What’s next for Private Education?

Do you know about the Singapore Association for Private Education (SAPE)?The non-profit organisation was formed in 2010 to monitor and improve the standards of private higher education, and represents all the Private Education Institutions (PEIs) in Singapore.

If you didn’t before, you do now!

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SAPE’s annual conference, titled “Transforming Education for the Next Wave – Benchmarking for Success”, took place earlier this month (12 October). Digital Senior was invited to the conference, and we present you the key takeaways we had regarding the Private Education scene from the one-day event:

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Private Education? No, Purposeful Education

Coined by Keynote speaker Mr Brandon Lee, Director-General for Private Education at SkillsFuture Singapore, the conference’s audience was encouraged to look past the Private Education label to provide Purposeful Education.

This was in response to a commentary published by Channel News Asia, on relooking the “second chance” label that Private Education Institutions (PEIs) often face.

PSB Academy, who hosted the conference in their new City Campus at Marina Square, feels that PEIs should be regarded as complementary to public education institutions in Singapore’s education “ecosystem”.

In such an ecosystem, both public and private education have their own strengths. Private institutions, for example, have the means to provide a transnational education, such as studying different academic years in entirely different countries. Students at PSB Academy, for example, have the option of embarking on their multi-year education journeys from any of its satellite campuses in Myanmar, Jakarta or Vietnam, pursue their second year in Singapore, and complete their final year of study on-campus at a university in Australia or the UK wherefrom they would receive their degrees. This is something PEIs like PSB Academy can do because of their campuses across the region and partnerships they hold with various foreign universities.

“Amidst industry chatter around the need for private education institutions to shed their reputation as ‘second chance’ providers of degree and diploma programmes, PSB Academy feels fortunate to embrace this moniker. In fact, we would gladly go beyond offering second chances — be it third or fourth chances — to deserving individuals who aspire to earn a quality education but did not attain it via our public institutions because of circumstances personal or otherwise.

We have always regarded ourselves to be an important fabric in Singapore’s social safety net to help individuals who make the effort, earn degrees and diplomas that are of good standing, to better compete with global talent and seize exciting opportunities in our cosmopolitan marketplace.”, expressed Marcus Loh, PSB Academy’s Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications”.

Studying at a PEI especially benefits students who desire international exposure in an increasingly borderless world, and gives an edge to those looking to enter organisations such as MNCs in the future.

But…how is a “Purposeful Education” created?

When students (yes, you!) leave the classroom filled not only with a course’s content, but also with soft skills and knowledge.

PEIs were reminded to “create opportunities and improve outcomes” via strengthening services beyond the classroom. This could happen through the fostering of strong alumni networks, for instance, and working with companies to create high-quality, industry-relevant content.In this manner, education has a long-lasting impact beyond the classroom walls, better enriching an individual’s life.

Closer working ties between other PEIs, industry professionals, and government bodies was also emphasised on. Stronger cross-collaboration will lead to a sharing of resources that helps to give students maximum choice, explains Brian San, a speaker and VP of Corporate Strategy and Partnerships of PSB Academy. The pros of such cross-collaboration is visible when one applies for a La Trobe degree (Australia) in hot fields such as life sciences. Relevant diplomas from private institutions are today recognized for admission into the university’s competitive life science courses offered in Singapore via PSB Academy.

Readying yourself for an unpredictable tomorrow

Mr David Kwee, the conference’s forum moderator and CEO of Training Vision Institute Pte Ltd, reminded conference goers that education is supposed to value add, and “students shouldn’t expect institutions to find them jobs because of their degrees”. (Here’s why.)

So, while PEIs work to improve, what about you? You, too, need to get cracking!

The truth is, schools cannot fully prepare any individual for the working world where “no one day is the same” – work can be smooth-sailing one day, but challenge-filled the next. Additionally, in his presentation, Mr Barapathan Pasupathi, Jetstar’s CEO, brought up the reality of how organisations often do not have the time to hand hold students or fresh grads.Students and educators both, he expressed, have to constantly “disrupt” themselves, constantly seeking improvement and innovation.

So…how does one disrupt oneself?

Even Mr Barapathan admits that that’s a tough question (“There’s no simplistic, linear answer”)! Where does one begin, then?We propose beginning from acquiring the six skillsets of the future workforce, which, according to Mr Barapathan, are as follows:

  • Lean Design Thinking
  • Project Knowledge
  • Problem Resolution
  • Ability to stay relevant
  • Agile (mindset)
  • (The ability to work in) Open Cultures
    • Which creates the need for good communication skills

Find a school that will help you brush up on these skillsets, and use them in your CCAs and internships. You can even go one step further, perhaps, by finding creative ways to consciously exercise them in your day to day activities (because chances are, you already are)!

Areas of focus moving forward

Ms Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education), was present at the SAPE Conference as the Guest-of-Honour. She shared about how PEIs can look towards pushing out more high quality and industry relevant courses by looking at the 23 Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs), and aligning course aims and content to upcoming needs and developments. PEIs, she expressed, can also approach the various ministries (EDB, WDA, etc.) for assistance.

(Interestingly, one lesser known advantage of Private Education is their means and ability to push out new courses quickly, which means catering and reacting to the industry’s needs and developments at a prompt speed!)

Ultimately, in Ms Low’s words, PEIs should aim for courses that “can’t be googled” – courses that impart not just knowledge, but skills relevant to the various industries.

Another area underlined for its untapped potential was the establishing of partnerships with corporations for a “seamless learning experience”. Ms Low also asked PEIs to consider offering programmes in underserved areas (early childhood, for example), and “bite-sized modules” that help workers to reskill and up-skill. One example that Ms Low cited was how Ren Ci Hospital worked together with the HMI Institute of Health Sciences to push out physiotherapy training courses in 2014, which are still ongoing today.

Expect, then, to see more courses for a wider range of industries, such as PSB Academy’s pioneering intake for Ethical Hacking and Cybersecurity. You will also attend programmes like MDIS’s Bachelor of Science in Safety, Health, and Environmental Management or SEED Institute’s WSQ Advanced Certificate in Early Childhood Care and Education.

More can always be done, however, with Ms Low suggesting a “work-education” system: can classes, perhaps, be conducted at a workplace? We sure hope they can!

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The SAPE conference posed PEIs the challenge to seek constant improvement, reminding all present that educators serve as a “gateway” for their students. Educators thus need to be exposed to the industry as well, or the “lack of engagement will only push out solutions that are guesswork at best”.

Meanwhile, what are some of the upcoming developments you can look forward to from Private Institutions in the future?  More regional work, for sure! Digital Senior notes, for example, that MDIS will be expanding their presence in Southeast Asia. Another is a deliberate move towards skill-based education to prepare students for the changing, demanding, corporate landscape. Existing offerings you can look at, if you’re interested, include Lithan Hall Academy’s IT diplomas, which are part of the SSG Professional Conversion Scheme (Train and Place Programme) and skills-based diplomas offered at PSB Academy ranging from global hospitality, to network defence programmes taught in collaboration with cybersecurity expert body, the EC-Council. We can’t wait to see what’s in store. Can you?

If you’re interested and debating the merits of pursuing a private education, and where, Digital Senior is here to help! Feel free to scroll through our directory for a list of Private Education Institutions and request for their brochures. We will be more than happy to assist!