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Teaching should help students find meaning in an age of information overload: Chan Chun Sing

Teaching today must go beyond imparting knowledge to helping students find meaning in a world overloaded with information, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Monday (May 30).

It should also be about finding solutions to future challenges and preparing for tomorrow's needs, he said, addressing about 700 researchers and educators attending a hybrid conference held by the National Institute of Education (NIE).

These and other shifts in educational practice need to take place in the coming years, he said, to broaden the impact teachers have and prepare Singaporeans for a world that is increasingly connected, yet fragmented.

"If we do this well, we will take another major step towards the next stage of learning and teaching in our schools so that we can best optimise the human potential that we have within our country," he added.

Speaking at the Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference, which focused on outlining new ways of teaching and learning, Mr Chan said: "We need to help our learners make sense and make choices anchored by our values. From information overload, we must learn to distil and listen for real knowledge and wisdom to emerge.

"We must help our students acquire critical thinking skills,verify information, and appreciate diverse perspectives, so theycome to their own, deeper understanding of an issue."

He added: "Beyond focusing on developing the optimal syllabus, curriculum and system, teaching must increasingly provide a diversity of models and methods to meet the diverse learning needs of our students."

While training people as efficiently as possible was Singapore's priority in the 1950s and 1960s, the country now has a range of school models from specialised schools to independent schools, he said, adding that full subject-based banding and a variety of post-secondary pathways provide greater flexibility.

The focus must also increasingly be on learning anywhere and not just in the classroom, said Mr Chan. This could be through home-based learning or using learning tools powered by artificial intelligence that personalise learning for students and provide immediate feedback.

"As we develop our students' abilities, we are also developing teachers' proficiency in e-Pedagogy via professional development resources and online learning modules," he said.

"We are also growing our expertise in adult learning and developing resources for learning at the workplace."

Another way to adapt and implement best teaching practices faster is to share resources among educators and institutions, said Mr Chan.

To this end, the Singapore Learning Designers Community, which was set up by the Education Ministry's Educational Technology Division in 2017, consists of more than 20,000 educators who share lesson ideas and help each other troubleshoot technical challenges.

The polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education have also set up an online platform for students to access content across disciplines, he said.

Beyond pursuing academics, more attention must be paid to building up socio-emotional and mental resilience in students, he added.

The refreshed character and citizenship education, which emphasisesmental health and cyber-wellness, will contribute to this side of students' development, he said, as well as a curriculum on life skills in the institutes of higher learning.

And lastly, teachers must partner with parents and industry, said Mr Chan, as it takes a "village" to bring up a child.

Teachers must also understand what is happening in the world beyond schools, he added, and the Education Ministry has started providing teachers with short-term attachments in the public and private sectors.

"We want our teachers to go out to learn, to grow, and to bring back new perspectives that can enrich our fraternity, in order to improve the way we teach and learn in our schools," he said.

Monday's conference was organised by NIE's Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice (CRPP), which marks its 20th anniversary this year.

In a speech at the event, NIE director Christine Goh said the centre was set up in 2002 with the aim of improving classroom practices in Singapore schools.

"CRPP has also successfully developed a generation of local research talent, with many choosing to remain in NIE to increase our research capabilities," she said.

"With fast-evolving trends in education due to new and rapid local and global developments, combined with the transformations seen in education as a result of Covid-19, the need for a re-envisioning of education and schools for the future has never been more urgent and critical," Professor Goh added.

The three-day conference brings together local and overseas representatives to discuss educational research and broaden networks. It will feature more than 400 presentations, 27 symposiums, and five masterclasses.

Some of the topics covered are curriculum development, early childhood education, and educational policy research.

TEACHERSChan Chun SingEDUCATION AND SCHOOLS