During an hour-long ministerial forum with students of the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) on 4 September, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong answered several questions from the audience.
Videos of the premier’s answers were uploaded into a playlist on the Prime Minister’s Office Youtube Channel.
Speaking about working professionals returning to school in order to upskill, PM Lee said he hopes that more people will do it. “It has become a more urgent matter for people to do that now,” he said.
He added that he believes there’s an unmet demand for adult education which should be provided for and encouraged.
“You may think there’s work to be done, I can’t afford to go back to study. But if you don’t study you are going to be, in the long run, less productive,” he warned.
While he concedes that a person cannot spend their entire life just studying, he says that people should refresh their skills every now and again.
He said, “You can’t spend your whole life studying, but every now and again you must spend time and come back and refresh your skills. And lawyers do that. Doctors do that. There is a professional requirement, every year you must spend so many hours and attend so many courses.”
On how to prepare service providers to cater to this demand, PM Lee said that Singapore’s universities and polytechnics already do this. There are already courses on offer that are designed for working adults, structured in a modular way and containing information that is relevant to the particular skill that people want to learn.
He also said that lecturers are being trained to get used to teaching adults.
“Because if you are teaching 18 or 19-year-olds, these are people fresh from school. They are used to sitting in classrooms…but if you come back to study after a few years, you will find that you will be asking yourself why am I sitting down taking notes when I could be out doing something,” he illustrated.
“And the mind works not the same way anymore. You’re more mature but you’re not as young, not as quick to pick up completely new ideas.”
“And you have to work harder at it and the lecturers have to be able to adapt to this and to adapt their styles to help older people to learn at their own pace and their own way.”