by Zhiqi Wang
Education plays a huge part in our lives in Singapore. Few of us can forget the long hours we have spent on our homework, assessment papers, and the notorious Ten-Year-Series (TYS). However, as technology evolves, our mode of education has to change as well and Singapore has made a series of changes that mark the inclusion of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) in our education landscape.
With the opening of the College of Humanities and Sciences at the National University of Singapore (NUS), STEM education has evolved significantly. The college sells itself on its unparalleled flexibility to pursue breadth and depth from more than 1,000 modules per academic year, as it combines the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science.
Gone are the days where one can focus just on one core subject – be Engineering or Accounting – and navigate their way to a stable career. Instead, this change means that students will need to combine knowledge from disparate fields of expertise – like coding and business – and synthesise new insights while identifying new opportunities.
This might come across as a surprise to many, especially due to the rather early streaming of Arts and Science classes way back in Junior College. However, this new move could just be what the economy needs to navigate the challenges in the 21st century. Given the importance of innovation and technology-driven change in economies today, it is not surprising that STEM knowledge (and STEM education) is key to leading sustained economic growth.
The global digital landscape continues to evolve rapidly, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing to the fore increased demand for digital platforms, software, hardware, and services. Nowadays, we can shop online, get our favourite food online (and delivered to our doorsteps), and even explore the world online through virtual tours. This change in lifestyle means that many more opportunities will evolve in the virtual space, compared to the physical world.
Therefore, students will need to develop skills to capture these opportunities. With the rapid changes in the education system to cater to this technology boom, Junior College students can now take computing as an A-level subject. In addition, all upper primary pupils have been undertaking coding classes since 2020 as part of the Government’s goal to develop a pipeline of tech talent for the digital economy.
The economy is shifting very quickly. The traditional economic engines of the 21st century, like Oil & Gas and Shipping, can no longer be the only pillars of our economy. To support this transition, the population needs to adopt a new mindset: one that embraces lifelong learning.
As technology’s life cycle shortens, it is only inevitable that the knowledge we learn in school becomes obsolete. Therefore, we need to become lifelong learners, always curious about new technology and adopting them to keep up with the rest of the world.
Learn by doing
STEM education is taught through ‘active learning’, which asks students to identify problems and to work out a possible solution. Students learn a concept by making use of it, rather than by reading about it in a textbook. For older students accustomed to being told what they needed to know, it’s a far cry from a textbook-centric, exam-evaluated model of education that Singapore is known for.
In conclusion, tiny Singapore remains a nation that has one of the world’s least natural resources, unlike some of our neighbouring countries. Therefore, education is our key comparative advantage and the system needs to equip our residents with the knowledge and attitude to thrive in this new century.
Like stories like these? Check out our STEM issue; read for free here.