A discussion on how to stay relevant and interested in learning throughout life.
Learning is an ongoing process, whether we are aware of it or not. Be it a formal course of study, or things picked up in the course of the work day, or new processes and policies that are implemented company-wide or nationally, or even a bit of gossip that might be usefully filed away for future reference.
Curiosity Skilled The Cat — a STORM event under its Keep It Going initiative — posed the issue of lifelong learning to a cross-section of panelists and participants to get their thoughts on what they considered critical factors in encouraging this learning habit beyond work. How could Singapore encourage its citizens to embrace the expanding horizon of knowledge made available to everyone.
The breakfast session was held in conjunction with Integrative CSR Consulting at The Halia Raffles Hotel. The gathering of business leaders and human resource practitioners were given a quick background to Rick Koh’s e-book, Learning For Life, The Ultimate Training Manual (the e-book which features interviews with many corporate chiefs and several ministers can be downloaded HERE.
Rick, an author, poet, ex-journalist and CEO of Integrative CSR Consulting, spoke of the views and opinions of Singapore’s leadership regarding the topic of the knowledge economy and lifelong learning.
He commented on “dantotsu“, the Japanese philosophy of striving to be the best of the best, and reflected on our position in the knowledge economy, a concept that seems to have been lost over time. “Where are we now on this development, and is today’s learning preparing Singaporeans well enough for such an economy?” Rick asked.
A member of the audience pointed out the generational changes reshaping society and asked if the knowledge economy would include veterinary science and cooking.
While a practical need to survive underscored the initial movement, as Singapore grew more prosperous and sophisticated, this thrust was tempered to accommodate the need of a society in full-throttled transition and change. The need to learn on the fly is more important in a technologically accelerated world, and a learning culture is a useful asset.
Along the way, various slogans have been rolled out to drive Singapore forward. “The world’s best”, “many peaks of excellence”, “whole-brain economy”, “learning on the fly” were among those that tried to adjust the messaging to suit the needs at different times.
Prof Kirpal Singh, an institution in the field of academia as a poet and Director of the Wee Kim Wee Centre at the Singapore Management University, came out strongly for local talent, which he felt was of an international level, and should be recognised as such. “Maybe it is part of the old imperial rule, but we tend to pay someone from the West more to do the same job than we do the locals. We should not short change the brains we have here.”
Panelist Eliza Quek, Managing Consultant at Integrative Learning Corporation, felt the education system still left the issues of moral and ethical reasoning unanswered. “Students will still have to compete to get the top places. Grades will still be important. There will be ranking and the cream of the crop will still get the good jobs. This creates an elitist society and for those who can’t attain it, it’s easy to lose hope.”
From the audience, Tina Hung, Deputy CEO of the National Council of Social Services felt it was important to “nurture children to become who they are supposed to be”. By doing so, they will become who they are supposed to be and be able to also get what they can from from the homogeneous education system.
A member of the audience observed that 50 years ago many members of parliament had blue collar jobs and still served the people well. Today, he observed, academic qualifications determine if you will fill a seat.
Janet Tan-Collis, CEO of East West Planners, which is involved in the hospitality industry, observed that of the 500 students that took up hospitality studies, about 95% leave the industry. “The cha kway teow hawker needs a personality, not a degree. There is a need to inculcate an attitude and aptitude to understand the experiential society.”
The thirst to equip ourselves with the desire for knowledge that is not purpose-driven, would help to raise general knowledge and help find a balance between work and play, reckons Kannan Chandran, publisher of STORM (www.storm.sg), which offers articles that tackle trending issues along with interviews with leaders from various industries.
Panelist Dr Kevin Fernando, VP of global operations at Stanley Engineered Fastening, neatly summed up the two-hour session when he pointed out “learning is not an option”.
He added: “Learning is unfinished business.”