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Student support services emerge as prime factor

Dr Lim: Even after students graduate, they appreciate having a base to return to, for mentoring, networking and skills upgrading.

TERTIARY students in Singapore are keenly aware of the tight labour market and slow growth that the economy is experiencing right now. The CSISG survey has shown that the key drivers of perceived quality in education are student support services in terms of counselling, career advice and financial assistance as well as strong relationships with teaching staff, says Lim Lai Cheng, executive director of the Academy for Continuing Education, academic director of the Office of the Provost and Fellow of the School of Social Sciences at Singapore Management University (SMU).

"I know from personal experience at the university that students appreciate the provision of strong advisory services and help to secure internships as well as coaching before graduation, to prepare them better for the professions they would like to take up. Even after they graduate, these students would appreciate having a base to return to, for mentoring, networking and skills upgrading," says Dr Lim, who was a panellist in a discussion on competing in a disrupted and changing environment, following the release of the CSISG 2016 second-quarter findings.

Primary and secondary schools, through the SkillsFuture initiative, are putting in place career counselling at very early stages to guide students and encourage them to pursue learning in areas they are passionate about. The hope is that they will gain mastery and put in effort to build competencies and accumulate experience in those areas, she says.

"Tertiary institutions are also mapping their curriculum to the requirements of professional accreditation bodies so that students will graduate with credentials beyond an academic degree," says Dr Lim. "They would also provide additional classes on weekends so that students can take on competency-based courses and sit for the relevant assessment for professional accreditation. In SMU, we have recently launched a workshop to allow undergraduates to take on an IBF (Institute of Banking and Finance) Level 1 module on Global Wealth Management."

Education institutions are also working on modularising existing programmes to cater to working adults who wish to gain new competencies or widen their skills base, to ensure relevance and responsiveness to changes in their industry or sector.

Progressive institutions would work hard to close the gap between industry and school by enlisting industry partners to co-design the teaching curriculum and assessment with faculty.