Friday, November 6, 2015

Students must be equipped with skills to thrive at workforce of future: President Tony Tan - Channel NewsAsia

Students must be equipped with skills to thrive at workforce of future: President Tony Tan - Channel NewsAsia

Students must be equipped with skills to thrive at workforce of future: President Tony Tan

SINGAPORE: Singapore's education system must equip students with the skills to thrive in the workforce of the future, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the global launch of the Nobel Prize Series at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on Thursday (Nov 5).

He added that it must also prepare them to tackle the social and ethical issues that arise as technology advances. 

"Innovative solutions using multidisciplinary approaches to solve these global problems are needed and this would require a workforce that is enterprising, creative and collaborative," said Dr Tan.

"Even as we tinker with the education system, we must not forget that educational institutions must continue to instil in our students the values which will put them and the communities they serve in a better position than before," he added.


Five Nobel Laureates are participating in the inaugural two-day event, which aims to identify the challenges and opportunities for education in the 21st century.

They are German physicist Professor Stefan Hell (Chemistry, 2014), Israeli crystallographer Professor Ada Yonath (Chemistry, 2009), English chemist Harold Walter Kroto (Chemistry, 1996), Scottish economist James Mirrlees (Economic Sciences, 1996), and Nigerian playwright and poet Professor Wole Soyinka (Literature, 1986).

The changing role of educators was brought up in a panel discussion held earlier in the afternoon. The panel, which included two Nobel Laureates and members of the education community, said that while technology is changing how people acquire knowledge, universities will continue to have a role to play in the information age.

Professors will act as facilitators of discussions instead of being knowledge providers. They also need to foster curiosity among students, help them develop good communication skills, critical thinking and teamwork. 

Said Dr Stefan Hell: "Since knowledge is so easily accessible, it also means that there can be conformism in knowledge because we all get information from the same source, in the worst case, so teachers have to encourage students to think differently and to question the knowledge. So one of the roles of future teachers is to teach students to be critical."

The panel also noted that while universities continue to work closely with employers to meet industry needs, their main role is to ensure that students are able to adapt to jobs created in the future.

Said chairman of NTU's board of trustees Koh Boon Hwee: "Employers want students to be career-ready but the university's role is not so much about a specific career as about training a young person to continue to learn and have the understanding of how to learn continuously over time. This is going to become increasingly important in the future. Because careers, there is longevity, and careers are going to change."

More than 1,500 business leaders, academics, educators and students attended the conference on Thursday.

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