What Does Education Mean To Us?
The recent SUSS Ministerial Forum on “The Role of Education in Singapore” had just ended. As the theme “The Role of Education in Singapore” suggested, I would also like us to look at it from another perspective – Is education an end in itself or as a means to an end?
Let’s begin with some idea about education in general and as a whole. Education is the process of facilitating learning, or acquiring knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and even habits. The methods employed include teaching, training, discussion and storytelling. It may be conducted under the guidance of teachers, or learners may educate themselves – such as via the internet – which is increasingly popular nowadays. The settings can be formal or informal. When an experience has an effect on a person, the person would be deemed to have received an education.
In the context of adult lifelong learning, courses and training, SUSS runs varied courses to cater to the needs and interest of our alumni. The question is: should lifelong learning be an end in itself – that is learning for the sake of pure interest or passion – or should these courses serve as a stepping stone in enhancing one’s career?
Many years ago, this question would create a sort of dilemma that actually challenged me. To be clear, we pursue an education so that we can succeed and do better in our careers. This would be fine if one’s passion and the available courses or training coincide with our ambition. It would be a happy “marriage”. What happens if, as in some cases, the demands of family or society dictate that a particular pathway or profession should be the way to go in order to succeed in life, and when we find out that our interest in it is wanting or waning?
On the other extreme, there are some who doggedly pursue their dream, taking up a course of study that does not guarantee a sure pathway to a better livelihood. They go after their dream, especially since now we have an ever-expanding milieu of courses covering varied interests to cherry-pick. This is well and good, and why not if the opportunity presents itself and does not cost us a bomb?
Nevertheless, there are often circumstances beyond one’s control. Our choices may be narrowed by our academic grades, financial resources and the opportunities available.
In many cases, it is a combination of these factors. And it is possible to find and pursue a course that fits just like a jigsaw with our career plan and love it despite other opportunity costs. Similarly, it is possible to find a course that suits our passion totally without any other benefit except for the joy of doing it, although this may not be quite practical for many as it can be draining on our time and resources.
Personally, I would embark on a path that, as far as possible, add value to my career and at the same time give me enjoyment while pursuing it, even into my twilight years. That would be a nice fit.
Therefore I was fortunate enough to enrol at SUSS (then named UniSIM) that allowed me to take up a career development course in Management with English language, a subject close to my heart. What a stroke of good fortune, as no other university offered such a combination then!
I am grateful that SUSS opened its door to me and it has been opening those doors even wider as the decades go by, welcoming working adults from all walks of life to participate in lifelong learning. The number and variety of courses available have also expanded tremendously to cater to different needs.
Education may be compared to an ever-flowing river containing many kinds of fish, each with its own colour, habit and beauty. May our journeys in education continue like a river – ever flowing and meandering, like an open, curious mind – and reap bountiful harvests of knowledge through the joy of learning.