On Lifelong Learning | Speaking at an SUSS event
I had the privilege to speak at a Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) event for entrepreneur-alumni. It was great to meet fellow entrepreneurs and learn about the businesses they run; I wish them well as they grow their ventures and serve their users.
SUSS was renamed from SIM University (UniSIM) in 2017 as part of its restructuring into Singapore’s 6th Autonomous University. SUSS retains a focus on lifelong learning and continuous education 👏, as UniSIM did by providing part-time education to working adults who formed a significant part of its then-student population.
My father was one of these adult learners / part-time students who earned his diploma and degree while working. Part of the recently-honoured Merdeka Generation, my father and many of his peers who came of age in the 1960s/70s entered the workforce early (after ‘O’-Levels or less) to support their families, even though many had wished to continue their education if financial resources had permitted.
Today, my missus is also a part-time student — working while training to be an early childhood educator and rushing home after school to cook dinner for the family and take care of the home.
I have the utmost respect for our part-time students, seeing first-hand how my father and missus juggle work responsibilities, family commitments and schoolwork. They show tremendous perseverance and a desire to continuously improve. Adult learners and part-time students deserve as much help and support as we can give.
Back in 2013, I’d proposed for Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) Education Scheme (a loan scheme where CPF Members used an approved amount of their own CPF Ordinary Account savings to pay tuition fees for their diploma/degree — to be repaid after graduation) to be opened up to Part-Time students — levelling the playing field for them as they upgraded their skills and qualifications.
My reasoning was simple and intuitive:
Giving part-time students access to the scheme does not require government funds. It merely allows them the same opportunity as their full-time peers to unlock their own funds to finance their education.
Upgrading their skills helps them increase their incomes and puts them in a better position to repay their CPF Education Scheme loans, no different from full-time students.
We would then be taking another step towards an equal-opportunity society, and give a greater proportion of our population the ability to upgrade themselves and improve their productivity, which is one of the key goals of our nation.
The Ministries of Manpower and Education replied negatively. While I acknowledge their point that there were many other avenues of financial assistance available to part-time students, they skirted my main point on Level Playing Fields for part-time students and full-time students. You can read their full reply 😐:
In the six years since, it is now even more imperative that we embrace lifelong learning — in today’s Age of Digital Disruption
To be fair to the Singapore Government, official support for Continuous Education and Learning (CET) has scaled significantly in the past six years. While Singapore has always championed lifelong learning and skills upgrading, this has been made even more explicit now.
The Government set up SkillsFuture, a national lifelong learning movement to provide Singaporeans with the (quote) “opportunity to develop ourselves to the fullest, achieving skills competency and mastery”.
There is now even more support for Singaporeans to upgrade ourselves. SkillsFuture subsidises many training courses for adult learners, and Singaporeans above 25 years were given $500 in SkillsFuture credits to be applied towards training courses. SkillsFuture also engages employers and works with educational institutions and training partners to “ensure students and working adults have access to high quality, industry-relevant training throughout life”.
For Employers— there are now a myriad of initiatives encouraging companies to imbibe learning in the workplace, and continuously upskill staff capabilities. Though, more needs to be done to shift mindsets away from academic qualifications towards Skills-Based Hiring.
From the Training Provision perspective, training and education needs to evolve to fit the schedules and needs of busy adults:
No longer can workforce training continue to be solely classroom-based, which is time-consuming and often not possible for labour-intensive businesses.
This is the raison d’etre of ArcLab, our learning & development SaaS platform that empowers organisations to create ON-DEMAND, BITE-SIZED, MOBILE training that improves workforce performance.
ArcLab is a more effective way to onboard, motivate and train the modern workforce. Designing the product from the perspective of busy schedules (and shortened attention spans) of the modern workforce, learning modules created in ArcLab are:
- Fully-interactive and Gamified
- Rich-media centric — Embedding video, rich media for greater engagement
- Assessment focused — Testing knowledge retention and understanding
- Data-driven — Learner analytics provides insight to the manager and organisation
ArcLab ensures effective training can be done anytime, anywhere. This saves organisations training costs and provides them with valuable staff data, and enables workers to upskill more effectively, in less time.
Since ArcLab’s founding last year, we have had the privilege to support the work of Institutes of Higher Learning like Singapore Polytechnic, training providers like Business Academia, and organisations like hospitality company The Lo & Behold Group and luxury watch retailer The Hour Glass, to name a few (hopefully SUSS soon too 😊).
We are grateful for the faith and support they have shown in us in our earliest days, and will continue to work hard to fulfil our mission to support Lifelong Learning. ArcLab is still young, and there is a lot more that we are building and working on — taking in feedback from our users to improve our platform’s andragogy and technology – to help organisations everywhere train their workforces effectively.
I’ll end back at the SUSS Alumni event I spoke at. It was a brilliantly-organised event; there was plenty of discussions and I learnt lots from speaking with the folks in attendance.
For my sharing per se, I did not have any deep insight or academic study to share. Instead, I shared the mistakes I’d made in my entrepreneurship journey (Section 9 of this Adrian Tan interview). Because mistakes are the most valuable lessons that the school of life teaches us (and I’ve made plenty, as a portfolio manager, an entrepreneur, a person), and I hoped this was of value to my fellow entrepreneurs.
My thanks once again to SUSS — Evelyn, Eileen, Ellen and Nicole, for the kind invitation to speak at your event. 🙏