My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

OTGV #2 - Lifelong Learning

Broadcasted on 08/07/02

Life long learning.

It's the regular political and academic mantra chanted these last few years.

Most of the rhetoric has been directed at the learners.

Singaporeans have been cajoled not to rest on their laurels, but to continue to upgrade themselves and never give up on their pursuit of knowledge.

But thus far all fingers have been pointed directly at Singaporeans and their lacking the culture of lifelong learning.

Thus it is refreshing to have the finger-pointing redirected to institutes of higher learning or IHLs instead of individuals for once.

Hi, welcome to On The Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang as I take a look at the challenge faced by IHLs in the era of lifelong learning.

What is lifelong learning?

Director of the National Institute of Education, Professor Leo Tan offers a definition.

"All learning activity undertaken throughout life with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence within personal, civic, social and/or employment related perspectives. And therefore lifelong learning is about acquiring and updating all kinds of abilities, interests, knowledge and qualifications from pre-school years to employment. It won't go to the grave but beyond."

Dr Tan noted that the important point is that lifelong learning isn't solely confined to the enhancement of one's career as usually construed in this country.

Lifelong learning can be also for the spiritual and cultural betterment of oneself.

The era of lifelong learning has benefited largely from an ever-shrinking world.

The internet has brought libraries and universities into the homes of millions of adult learners.

As such IHLs need to re-invent themselves.

They cannot be too rigid a brick-and-mortar structure.

Instead they should transform themselves as a fluid presence flowing into households and households via telephone ports.

But in doing so, IHLs also must also ask themselves important questions.

Dr Leo Tan again.

"Do we still have a place in a learning environment where everybody can learn anywhere. Anytime I can do home learning . I can find places in Bangalore that can teach me mathematics why do I need to come to the National University of Singapore or the Nanyang Technological University. In other words, do we need to question our paradigm of how we teach, how we learn?"

Dr Leo Tan says that modern educators must draw lessons from the parables of the past to prevent inertia from setting in.

"The great American radical orator Wendell Philips told the parable about a sage summoned by the emperor of China. The emperor asked the sage what was the most vexing problems blocking improved policies in the state. The sage replied the rat in the statue. Rat in the statue, Roared the emperor, what nonsense! Its not, said the sage. Most households keep wooden statues to honor their ancestors. Frequently gnaw nests there and pillaged the house. Should people preserve the sacred images and suffer the rats or burn the statues to destroy the vermin? In Philips times, the rat was the implicit constitutionality of slavery but in higher education, what is our allegory or analogy to the rat in the statue?"

But the gradual evolution whereby knowledge previously dispensed from classrooms comes from a computer, is just one facet of change.

Another facet is that educators mustn't assume that bound books and hard theory are irrefutable any more.

Educators who continue to do so, do so only at their own peril.

"One of the biggest fears of university... all of us needs to ask that question... How do we stay relevant? The monastic university is outmoded. We cannot go the way of 'I tell You, I have the book of knowledge'. Now it is... Can we learn together? Tertiary institutions must stay relevant with the times in order to ensure that we have a growing, dynamic and prosperous future."

Education Ministry's Parliamentary Secretary, Hawazi Daipi, says IHLs need to see themselves as partners in lifelong learning.

Mr Hawazi says they must look beyond the fulltime students that they are supposed to mold.

"The imperative of lifelong learning has also brought about a new learning paradigm for key learning providers such as the IHLs. To remain relevant, IHLs need to engage in lifelong learning interactions with the alumni beyond the three to four years of intensive interactions during the pre-employment education. To do this, IHLs will have to be attuned to the needs of the industry as well as the individuals. This would enable them to customise and structure the professional programmes and courses to meet individuals."

But the hard work of reinventing themselves won't be entirely without benefits for the IHLs.

Mr Hawazi says they can benefit.

"Engaging in continuous education also brings reciprocal benefits to the IHLs. Adult learners are more mature and bring with them fresh ideas and valuable experience from industries. They are better able to test what they are taught against the experiences in the real world. In the process of interacting with IHL staff, adult learners can also can also help to spark new ideas for the teachers."

It is a changing world.

Individuals must change, and so too must the academic institutions that are supposedly leading the charge towards implementing lifelong learning.

The true revolution will not be confined simply to the students but also to the teachers whose job it is to teach.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Ministry of Education
National Institute of Education


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