“It is building a network of volunteers to work with primary and secondary schools, and link them to industries and communities, to help students get a better idea of possible career options” (Volunteers Sought To Help Students Explore Career Options, Pearl Lee).
The network of professional volunteers who will work with primary and secondary schools to “link them to industries and communities, to help students get a better idea of possible career options” (ST. Sept. 23) is a constructive undertaking by the Ministry of Education (MOE), though over time individual institutions – especially in the secondary schools, before their graduates decide on specialisations and courses in the institutes of higher learning – should be empowered by the MOE to build a more sustainable community of parents and alumni who will provide these connections in the future. Likewise, the work of these school-based communities should also “complement that of education and career guidance counsellors”.
Necessity of this new network – which is expected to house 1,000 professional volunteers by the end of 2018 and 100 of the aforementioned education and career guidance counsellors by 2017 – was justified by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who noted that “[while] some schools with longer histories can tap their alumni networks for the same purpose, not all schools have the access to such people”. In the bigger picture, the “every school a good school” vision resonates, and furthermore, the MOE is sending the message that pedagogies should shift from the acquisition of knowledge to the mastery of skills. Porosity between pathways in Singapore’s education system can be emphasised too. “Some of our newer schools do not have strong alumni or the same profile in the community. We want to help every school and provide them with resources”, Mr. Heng added.
Besides helping students get a better idea of possible career options, education and career guidance encourages students to immerse themselves in out-of-classroom undertakings such as internship stints and community service. A greater passion for learning in general is fostered if students can relate school curriculum to real-life applications, and even their aspirations for potential jobs.
Not only are these principles in line with national productivity movement SkillsFuture, they also echo the recommendations made by the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (Aspire) Committee in August last year.
The main advantage of leveraging upon parents and alumni from the same school is their proximity to, and by extension familiarity with, the students. Over time, it would be more challenging to cater to a wider variety of career options, so the sharing of these resources and expertise between schools – perhaps facilitated by the MOE and the aforementioned network – can be arranged, thereby allowing these benefits to be accrued to the students.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.