Better teaching of life skills in polytechnics and ITE on the way
Better teaching of life skills in the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is on the cards, after six months of community engagement by Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman.
The engagement sessions were part of a larger review of applied education led by Dr Maliki, and found that students need more integration of life skills such as conflict management and cross-cultural understanding into their curriculum.
The review found that students' needs could be organised into four broad themes, which include more investment in teaching life skills.
The other three are: more flexibility in educational pathways, more adaptable skills to keep pace with changing industry needs and more holistic support for students with greater needs or from difficult backgrounds.
Dr Maliki's review of ITE and polytechnic education began in January and has so far involved about 1,200 students, alumni, educators, parents and employers in more than 40 engagement sessions.
The last of these sessions was held on Saturday at ITE College Central.
In his closing remarks there, Dr Maliki said while the polytechnics and ITE already have a diverse range of courses, new needs are constantly arising, thus the need for the review.
Much of the discussion in Saturday's session centred on the teaching of life skills in ITE and the polytechnics.
Ms Wu Mei Ling, senior director at Shine Children and Youth Services, who was at the session, said students wanted the teaching of life skills to be improved in terms of both delivery and content.
"Students said they want teaching to be experience-based (and to have) teachers who can share their stories," she told The Straits Times.
Shine is a social service that runs projects such as school engagements for those aged five to 21.
Some students at the session spoke about how they wanted to be engaged and learn how to discuss current affairs and national issues.
Ms Nadia Begum Nainish, 19, a third-year mass communication student at Republic Polytechnic, said: "With regard to the recent race-related issues, I think we can better equip our generation with skills to deal with these topics."
She added that often, conflict management and cross-cultural sensitivities are not taught practically even though the topics are covered in class, and dialogues on larger issues are often reserved for student leaders.
A strong relationship between the institutes and industry also remains a priority, said Temasek Polytechnic (TP) principal and chief executive Peter Lam.
Former students, such as Mr Mohd Nur Hidayat, 24, said more can be done to support students at the internship stage.
"I actually got my first job through my ITE lecturer so I am very grateful for that, but the session and hearing about other students' experiences opened my eyes to how there can be more support for students going out to internships as we are very young when we first go for attachments," said Mr Hidayat, who is now a fitness trainer.
He graduated from ITE with a Nitec in fitness training last year.
While more concrete policy proposals from the review are still in the works, some changes have already been announced.
In May, Dr Maliki, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said that starting next year, students at the ITE will have their route to advanced certification shortened from four years to three.