Cookie cutters of all fantastical shapes

Cookie cutters and university courses… how are they even related to each other again?

Let’s ask cookie cutter enthusiast Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Mr Ong Ye Kung, who mentioned the above in his opening speech at the OECD– Singapore Conference on Higher Education Futures yesterday (14 Oct).

The Speech

Acting Minister Ong called for a rethink of the typical Singaporean mindset to education. He wants to shift our education system to focus more on giving students the freedom to choose what they want to study, based on “passions, aspirations, and needs”.

He even talked about his misgivings for the current education system.



Mr Ong wants us to move away from the old system we started off with.

He envisions the higher education landscape to evolve with the changing aspirations and more complex goals — while still serving the country’s needs.

The rethinking of the meaning of higher education must include the fact that the collective good is attained, or in fact, can only be attained — by the ability of individuals to pursue their own talents and passion.

— Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Mr Ong Ye Kung

Basically, he wants us to follow our own dreams, instead of our parents’ dreams.

The importance of credentials

However, academic credentials continue to play an important part in finding for jobs as they help industries and employers understand an employee’s proficiency and knowledge levels.



What we do want to prevent is paper chase for its own sake, and an over-emphasis on one particular type of paper qualification.

This man does have a point though.

Very well said Minister Ong.

snow white


Diverse Education Paths

Sounds good so far, but what if there aren’t enough places for some of these passionate students to get into a course of their choice?

Well, Minister Ong definitely thought way ahead of us.

He addressed that policymakers will be opening up different educational pathways to help these students fulfil their aspirations.

That is a key reason why we are increasing the university cohort participation rate of our students from about 30% today to 40% by 2020 — an eight-fold increase since 1980. We are growing the number of university places for our people not by adding more of the same, but in the form of new programmes and new institutions. It is not a cookie cutter but a full range – square pegs, round pegs, and all types of fantastical shapes.

Wait what.

Yup, not just one cookie cutter, but a full range. Of all “fantastical” shapes even!

Is this the future of our university courses in future!?

cookie cutters


We’re guessing what he meant by that analogy was that — while courses are essentially about eg. Media, the various courses will not be identical but rather cover different areas of media.

So this “different areas of media” refer to the differently shaped cookie cutters.

you got it


But more importantly, COOKIES.

cookie monster





Finally the day has come

The importance of skill-based learning is finally being put into place. For years, we have heard the government talking about how it’s not always about the textbooks, and that skill-based learning is as useful, but no one has been putting their words into actions.

It’s definitely great news that this situation is finally being acted upon.

Minister Ong hopes to achieve this multi-dimensional, qualitative change through SkillsFuture — an initiative which was launched last year, to provide Singaporeans with the opportunities to develop to their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points.

A great idea

This initiative will definitely be a great way to identify the aspirations of our youths. With such mindsets in place, creativity and dreams will become a second nature – and hopefully the beginning of modern discoveries from this little red dot to all around the world.

Now that the government has already done their part, it’s our turn.

For this transformation to happen, we too have to play a part by recognizing and encouraging these skilled workers.

What is beyond Government’s and universities’ control — and rightly so — is how society regards and recognises a skilled worker, a craftsman and a master. This will have to be part of the continuing evolution as a society,

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Featured image via Under The Angsana Tree
With reference to MOE