Published on 09 Dec 2022

Lifelong Learning or Graduate Education: Singapore Professor Shares His Perspectives

As the world emerges out of the current global pandemic, it is evolving at a much faster pace, and at a more complex and unpredictable manner. Associate Professor Hairon Salleh, Associate Dean of Graduate Education by Coursework, from the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NIE NTU, Singapore) shares his perspective of lifelong learning and the relevance of graduate education to meet the ever-changing demands placed on societies and economies.

Q: For a small island nation state, how does Singapore leverage on its competitive edge in the world economy?

A: Singapore primarily relies on human resources for its competitive advantage. Lifelong learning has become a mandate through which Singapore seeks to develop its people. Hence, for a small country, there needs to be a steady pool of people who have mastery not only in their professional knowledge within their discipline and industry, but also research skills to think and apply innovative ideas and solutions to practical problems. At the national level, the focus is to build deep skills for a lean workforce, enhance organizational competitiveness, and support employment and employability.

Q: Is graduate education still relevant? How does it develop skills for adult learners to consistently remain competitive in the global marketplace?

A: Undoubtedly, graduate studies enhance an adult learner’s work performance and career prospects through mastery of the subject content, acquisition of critical inquiry competences, and the inculcation of the curious mind needed to drive innovations. These take place through active engagement in rich and diverse research learning experiences that expand their expert knowledge and skills of their respective professional fields. Graduate studies satisfy not only the thirst for knowledge, but also the hunger for skills.

Q: How has graduate education evolved to meet the needs of adult learners?

A: Curriculum designers of graduate programmes are increasingly aware of the need for and importance of linking theory with professional practice, which is primarily motivated by greater sensitivity to the needs of adult learners. At NIE NTU, Singapore curriculum designers have taken a step further to design their graduate programmes that are appealing to both theorists and practitioners alike. Recognizing the needs of adult learners, NIE NTU, Singapore has a suite of graduate programmes designed to enhance students’ knowledge and competencies in their respective disciplines and industries. Programmes like the Master of Arts (Educational Management), Master of Arts in Professional Education (Training & Development) and Master of Science (Science of Learning) help students meet the new and changing demands in their career, and stay relevant in a challenging and globalized market. Such programmes bring together professionals from different industries such as education, healthcare, management, military, and human resource, with an acknowledgment that professional educators play critical roles in teaching, leading, and researching in their respective practices.

Q: For students who may not be ready to embark on a master’s programme, what options can they consider?

A: A mindset of continually striving towards knowledge acquisition and real-world application is as important as the mastery of skills. Hence, NIE NTU, Singapore has been creating a gamut of micro-credential courses for adult learners, which can lead to smaller certifications, providing another means for working professionals to have a taste of Master’s level learning experiences. In my view, the micro-credential courses will not diminish the demand for postgraduate degrees, but potentially may increase it especially for those who aspire for postgraduate studies, and are not able to do prior to this provision. Ultimately, a postgraduate study is one option out of several that will sustain the individual’s hunger for continual learning. The underpinning principle on building and maintaining a highly competitive workforce, especially in the current volatile economic landscape, is indeed lifelong learning.

Find out more about NIE graduate programmes and apply for August 2023 intake at The National Institute of Education (NIE) is an autonomous institute under the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU, Singapore). It has been consistently ranked among the top 20 education institutions in the world and the top 5 in Asia by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranking.

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