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SINGAPORE REPORT news feature: Singapore skills


On this high-rise island, there’s no ideological conflict about what education is for. Here the political agenda is closely aligned to industry need, and education policy is in concert with both

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Above: Singapore University campus Below: pre schoolers learning to code with a Beebot
Above: Singapore University campus Below: pre schoolers learning to code with a Beebot
SINGAPORE REPORT news feature: Singapore skills

Cities have different needs: what’s a smart priority to one urban centre will be lower down the list for another. For Singapore, the government’s smart vision is led by the need to harness opportunities afforded by convergence and new digital technologies to power future economic growth and global competitiveness.


On this high-rise island, there’s no ideological conflict about what education is for. Here the political agenda is closely aligned to industry need, and education policy is in concert with both.


For the children of Singapore, computational thinking informs learning, and is the backdrop to Singapore’s advance towards smart nationhood. And they start young.


On a recent trip to Singapore, SCW visited the PAP community foundation Sparkletots pre-school at Yuhua, one of the first centres in the nationwide PlayMaker Programme.


The PlayMaker Programme was launched last September by what is now known as the Infocomm Media Development Authority or IMDA. It introduces pre-schoolers to robotics and basic programming/coding in a play-based, kinaesthetic way.


The scheme was rolled out earlier this year with an initial investment of SG$1.5m which equipped 160 preschool centres with a collection of technology-enabled toys, on-site school support for staff plus workshops to help teachers to integrate these into the curriculum.


And certainly during our visit, all toys were being used in all curriculum areas such as art and literacy, providing fun-filled engagement for the class of five year olds we spent time with.


The toy suite includes a Beebot, a brightly coloured, chunky, robotic bee about 20cm x 14cms in size, which teaches children to estimate, sequence, think logically and engage in teamwork. It has four directional arrows on its back. Using these, the children have to plan the Beebot’s route before hitting go. Once activated, the toy will follow its programmed instructions.


Then there’s KIBO, a kit that allows children to programme a wooden robot by scanning special wooden blocks that give the robot instructions that it then follows.


Circuit Stickers are easy-to-use electronic kits that use LED stickers and sensor stickers to create interactive projects that can be activated by a third party stimulus.


The PlayMaker Programme aims to enable creativity and fun with technology skills, and is part of a greater push towards digital literacy.

It follows in the footsteps of the Code@SG initiative introduced in 2014 for primary to tertiary level students. The aim here is to get students interested and excited about technology in order to produce tomorrow’s skilled technology professionals.


Within the cluster of programmes under the Code@SG movement, one initiative that has really helped to fire up the imagination of Singapore’s schooled youth is Lab on Wheels.


Lab on Wheels is a set of four retro fitted 40-seater buses that have been kitted out with all the latest technology for children to explore and tinker with.


So far this has been a great success and so far over 40,000 children have sampled its delights. With these labs, children aren’t consumers of technology, which is so often the case, but instead become creators of it. The whole project is designed to be hands on, so children really get to experiment with the technology on-board.


Children can create coding projects using programmes such as Scratch, print 3D objects using latest printers and cutters, explore robotics, drone technology, VR and AI.


Lab activities are free to Singapore’s state schools, and in the case of secondary schools, they stay for a week at a time. Their popularity is such that they are constantly booked out.


This so-called computational learning culture also produces lots of opportunities for children to really immerse themselves in IT enrichment activities such as hackathons and IT competitions –again encouraging creative thinking for IT challenges.


SCW also visited Clementi Town Secondary School where headmistress Helen Tan Lee took us on a whistle stop tour. Here, its Applied Learning Programme or APL (all Singapore state schools have a unique learning programme) focuses on developing students’ computational thinking through coding and computing or CODE for short.


Through CODE, the school exposes all its pupils at an early stage to computer science to ignite their interest to pursue related courses at polytechnics and universities to ultimately go after careers in related industries.


The desired outcome through CODE is children who are at ease and confident with IT and who are also aware of how technology and data underpin modern society.


At Clementi, children are exposed to IT experts and encouraged to take part in industry visits. Some of the girls we spoke to such as 14-year-old Sonya Dohra had been involved in the Digigirlz initiative held at Microsoft, Singapore, which actively seeks to encourage girls to take up the mantle of IT.


However, skills acquisition isn’t the monopoly of educational institutions. TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) is a framework of initiatives that address staffing challenges in ICT through training programmes for the working population at large.


The aim of TeSA is to ensure that local ICT professionals stay abreast of relevant skills to remain employable, and to create a pipeline of highly skilled IT Singaporean professionals and tackle staff challenges due to the pace of technological change resulting in the emergence of new skillsets. e old.


TsSA is available to ICT and non-ICT professionals from those just graduated to mid-level professionals. It offers training through three distinct programmes.


Company-led training (CLT) sets out to enable new and mid-level professionals acquire specialist, expert or mastery level competencies for jobs in demand.


Tech Immersion and Placement programmes (TIPP) aims to assist non–ICT professionals convert to becoming industry-ready ICT professionals through intensive and thoroughly immersive training.


Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme Plus (CIREP+) supports local existing ICT professionals through courses and certification to upgrade skills so that they remain relevant and abreast of technological change in the industry.


At the launch of the new department Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), charged with helping the nation achieve its future vision, Yaacob Ibrahim, minister for communications and information said: “Whether you are fresh out of school, a mid-career professional or someone switching into the ICM sector {Infocomms media}, IMDA will help you learn new ICM skills and advance in your careers.”


He continued: “Singapore’s future is an exciting one. The opportunities are there. It is up to us to seize them and harness the full potential of technology and media to empower a future of possibilities for Singapore. It is no easy task, and will require open minds, hard work, and most importantly, close partnerships between the government, industry and the people.”


In the recently published Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017 from the World Economic Forum published at the end of September, Singapore, Switzerland and the US remain the world’s most competitive economies, a position that this small, proud nation state will continue to fight hard for in the coming years.


Photos below:


1. Lab on wheels. There are four of these with one suitable for special needs children


2. DigiGirl 14 year old Sonya Dohra front, with a classmate during an ICT class




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Lab on Wheels bus. There are four of these with one suitable for special needs children
DigiGirl 14 year old Sonya Dohra front, with a classmate during an ICT class
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