We are facing the ‘challenge of change’ in the education system, with a new focus on developing a curriculum for lifelong education. Alongside this comes a call for fresh training for teachers. We need a working model to facilitate both the vertical integration (education throughout life) and the horizontal integration (linking education in life) of knowledge and skills. Only then can we hope to develop a coordinated, social, emotional and academic learning system.
I was at the “Ministerial Dialogue” where Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education & Skills) & Second Minister for Defence of Singapore, spoke on a topic close to my heart, namely Education and Skills. Minister Ong was sharing with us “The Skills Future Movement” in greater depth, dwelling in particular on the 3 to 5-year transformation plans for higher education in Singapore, and how these plans are important for the nation’s continued progress in the years ahead. As he said, education and lifelong learning should be integrated as one.
This gives me the opportunity to underline again the importance of social skills in our education. We need educational policies that demand accountability for fostering the full development of students. For this to happen, it is important for us to reach out to all educators.
At the bottom of this page, please find an excerpt from my upcoming book on Youth Etiquette. In writing this book, I am reacting to an earnest interest in Youth Etiquette from individuals who wish to address the holes in their arsenal of soft skills, as well as from parents and leaders in schools, universities and government bodies who wish to offer training programmes to help young people prepare for their lives ahead. This book is the product of years of personal experience and observation. I firmly believe there’s a hole in the education of our children. Teachers are so preoccupied with formal studies they seem to have forgotten that kids are more than “walking brains”. Learning is not just about receiving academic grades – it’s also about preparing youngsters for grading in life. Every individual is both a thinker/learner and an interactive creature who must survive in a world of complex, ever-changing societal norms. By dedicating myself to our kids’ social education, I see myself as stepping into the breach and meeting an essential and largely unmet need in childhood development.
Soft skills are not acquired overnight. Indeed, the process of learning ‘manners’ and ‘etiquette’ is best started when a child is young, and reinforced over and over throughout their upbringing. All is not lost, however, if a person misses out during these formative years, as the ‘rules’ can be learned at any point in life, so long as they are approached with an open mind and a healthy dose of patience and dedication.
It is my heartfelt conviction that guidance in youth etiquette (I like to see this as ‘character instruction’) generates enormous self-improvement. It creates a behavioural blueprint that serves a person for the rest of their life. In today’s highly competitive world, a child or teenager who pays attention to etiquette has an edge. Such an individual leaves a lasting impression on everyone around them—teachers, friends, other parents, perfect strangers. Knowing the rules of etiquette is a guaranteed booster of self-esteem, as the well-mannered child/teen faces life mindfully and fearlessly, rarely intimidated by new social landscapes. I believe we parents, guardians and teachers owe it to our youngsters to give them the tools they need to live in such a sensitive, well-mannered fashion. Passing on this knowledge is a gift that will help them secure an effective future.