Ong Ye Kung says good academic results is not the only way to success; encourages education system to keep with social media

Yesterday (16 January), Education Minister Ong Ye Kung highlighted that the route to success does not solely rely on academic results.

In fact, he said that employers need to recognise candidates who are equipped with diverse skills so that, when combined together, they can deliver results.

“A degree will therefore not be the only proxy to skills. I suspect that over time, real experiences, internship, mentorship and micro-credentials may become closer proxies,” he noted.

Mr Ong explained that education systems are facing two challenges, first being to change the mindset that a degree is the one and only way to excel in life. The second is to alter education to be one that’s lifelong and experiential.

The Minister mentioned this while speaking at a conference on political societal changes in the Middle East, and if the East Asian experience is relevant to the region.

The two-day conference was organised by the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute, and conducted at Orchard Hotel with 200 attendees comprising of educational leaders and academics from the Middle East and Asia.

Mr Ong was one of the four speakers at the event.

In his speech, Mr Ong also noted the importance of social media and the need for education systems to keep up with it.

He said that social media is changing the way people consume and receive information, and education has to play a role in tackling this challenge.

Even though the society has not found a solution to deal with the ills of social media, education systems have to acknowledge its importance and “equip our young with the values, mindsets and skills to live in this digital world,” he asserted.

Mr Ong also agreed that more people have accepted that social media is “profoundly altering public discourse, and the functioning of democratic system”.

He also went on to explain on how social media had completely modify the way people give feedback or criticism.

Those days, an individual first needs to explain the situation, detail out why a particular action led to a negative outcome, and share areas for improvement.

“Today I’m not sure these skills are observed as most people just click thumbs up or down, and key in some comments, almost unthinkingly,” Mr Ong said.

He continued, “So (social media) really changes the way we interact and give affirmation to each other.”

If that’s not all, it has also change the trust relationships that exist between the authorities, professionals, and people they serve, the Minister said, adding that it can affect young Singaporeans’ social-emotional well-being.

Thankfully, associate chair of research Alton Chua, of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological Univeristy, said that there’s a way to deal with this.

Associate Professor Chua explained that the younger crowd need to not only brush their hard and soft skills to handle a technologically-connected world, but also equip themselves with “values such as respect, honesty and love”.

“The need to survive and even thrive in a capricious job market means we have to continually pick up new skills,” he told the Straits Times.

Separately, Qatar University president Hassan Rashid Al-Derham said at a dialogue that Middle East can learn from Singapore on the need for effective and target-based education. This method, according to him, has helped unify different ethnicities in multi-ethnic Singapore.

“In order for us in the Middle East to overcome our societal divisions because of ethnic, sectarian and class differences, we need to reform and unify education systems through the curriculum to incorporate values that contribute to building the unity in the society,” explained Dr Al-Derham.

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