SCALE-ing new heights in lifelong education

20 June 2016 | Education
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From left: Prof Tan Eng Chye, Mr Wong, Mr Ong, Prof Tan Chorh Chuan and Prof Wei launching the School of Continuing and Lifelong Education

NUS’ School of Continuing and Lifelong Education (SCALE), a $12 million initiative to promote and expand lifelong learning opportunities for working adults, was officially launched today by Guest-of-Honour Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Mr Ong Ye Kung. It represents the first lifelong learning unit to be formally launched, a milestone occasion that was marked by a rousing lion dance at University Town.

Representatives from government agencies and industry joined NUS Chairman Mr Wong Ngit Liong, NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan and NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Professor Tan Eng Chye at the event.

In his speech at the ceremony, Mr Ong noted that the role of universities in education does not stop after graduation. Thus, “Centres such as SCALE are seedlings that will grow into key nodes of a network of national SkillsFuture centres in future.”

Mr Ong highlighted the key features of a successful national centre championing SkillsFuture and lifelong learning: certifiable programmes recognised by industry; shorter, bite-sized programmes leveraging e-learning to accommodate the competing demands on an adult learner’s time; and a strong nexus between the education institutions and the industry. As the last area poses the greatest challenge, he underscored the importance of forging partnerships and drawing on complementary strengths.

The launch event included a flipped classroom presentation by Associate Professor Ben Leong and Dr Damith Chatura Rajapakse from NUS Computing, and industry project presentations by NUS Bachelor of Technology (BTech) in Engineering students and graduates to the Minister.

SCALE, which is located at University Town, will work closely with government agencies, companies and industry to design professional courses that offer enriching lifelong learning experiences for employees, in addition to drawing on the University’s pool of expertise, resources and networks.

NUS President Prof Tan pointed out that the important new direction for the University will actively support the national SkillsFuture movement. “SCALE will offer differentiated opportunities for adult learners to acquire new knowledge and skills from NUS; help Singapore companies and industries stay competitive with industry-relevant professional development; and support national manpower needs.

“SCALE will leverage on NUS’ top quality broad-based education, state-of-the-art facilities and rich networks of industry partners and influential alumni in Singapore and beyond. We believe that the multidisciplinary, real-world, and best-in-class expertise that NUS is known for will enable SCALE students to advance and contribute even more in their careers.”

In conjunction with the launch, NUS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), paving the way for adult learning courses in partnership with e2i. Prof Tan said, “We hope to work with e2i to help broaden and deepen the skills base of Singapore’s workforce and companies, especially in growth sectors of national strategic importance.”

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Prof Tan Eng Chye (left) and Mr Tan signing the agreement between NUS and e2i, witnessed by (standing from left) Prof Wei, Mr Wong, Mr Ong and Prof Tan Chorh Chuan

CEO of Employment and Employability Institute Mr Gilbert Tan, who was at the launch, said, “In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) business environment, keeping up with the latest knowledge and required skills is very important to meet the dynamic demands. e2i supports working people to take charge of their careers and build up their core competencies. This new partnership with NUS SCALE will open up more windows of opportunities for professionals to deepen skills and gain mastery for better career progression.”

NUS is looking to work with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to play an upstream role in identifying skills and competency gaps in developing the Singapore workforce. Mr Ng Cher Pong, Chief Executive of WDA, said, “WDA’s partnership with NUS will be further broadened with the setting up of SCALE at NUS to offer modular and certificate programmes for working professionals to deepen their skills in other areas of demand, including courses in social work and process improvement and innovation. These programmes will be offered in blended learning mode, allowing professionals to stay relevant and competitive while being able to learn at their own pace. Beyond quality learning and adult education, NUS is also working with WDA to identify skills and competency gaps of the Singapore workforce.”

SCALE will be headed by founding Dean Professor Wei Kwok Kee, a respected industry expert and consultant on e-commerce and social commerce. Prof Wei, a Singaporean who was the founding head of NUS Information Systems, returned to the University after his last appointment as Chair Professor of Information Systems at City University of Hong Kong.

Prof Wei said he felt privileged to return to Singapore and NUS to contribute towards the University’s efforts in promoting lifelong learning among Singapore professionals. “I look forward to working with my NUS colleagues from various schools and faculties, as well as with our partners in the industry and government agencies, to enable all Singaporeans to maximise their potential and realise their career aspirations.”

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Lion dancers with Prof Wei, who held scrolls extolling the virtue of lifelong learning

SCALE will offer undergraduate certificate and graduate diploma courses, Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes, as well as short courses and executive programmes. The programmes are designed with NUS faculties and schools, in consultation with WDA, the Economic Development Board and employers, to align with market demand and industry needs. Courses will be taught by experienced instructors comprising NUS faculty members, SCALE teaching staff, national continuing education training providers and adult education providers.

There are plans for the ongoing part-time BTech programme in Engineering to add “bite-sized” learning opportunities and certificate programmes that can be “stacked” or accumulated towards BTech degrees. About 10 such courses in the various Engineering disciplines are expected to start in August 2016, which will be eligible for SkillsFuture Credit.

Other courses to be offered are executive development programmes such as specialisation certification courses in niche industries and short courses, as well as continuing professional education for social work practitioners that are eligible for SkillsFuture Credit. In addition, SCALE will partner the NUS Centre for Biomedical Ethics to offer programmes on biomedical ethics designed for clinicians, researchers and healthcare professionals.

The multidisciplinary curricula, which leverage on technology, will be delivered through a blended teaching and learning pedagogy encompassing online and face-to-face discussions. Work experience and prior learning will be taken into account for admission.

More information is available at http://scale.nus.edu.sg/

See press release and media coverage.