Speeches/Interviews

July 17, 2018

Speech by Ms Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education, at the SkillsFuture Festival @ SMU

Mr Ng Cher Pong

Chief Executive of SkillsFuture Singapore,

Ms Ong Toon Hui

Dean and CEO of the Civil Service College,

Dr Richard Qiu

Vice President, Business Development of Udemy,

Provosts, Principals and colleagues from our Institutes of Higher Learning,

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. A very good morning to everyone. I am very happy to join you on the second day of the SkillsFuture Festival @ SMU, which is a larger part of our SkillsFuture Festival that aims to inspire Singaporeans to develop a passion for learning and at the same time, to pick up new skills – to pick from the buffet spread of courses and initiatives, whether it is to master skills to support our current vocation, or pick up a skill that we’ve always wanted to learn.

2. When Dr Lim Lai Cheng, Executive Director of SMU Academy, reached out to me, I said yes without hesitation, for two reasons. Firstly, today is a special milestone, with the coming together of our 12 Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs). It is a demonstration of our IHLs’ commitment that they will play a larger role in adult education – and Continuing Education and Training (CET) will be part of the expanded mission of our IHLs. So today’s event really is the result of a special collaboration between all 12 IHLs, led by the Singapore Management University, and with support from SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) as well as various industry partners. Through this event, Singaporeans can discover the latest skills in-demand. They get to sample a wide range, or buffet spread as I said earlier, of courses and take part in workshops specially put together by our IHLs and also their industry partners for this purpose.

3. Secondly, for those of us who have gone to IHLs, whether ITE, polytechnic or university, we know that back then we had to rush from lecture theatre to lecture theatre, tutorial room to tutorial room. But our IHLs have been very nimble in re-curating and redesigning the curriculum, so that it is bite-sized, modular and also stackable, because we understand the commitments that adult learners have to juggle. What’s interesting is how lessons are delivered now, compared to 20 years ago. Now, we can use mobile devices. And our IHLs are also starting to design the curriculum from the onset, to be mobile friendly. And I think that really helps the whole experience of learning. So I urge all fellow Singaporeans to come back to school; go to any of our IHLs, come back, and you will be delighted with the experience. I also understand that at this event, participants will learn about industry trends and practices through the talks and learning technologies featured.

4. I was also very happy to learn that we've received encouraging response from the public. More than 2,000 participants registered for the 32 micro-lessons and workshops yesterday at day one, and we are expecting another 2,000 participants for the various courses and workshops today. These will cover cutting-edge topics such as Digital Transformation, Blockchain and also Artificial Intelligence.

5. Now allow me as a layman to find the common denominator. I think one common thread across many of these topics is technology. We all know there has been talk about how technology is shaping our future rapidly and in a way, changing the way we work, live, learn, and also play. I think a lot of people have been saying that we’re in the midst of the Industrial Revolution 4.0. Since the first Industrial Revolution to the third, we all know technology is the common thread. But if you ask me, in this Industrial Revolution 4.0, technological change is happening at an even faster pace than the three preceding ones, more broad based, and also happening in a multi-layered fashion – because of sharing economy and platform business models. However, digitalisation is not all doom and gloom. It has enabled us to learn anytime and anywhere. I was talking about mobile devices earlier, and really, learning is no longer confined to the classroom, lecture theatres, tutorial rooms, or the confines of a school campus. If we embrace the culture of learning, learning can take place anywhere. For example, digital micro-learning programmes allow us to engage in bite-sized learning on the go, with our mobile devices. Now, a lot of you will ask if I’ve been learning anything since I’m advocating it. I’ve actually signed up for a micro-learning course on my mobile phone. It’s a four-hour course on a topic I feel is very current and relevant to me, and that is digital marketing. Our schedules are quite tight, but I think it is important to ring-fence some time to learn. So every day, I ring-fence about 15 minutes to learn, and I do this every day over breakfast. This micro-learning course allows me to organise my learning in 16 blocks of 15 minutes each, which adds up to 4 hours. And the course has been designed in such a way that it’s not just reading, but it also asks questions, because that’s the best way for us to remember. All this takes thinking through of how we are going to re-curate our curriculum, and I want to congratulate our IHLs for your ongoing efforts to do so. We will continue to leverage technology to make learning more accessible to the public, and more importantly, to build a culture of lifelong learning in Singapore. And I know our IHLs will have a big role to play in this.

6. The Public Sector itself is not immune to these forces of change, be it technology or globalisation, and the public sector must also continue to reinvent itself to stay ahead. And I must applaud Ms Ong Toon Hui, Dean and CEO of the Civil Service College (CSC), because I know the CSC has really empowered the public sector to embrace the culture of learning. As part of our Public Sector Transformation plan, we will step up our efforts to transform learning in the public sector, and to better help public officers adopt new skill sets and also build digital capabilities. This morning, we will witness the signing of two collaboration agreements to support these efforts.

7. The first is between our 12 IHLs and the CSC. With this partnership, our IHLs will harness the current SkillsFuture Series courses and work with CSC to curate a range of digital modules specifically for the public sector. These modules will be rolled out via a one-stop digital learning platform for the public service. This is similar to the Ministry of Education’s Student Learning Space (SLS), where we can upload information for sharing among teachers, who can then download the materials and adapt it accordingly, and they can also upload the revised versions. And I think that’s how we all learn collectively. This is developed by CSC, and the digital learning platform will support public officers throughout their careers, facilitating more effective and flexible learning that suit their needs.

8. The second agreement is between Udemy and the CSC. Under this collaboration, public officers will gain access to more than 2,000 online courses under the Udemy for Government programme. This will cover various areas such as Data Analytics, Leadership and Management, and Productivity. This partnership marks the first formal agreement between the partners to support the learning needs of public officers that dovetails CSC’s digital learning platform. Congratulations, Udemy and CSC.

9. These collaborations break new ground for learning in the public sector. They reflect our concerted whole-of-government effort to transform the Public Sector. We know that many sectors are undergoing transformation, and even within the government and public sector, we are also trying to improve ourselves. Take the formation of SSG under the reorganisation of the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) into SSG and Workforce Singapore (WSG). It shows that we are also prepared to reorganise ourselves so that we can better serve the learning needs of Singaporeans, and support the learning and development needs of organisations in Singapore. Similarly, the Infocomm Media Development (IMDA) and Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), which was reorganised from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and the Media Development Authority (MDA). It shows how we are trying to future proof ourselves, so we can better serve Singapore organisations and Singaporeans. The third example is a more recent one – the merger of Spring Singapore and IE Singapore into Enterprise Singapore, to better support the needs of our Singapore enterprises.

10. Most importantly, with the signing of these two significant MOUs, let us never stop learning, embrace change positively as we continue to pursue excellence in whatever we do. Such positive attitudes will strengthen our foundation to excel in our service for our nation, for Singaporeans, and for Singapore enterprises. On this note, congratulations to CSC, Udemy, and our IHLs. I wish everyone a meaningful and a fruitful experience at the SkillsFuture Festival @ SMU. Thank you.