Adaptability ‘now key skill for graduates’

Adaptability ‘now key skill for graduates’
Minister Heng Swee Kiat cuts a mothers day cake during a ministerial visit to Bishan East on May 10, 2015. Photo: Jason Quah
Not good for S’pore if students graduate only job-ready, as requirements change: Heng
Published: 4:16 AM, May 11, 2015
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SINGAPORE — It is important for universities to teach generic skills rather than specific skills, such as in computer software, that will soon have to be changed, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

In fact, it would not be a good thing if students graduate perfectly and only job-ready, as graduates must constantly learn and adapt to changing job requirements.

“If you have the basics, then you’ll continue to learn all these things. It’s impossible for our institutes of higher learning to churn out students who are perfectly job-ready, because if they do that, then they’re doing a bad job,” he said.

“It’s as if it’s a production line.”

That was one of the key takeaways of Mr Heng’s thoughts on the direction for Singapore’s education system as he engaged in a dialogue, themed Singapore Moving Forward, Building Our Future Together, with about 400 Bishan residents.

Singapore has to think about “the skills of the future”, said Mr Heng, citing as an example the “ability to continue to learn how to learn, the ability to think in very analytical terms”.

“How do I form my own conclusion, (which is) the ability to create something out of all the knowledge I have? How do I innovate?” he continued.

“It’s important because machines will get smarter and smarter. What we have to do are the things machines cannot do. The uniquely human quality is the ability to integrate all the different pieces of knowledge.”

He cautioned parents against thinking about schooling based on what they used to learn — a “certain set of tools that might be (from) 20, 30 years ago”.

“There’s a 40-year gap in our thinking that we really have to bridge, so we have to think how to focus on what skills matter.”

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