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Welcome Address By Mr Tan Kay Yong at the Lifelong Learning Conference 2019

Welcome Address By Mr Tan Kay Yong, Chairman of the Lifelong Learning Council, at the Lifelong Learning Conference 2019 On 6 December 2019, 9.00am at SUSS, Performing Arts Theatre (Block D)


Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President of the Singapore University of Social Sciences
Mr Tan Wee Beng, Deputy Chief Executive of SkillsFuture Singapore
Distinguished Speakers
Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. Good morning to you! I am happy to join you here at the 2nd edition of the Lifelong Learning Conference. The Conference aims to exchange ideas on Lifelong Learning and to inspire the community to make lifelong learning a way of life through thought leadership, and a showcase of how this can be done.

Importance of Lifelong Learning

  1. The hallmark of a first world city-state like Singapore lies not only in its economy but also in the ability of its people to continuously learn, unlearn, relearn; and to apply this learning cycle in all areas of life. In fact, it is now widely recognised that lifelong learning is an impetus for economic and social survival and progression. In an article by the Harvard Business Review (Oct 2018), it says that “Learning, not knowledge, will power organizations into the future; the central champion of learning should be the manager.” I would like to add that beyond the manager, everyone needs to embrace and champion such a learning mindset too.
  1. Beyond learning for work purposes, we see many people of all profiles learning and applying newfound knowledge in their social and daily lives. For instance, we have the young learning about coding and developing or playing game apps, and some even make money from these efforts. We also have the not-so-young ones learning to use their smart phones to take photos, record or watch videos and movies, and to communicate with loved ones who may be overseas via free or low-cost WhatsApp and Skype calls.
  1. Learning has to become part and parcel of our life. Through continual learning, we improve and become better persons, and can do more things more easily and more effectively. Hence all individuals should take charge of their own learning, supported by catalysts and facilitators like some of us in this room here. In a world of rapid change, inculcating the culture of lifelong learning will positively impact Singapore’s economy, community and civil society for years to come.


Learning as a city and community

  1. The inaugural Lifelong Learning Conference in 2017 was first initiated by the Lifelong Learning Council. Then, we focused on the institutions of higher learning as a key lever to encourage a culture of learning for all. I am glad to see that today, our Institutes of Higher Learning actively partner our workers to learn and reskill themselves in their learning journeys via various continuing education and training programmes.
  1. One of them is SUSS, also our co-host of this conference. SUSS, integrated with the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL), has been championing adult and lifelong learning with their unique brand of applied, flexible and personalised education. Their team of academic and industry experts are now making exciting headway into the game-changing Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) space with some organisations in Singapore. Such efforts will drive and launch a new and agile way of learning among the working adults, to continually develop cutting-edge and industry-relevant competencies and take our workforce, community and economy into the future.
  1. For this year’s Lifelong Learning Conference, we are delighted to have with us distinguished keynote speakers to bring us their valuable insights and experience in how different cities and its people have made lifelong learning part of their everyday lives.
  1. We are also excited to have with us today learning track speakers who will share with us their journeys in building learning communities in Singapore, by harnessing the power of community for ground-up learning, “tech-enabling” the community and making learning inclusive for individual segments who may have special needs.
  1. Just a few weeks ago, the LifeIong Learning Institute and the People’s Association organised a weeklong Learning Neighbourhood @Geylang Serai event. There were multiple learning activities happening daily at various venues throughout the whole precinct. I was at this pilot event myself and it was very heartening to see the businesses, including office tenants and working processionals, and residents in Geylang Serai come together to learn soft skills and hard skills, as a community, as a precinct. I was also happy to see that the learning activities were done in creative, fun and meaningful ways so that the participants will be engaged and motivated to learn, and to continue learning. For instance, the participants learnt about cyber security and other emerging skills like tech-enabled services through solving puzzles in an escape room scenario.
  1. The Lifelong Learning Institute has also seed funded various organisations and individuals to promote community, enterprise and inclusive learning. For instance, ‘Ground-Up Initiative’, a non-profit community that aims to be a role model in sustainable living, initiated a project for Ang Mo Kio residents to come together to learn about the creative use of recycled wood pallet. SATS customised a 24-foot truck that went to 8 different SATS offices to help their staff learn how they can tap on Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in their work. Another organisation, TOC Asia, helped participants at half-way houses learn how to identify and eliminate core constraints that block them from achieving their life goals.
  1. Such engagements have enlarged the circles of learning to draw in a larger and more diverse groups of citizens and residents, so that new “riches” in the form of knowledge and skills can be accessed by all members in the community.
  1. Learning as a community is also special because it forges friendships, builds inclusiveness and creates a sense of ownership for the learner and community members. This helps to create and reinforce a virtuous cycle whereby community members, with a strong sense of ownership and inclusion, can then invest, apply and pass on their learnings back to their community; going beyond just being typical passive recipients of information and learning. Hence, every small step that each of us can take to help ignite and seed the development and multiply the growth of community learning is crucial.
  1. I hope this conference will inspire all of you as learning catalysts and enablers to continue to contribute to the Lifelong Learning movement in Singapore. With this, I wish that all of you will have a fruitful learning journey at today’s conference, and as we learn as a community here together.

Thank you.


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