Education policies must be well thought out: Heng

Education policies must be well thought out: Heng
(From left) Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Baey Yam Keng, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Tampines grassroots adviser Masagos Zulkifli, Mr Mah Bow Tan, Ms Cheng Li Hui and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at the Our Tampines Hub exhibition yesterday, checking out plans for the area.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Education is a long-term endeavour that calls for well-thought-out and comprehensive policies.

"You cannot focus just on one bit or another bit. This is not how we develop education policy. You must have the big picture and have all the pieces in place," said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday, when asked about Workers' Party (WP) proposals for education.

The opposition party, which unveiled its election manifesto on Saturday, listed policy ideas in several areas, including education.

Among other things, it proposed a 10-year through-train school programme from Primary 1 to Secondary 4, as an option for parents who want their child to bypass the Primary School Leaving Examination, and it asked for class sizes to be reduced.

It also proposed equitable funding for all schools, saying that elite schools have more disposable funds because they charge higher fees and have wealthy alumni.

Mr Heng, who spoke to the media after an event to announce development plans for Tampines, would not be drawn into commenting on specific ideas proposed by the WP. However, he said Singapore's education system had been built up "layer by layer" over several years, to offer multiple pathways and bring out the best in every child.

He brought up the expansion of university places, the development of the Institute of Technical Education and the launch of SkillsFuture programmes such as the Earn and Learn scheme - as examples of policies that have been put in place to create many more opportunities for Singaporeans to go as far as they want, whatever their starting point.

When asked about the opposition's argument that it represents alternative voices in Parliament, Mr Heng, who led the Our Singapore Conversation exercise, said: "It is very easy now for Singaporeans to have their voices heard."

He said the Government carries out extensive consultations - whether over a specific policy or a broader exercise, such as Our Singapore Conversation - when the issue involves the country's future.

He cited the Tampines town hub plan, which was drawn up with the input of 15,000 residents.

As Singapore's first integrated town hub, it will house a wealth of facilities, including a library, sports centre and hawker centre all under one roof when it opens next year.

The hub will also be home to the Tampines Regional Library, clinics, childcare centres, culinary and music studios, a community club, and the offices of government agencies such as the National Heritage Board and the North East Community Development Council.

When completed, the hub will incorporate the country's first regional sports centre, complete with swimming pools, tennis courts, gymnasium facilities, a town square and a jogging track.

Said Mr Heng: "We had a vision but, to decide on the facilities, we got the input of residents to work out the best plan for the residents."

He is leading the PAP team in Tampines GRC. He is joined by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Masagos Zulkifli and incumbent MP Baey Yam Keng, as well as newcomers Desmond Choo, who lost twice to the WP in Hougang, and Cheng Li Hui.

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) is likely to contest the GRC, but has yet to announce its slate.

Mr Heng said he and his team take the elections seriously. "This is about our lives, our future, the future of Singapore," he said.


This article was first published on Aug 31, 2015.
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