The term, ‘continuing education’, describes the process and
opportunity to learn new skills and acquire knowledge beyond what is taught
in our formal schooling years. Many take part in continuing education
to enhance their knowledge base and/or employability in the workplace.
Increasingly, more and more people see the importance of continuing
education. What most of us learn in our formal years of education are
basic skills that are sufficient to help us start working, but insufficient
to lead us on (given the rapid changes in technology and demands arising
from the growing sophistication of the workplace). As Singapore enters
into the new millennium and the call for her to become a knowledge-based
economy gets louder, the need for her people to learn, adapt and apply
knowledge on a lifelong basis becomes even more pronounced.
As a Programme Director (Information Technology) at the Office for Continuing
Education (OCE) and a faculty staff at the School of Computing in NUS,
I have the privilege of teaching students with rather distinct needs.
Most of our undergraduates, if not all, are full-time students whose sole
responsibility is to ensure they make the grade and graduate from the
university. Consequently, they do not experience the kind of stress often
associated with working personnel. Students in continuing education, however,
are mostly working professionals who seek to enhance their intellectual
capability while still in employment. As their time is divided between
full-time work and studies, they therefore have to be highly motivated
One characteristic that differentiates students in continuing education
from full-time undergraduates is the tendency of the former to relate
class lessons to their work experience. Instructors should have the appropriate
practical experience to be able to address the concerns of these students.
Students in continuing education are also very selective in the courses
they wish to enrol, choosing courses that have direct relevance or benefit
in their employment. The challenge in teaching continuing education courses
thus lies in knowing the needs of the students and tailoring the courses
to satisfy these needs. The courses must be carefully surveyed to ensure
relevancy and demand for them.
More and more adults are also looking at continuing education that leads
to formal qualifications to provide them a sense of closure to an area
of study as well as pride of accomplishment in the courses. Offering a
faster, less expensive and more focused means of achieving personal or
career objectives, these credentials can be cited on resumes and presented
in the workplace as evidence of the participants’ professional studies.
In this connection, I was involved in the proposal and implementation
of a new Certificate programme—Certificate in Object-Oriented Software
Development—to be offered in the second half of 1999 by OCE. This
programme recognises the importance of Object Technology, a growing trend
in the computing industry. Participants will be taught object-oriented
programming using Java, analysis and design techniques and enterprise
level implementation of object technology over a four-month period on
a part-time basis. To ensure proficiency, participants are required to
complete a practical project as partial requirement for the award of the
The Certificate in Object-Oriented Software Development programme is
an example of a course for continuing education as it is a highly specialised
course designed in response to the growing demand for Object-Oriented
software developers, arising from the adoption of Object Technology in
the workplace. In addition to this Certificate programme, OCE is constantly
studying market requirements in new and emerging areas to respond to the
needs of continuing education in Singapore and the region.
With the rapid development of information technology, continuing education
will not be limited by physical space. Distance and multimedia learning
through interactive media will form part and parcel of the overall framework
for continuing education. The Internet will play a major role in the delivery
of course materials to participants. A virtual campus aimed at extending
one’s mind and knowledge beyond the formal years of education will
become a reality in the not-too-distant future when continuing education
takes off as an auxiliary service of the overall education system. The
challenge then for the continuing education supplier is to be able to
integrate its programmes into cyberspace and deliver the same quality
education to its recipients as it would in the traditional way. How far
can continuing education go? We shall see.