Education as the cornerstone of the future economy

Why new ways of learning will help companies develop future-ready employees.

The Singapore economy was previously organised upon a predictable ladder of development where the government anticipated market demands and ensured that companies had the right infrastructure and workforce in place. However, as disruption continues to wave its sleight of hand across a slew of industries, the increasingly nebulous future economy will require industry support to complement the efforts of the government.

One sector that will spearhead the workforce evolution is education. As Singapore continues leading the charge in ensuring a future-ready workforce, we must stay keenly attuned to the demands of tomorrow and re-examine the ways in which learning is meted out to provide Singaporeans with a leg-up as they step into the workplace of the future.

Redefining Learning: EdTech

The realm of education has seen great progress over the past decade with traditional learning models taking a back seat, and an increasing number of institutions allowing digital technologies to steer the wheel where classroom-learning is concerned. This transformation is timely in an age when students are digital natives, and key to perpetuating further disruption and innovation in the sector is the notion of educational technology, also known as EdTech.

Projected to grow by 8 percent to US$252 billion by 2020 globally, EdTech is about applying digital technology to enable tailored and personalized learning. By shifting away from traditional classrooms and pure textbook learning, the next generation will have more opportunities to develop soft skills, adapt to change, and create innovative solutions.

Take free maths app, Miao, for example. Miao, was developed as the brainchild of fresh graduates who wanted to offer an educational aggregator that could level the playing field for students across different schools and backgrounds anytime, anywhere. The app allows students to snap and upload photos of a maths question, and then provides results of the best solutions and similar questions for practice based on an algorithm that combines machine learning and natural language processing, which are components of artificial intelligence.

Within the classroom itself, institutions like PSB Academy have already made their first forays into inculcating EdTech in their curriculum via solutions like AcKtec. With this cloud-based e-learning platform, students can practice and revise for examinations remotely, at their own time and pace.

Through such examples of adaptive learning driven by EdTech, learning is redefined with customized, on-demand curriculums. As employability increasingly relies on one’s ability to pivot and pick up new skills quickly, schools must embrace a flexible, EdTech friendly learning environment to enable advancements in education efforts and to better prepare students for the digital economy.

The author

Derrick Chang

Derrick Chang, CEO, PSB Academy 

Mapping Education to Growth Sectors

As a key pillar of society, education plays a key role in growing Singapore’s innovation capital. To further fuel our Smart Nation Vision, there is value in mapping the future of education against the nation’s blueprint for growth and productivity.

Take the area of healthcare for example. By the year 2030, one in every five residents in Singapore will be a senior citizen. Not only will this have an impact on the services and infrastructure required in the sector, but the talent that will become integral to supporting our seniors. Of the additional 30,000 healthcare workers needed to meet the demands of an aging population, community nurses will play an indispensable role in ensuring quality healthcare service.

To realise the full benefits of community nursing, it is important to groom a future-ready healthcare workforce who can leverage best in class technology. For instance, a sound understanding of data analytics can play a useful role in patient management, wherein nurses can track and share their patients’ health conditions with pharmacists to monitor medication needs and dosages.

Key to future curriculum changes includes the need to think outside of the traditional box to ensure that the workforce of the future can readily step up to be both digital natives at work and at play, inculcating technology into their everyday duties.  

Transforming towards Transnational Education  

As we move towards a highly connected future, there is a greater need for convergence, and the ability to “play well” with others will be vital for the modern workplace. To help Singaporeans assimilate to cross-border communication early on, educational institutions can start by encouraging exposure beyond the usual industrial attachments and internships. Schools should make transnational education a part of their curriculum for students through tapping on an immersive international experience to help students grow more cognizant of the effects of globalization.

We have seen the fruits of a successful transnational education network with many of our partners in ASEAN, UK and Australia. Our close partnership with the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom and Chindwin College in Myanmar through the joint-delivery of degree programmes, for example, has been successful in developing the next generation of Myanmar’s engineers.

Our 10-year relationship with The University of Newcastle Australia, has allowed our students the flexibility of completing a dual campus programme, to have a head-start in becoming highly adaptable and resilient individuals. As all these students navigate through a foreign environment, they will be inadvertently compelled to exercise soft skills such as sharing and negotiating, which makes for the growth of more socially and emotionally intelligent graduates.

This experience thus serves as a great launchpad in helping student acclimatise to foreign cultures and building a global network of contacts, all while they complete their education. As Asia’s Future Academy, we continue to integrate the very best of Singapore’s capabilities as ASEAN’s innovation hub, to develop human capital that will fuel the vast growth opportunities across Asia.

As the way we work continues to grow more collaborative, an educational experience steeped in broad-based global learning helps students to stay relevant and resilient in the face of a constantly changing environment, by training them to adapt their thinking to different variables amidst a host of situations.

The Way Forward

2018 will be a year of preparing students for more rapid economic and social change, for jobs that have not yet been created, and for technologies not yet invented. While undoubtedly challenging, the way forward with education must be to cultivate flexible and open systems to replace the outdated rote-learning we grew up with. This is to continue giving rise to bold individuals who dare to challenge the status quo, while recognising the importance of a life-long learning continuum.

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