22 SES 09 D, New Perspectives to Learning
The learner demographics of today’s Higher Education (HE) institutions is changing rapidly. HE institutions have a learner profile that is multigenerational. Not only do they encompass a wide age spectrum, learners may be single, married or divorced, full-time employees and they may have left school for years. The largest growing HE population is the working adult learner (Compton, Cox & Laanan, 2006; Finn, 2011). This is significant, as more adults are turning to HE institutions to start, continue or complete their degrees. Many pursue learning to enhance their competitiveness in the workforce, attain a professional requirement and to be enriched intellectually.
Since the 1990’s, the Singapore economy has been shifting from a manufacturing-dominant to a knowledge/information-driven economy (Sidhu, Ho & Yeoh, 2014). This shift, with changing demographic trends and advances in technology, places the country in a position of having to re-educate and retrain its workforce (Gopinathan & Lee, 2011). The Ministry of Education, Singapore, in 2012, diversified and expanded HE pathways (Ministry of Education, 2012). SIM University, catering largely to part-time adult learners, was identified as Singapore’s 6th university. With this recognition, the government launched a range of financial support in terms of bursaries, tuition and subsidised loan schemes for learners in part-time undergraduate SIM University programs (MOE, 2012). At December 31, 2013, there were 13,369 adult students enrolled in SIM University (SIM, 2014).
This influx of adult learners in HE present challenges to SIM University and cannot be ignored. The issue of equitable HE access becomes more important. Singapore, as with other countries and international bodies (e.g. OECD and UNESCO) argue that widening HE access benefits not only individuals, but also the society as a whole. As exposited by Chong, Loh and Babu (2015), adult learners do not have the same learning profile as other learners as their extensive exposure to digital media and technology are likely to influence their cognitive competencies, lifestyle choices as well as their expectations of teaching and learning. This has policy implications on customization of the learners’ learning journey. There is a need to better understand this adult who assumes responsibility for planning, implementing, and evaluating his/her own learning. Unfortunately, research on adult learning is fragmented and inconsistent (Caruth, 2014). Ross-Gordon (2011) came to the conclusion that what was once called non-traditional is metamorphosing into a new normal, with the implicit assertion that many HE institutions are underprepared to meet the needs and interests of the adult learner.
Adult learners have unique developmental and social characteristics when compared to their traditional counterparts in higher education institutions (Reay, 2002). These adult learner characteristics also contribute to different educational goals and focus. As noted by Merriam and Brockett (2007), there is a need to better understand and know the adult who “opts to assume primary responsibility for planning, implementing, and evaluating his/her own learning” (p. 35). Who are these adult learners? What are the implications on the teaching and learning for SIM University? Profiling the adult learner is timely. For purposes of this paper, the demographic profile of 7,539 first year learners from 2013 and 2014 enrolment intakes of SIM University were used to provide an insight of the adult learner in Singapore. The profiles also serve to remind that the HE landscape in Singapore, as with many other countries, is no longer an 18-to-24-year-old cohort. Along with the unfolding of this profile is the need for a coordinated and holistic approach to support adult learners. Thus this paper’s focus is twofold.
- To profile the adult learner in Singapore HE
- To develop an understanding of the profile variables and their implication on teaching and learning.
References Caruth, G. D. (2014). Meeting the needs of older students in higher education. Participatory Educational Research (PER), 1(2), 21–35. Retrieved Jan 6, 2016, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED552755.pdf Chong, S., Loh, W.M. & Babu, M. (2015). The Millennial Learner: A New Generation of Adult Learners in Higher Education. Advances in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Vol.2, No.2, 2015. Compton, J. I., Cox, E., & Laanan, F. S. (2006). Adult learners in transition. In F. S. Laanan (Ed.), New directions for student services, No. 114: Understanding students in transition (pp. 73–80). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Finn, D. (2011). Principles of adult learning: An ESL context. Journal of Adult Education, 40, 34–39. Gopinathan, S., & Lee, M. H. (2011). Challenging and co-opting globalisation: Singapore’s strategies in higher education. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 33(3), 287–299. Kasworm, C. E. (2012). US adult higher education: One context of lifelong learning. International Journal of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning, 5(1), 1–19. Merriam, S. B., & Brockett, R. G. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Ministry of Education (MOE). (2012). Report of the Committee on University Education pathways beyond 2015 (CUEP). Singapore: Author. Retrieved July 6, 2015, from http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/press/files/2012/08/cuep-report-greaterdiversity-moreopportunities.pdf Oblinger, D.G. and Oblinger, J.L. (2005), Educating the net generation, An Educause e-book publication, Retrieved Jan 6, 2016 from: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/pub7101.pdf Plageman, P. (2011). Educator, planner and advocate: Higher education for adults in the new millennium. Adult Learning, 22(2), 32-36. Reay, D. (2002). Class, authenticity and the transition to higher education for mature students. The Sociological Review, 50(3), 398-418. Ross-Gordon, J. M. (2011). Research on adult learners: Supporting the needs of a student population that is no longer nontraditional. Peer Review, 13(1), 26-29. Sidhu, R., Ho, K. C., & Yeoh, B. S. (2014). Singapore: Building a knowledge and education hub. In J. Knight (Ed.), International Education Hubs (pp. 121–143). Dordrecht: The Netherlands: Springer. SIM University. (2014). Facts & Figures. Retrieved Jan 6, 2016 from http://www.unisim.edu.sg/about-unisim/Overview/Pages/Facts-Figures.aspx
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.