the next 50 years of their life beyond school. Technology, at the end of the day, is a tool. And the ultimate measure of a tool, no matter how sophisticated or futuristic, lies in its usefulness.

  1. In this way, the success of any educational technology will depend on its ability to keep student needs and user experience at its heart, to be guided by the principles of effective pedagogy, and finally, to be both timeless and timely in its design.

32. I wish all participants a meaningful and insightful time at the conference. I look forward to hearing your ideas, and working together to leverage education technology and reimagine our education sector and bring us to the next higher plane. We must never be complacent, that just because we have good teachers and we are well resourced, that naturally we will stay at the forefront. We can also learn from other countries which may be less resourced, but have creatively used technology to provide a meaningful educational experience for teachers and learners alike, at scale and speed. That is what we must achieve.

33. Thank you.

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