Haven't had time to personally reflect on a landmark Budget. Left is Right, as Sylvia Lim puts it. One thing that struck me the most was the promotion of continuous reskilling at the level of individuals. The government is giving out something akin to Edusave for workers. It is an excellent move.
For me at least, this will help rescue social mobility from being made redundant by fundamental economic transformations. The government is expanding tertiary education and one day soon PMETs will make up the majority of the workforce. But this social mobility will likely be made meaningless by the replacement of white collar and other middle income-type jobs as machines take over lower-level knowledge work.
But is SkillsFuture enough? We tend to be overly cautious these days, spoiled perhaps by success. Policy cannot be because the workforce has been trained by a conservative and risk-averse education system. Policy has to take into account this trained nature of our workforce and work to undo the habits of mind and hands. As usual, the mindset change must begin with the government.
First, we need to go upstream to shift our educational philosophy and approach. We have gone through quite a number of iterations of promoting creativity, innovativeness and critical thinking in schools. My students have gotten smarter over the decade. They can now give me competent summaries of complex essays. But they still turn to look at the grade first when I return their essays and not my comments. They still ask me what do I want and expect when consulting me for their essays more than using me as a sounding board for their own ideas.
Cultivating a true meritocracy of skills will take another generation, if we dare to kill our educational sacred cows. One thing we can do is to think of how to do ASPIRE not only for Polys and ITEs but for secondary schools and JCs, and to do it not as another additional module to the current curriculum but to overhaul the curriculum to get everyone focused on thinking and practical skills instead of grades and rubrics.
Second, for existing workers, SkillsFuture will need to be daring, empowering and preemptive. SkillsFuture promises an "integrated system of education and training, that responds to constantly evolving industry needs". That's my worry there. I hope "integrated" doesn't mean highly structured, centralised and restrictive. "Responding" sounds reactive. I fear Singapore may become a gigantic school system, with streaming, tests and homework the bane of our whole life.
SkillsFuture will do better to facilitate individuals to make decisions to empower themselves as they forecast the matching of their own needs to industry trends. We should be allowed to be wrong and to over-learn, to accumulate a repository of "unnecessary" skills to better prepare and preempt the future. We should aim instead for a crowd-sourced system of co-creative education, that is ahead of the industry curve and defining known unknowns in industry trends. SkillsNow for future unknown needs.
the persistently political pine stays green in the winter of the patriarch ... while, one by one, the gentlemen fall prey to the corruption of power and patronage
s/pores new directions in singapore studies