“Nurturing and embedding a thirst for lifelong learning in each individual and across society is a cultural and mindset shift that will take time. Awareness and acceptance will grow with expanded learning opportunities catering to diverse interests, careful plans and guidance in managing change, and demonstrations of positive impact that meets the needs of different stakeholders,” wrote NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye in an essay featured in a latest collection of stories centred on lifelong learning.
The book, titled Learning For Life, Stories That Inspire, was written and edited by Mr Joachim Sim, an independent writer, editor and publisher. Conceived as an individual initiative to propagate the idea of lifelong learning, Mr Sim was inspired by an essay on lifelong learning by Minister for Finance and former Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat that was part of Mr Sim’s previous book — Beyond 50: Re-imagining Singapore.
This latest book “seeks to celebrate and inspire success in lifelong learning”, with real-life stories to encourage people to continue learning regardless of their current circumstances, Mr Sim wrote in the preface. He hopes that the stories will “give hope to many for a better life through lifelong learning”.
Prof Tan’s essay, titled Building a Holistic and Integrated Approach for a Changing World through Lifelong Learning opens the book, offering a view on lifelong learning from his perspective as a leader in higher education in the public sphere. Two main driving forces of the increased impetus and sense of urgency towards lifelong learning are technological advancements and globalisation that bring rapid changes to the landscape of employment and careers, he wrote.
Observing that “increasingly, pre-employment training and education, such as an undergraduate degree, is no longer sufficient to meet the challenges and opportunities of a 40 to 50-year career span, often ranging across multiple industries, job requirements and organisations,” NUS has retooled the learning experience to ensure graduates are future-ready, shared Prof Tan. Examples of this include interdisciplinary grounding through double major and major-minor programmes and compulsory General Education modules, as well as pushing towards continuing education and training (CET) programmes such as the Lifelong Learners initiative.
“Making lifelong learning a centrepiece in NUS’ future orientation and focus is a seismic shift, one that will impact and transform us in many aspects, including pedagogy, curriculum design, classroom dynamics and programme credentialing,” Prof Tan said, adding that NUS will continue to work in close partnership with government bodies, industry partners and professional associations.
Prof Tan expressed his hopes for lifelong learning to be “deeply embedded” across various aspects of society — that there will be commitment across a broad front, that it will become a focal point in how pre-employment and post-employment training is designed and delivered, and that the skills and attributes of a lifelong learner will become deeply imprinted on each individual.
The book features nine stories of individual learners who have embarked on inspiring CET journeys. Mr Sim shared that he was guided by a few key elements — a celebration of their extraordinary learning journeys and achievements; how they inspired others in the way they faced adversity; their learning outcomes and impact and their passion for learning; and their focus on staying the course, determination to succeed, resilience in the face of challenges, and social responsibility in applying what they learnt.
Four of the featured individuals are graduates of NUS. One of them is NUS Business Adjunct Associate Professor Jack Sim, tracing his journey from failing the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examinations to becoming a Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Masters of Public Administration graduate, and founder of various successful companies including the World Toilet Organisation. Another story focuses on NUS Psychology Graduate Diploma in Psychotherapy graduate Dr Janice Lee, who despite a physical disability and taking the GCE ‘A’ levels twice, continued to strive for educational success, recently completing a Doctor of Psychology (Clinical) programme at James Cook University. NUS Law Masters in Construction Law and Arbitration and Masters in Intellectual Property Management graduate Mr Tan Wee Teck is another success story found in the book, who despite GCE ‘O’ Level results that did not qualify him for the GCE ‘A’ Levels, persevered in his studies and now holds an engineering degree, an accounting diploma, a building technology diploma and two law masters degrees, and is a successful construction company founder to boot. The last story features NUS Architecture Master’s graduate Mr Zhang Zhirong, who found his passion in architecture while studying building drafting part-time at the Institute of Technical Education, which he then pursued through polytechnic to his Master’s degree.
Learning For Life, Stories That Inspire is supported by SkillsFuture Singapore through its LearnSG Seed Fund. It is freely available online and physical copies can be borrowed from national libraries.