New initiative by Singapore’s adult learning institute tackles innovation gap in adult education

By Si Ying Thian

Singapore launches the world’s first collaboratory for adult learning to build the innovation capacity of its adult learning landscape to meet future workforce demands, with a physical facility set for completion in the second half of 2024.

Singapore's Institute for Adult Learning will launch the Adult Learning Collaboratory (ALC) to address the innovation gap in adult learning. Image: IAL.

“[Adult education] is a much harder task to do, than in our Ministry of Education (MOE) schools,” says Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing at the Adult Learning Exchange 2024 on 19 January. 


Some of the main challenges highlighted by Minister Chan include catering to adult learners spanning a wide range of age bands, educational backgrounds, responsibilities and learning abilities. Another one is keeping learning content up to date with industry demands.  


These challenges warrant a partnership approach targeted at three areas: future-oriented pedagogies, co-piloting of enterprise transformation between learners and other industry partners, and digital capability development for mature workers.  


This is why the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) has launched the Adult Learning Collaboratory (ALC), that aims to address these areas. 


GovInsider sits down with Associate Professor (Practice) Yeo Li Pheow, Executive Director of IAL, to find out how the new collaboratory seeks to bridge innovation gaps in the adult learning landscape, and its next steps to work with key stakeholders in steering ALC. 

Bridging innovation gaps for future workforce 


“There is a need to more actively engage industry players and end users when it comes to the training content, to ensure we are able to adequately anticipate the future demand where there might be an existing gap in [skills] supply,” says Prof Yeo.  


This sentiment was echoed by Minister Chan at the event, who shared that the entire cycle of generating adult learning content currently takes more than a year, by which time the content is often no longer relevant to industry demand by then. 

Underlined as priorities by IAL's research, the new adult learning collaboratory will focus on future-oriented pedagogies, co-piloting of enterprise transformation projects, and digital skills training for mature workers, said Prof Yeo from IAL. Image: IAL.

The challenge is then how to organise the adult learning ecosystem to create content at speed, said Minister Chan in a statement released by IAL. 


Tapping on IAL’s research, ALC aims to foster closer collaboration with diverse stakeholders to develop evidence-based adult learning innovations that are more effective, have faster speed-to-market, and have enhanced potential for scalability, Prof Yeo explains. 


Beyond adult learners and educators, other industry stakeholders include enterprises, edtech players, researchers, and policymakers. 


Prof Yeo explains that the IAL is focusing on future-oriented pedagogies, co-piloting of enterprise transformation projects, and digital skills training for mature workers as they are underlined as priorities by IAL’s research conducted across its current projects.  


“These are complex areas that cannot be addressed through any single initiative, requiring the engagement of different parts of the ecosystem.  


“IAL will act as the catalyst to bring the stakeholders together to support the ecosystem of partners to generate new ideas and trial solutions to address these complex problems. Our initial engagement with stakeholders shows that partners are ready to work with us.” 


ALC’s new 3,500 sq ft physical facility at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Eunos Road is set to be completed by the second half of 2024.  


The physical facility will include a theatrette equipped with interactive technologies and collaborative workplaces, to facilitate dialogue and experimentation, according to Minister Chan. 

User-centric co-creation and experiment to undergird ALC 


Supported by SkillsFuture Singapore, a public agency that promotes the national upskilling movement, ALC aims to collaborate with 40 partners across the adult learning landscape in developing R&D and innovative learning approaches.


Research and experimentation go hand in hand, says Prof Yeo.  


The complexity of adult learning means that solutions may not be immediately apparent or readily available, he shares. In the new collaboratory, ALC partners can work together to develop possible solutions for testing and experimentation, in response to issues highlighted by IAL research.  


Early collaborators include Luce SG, Singapore Polytechnic and Rohei Corporation, and ALC is currently finalising partnerships with other stakeholders. 


Within the physical facility, project teams made up of diverse partners will be provided spaces to iterate ideas and learn from the successes and failures of other teams.  


These ideas are then subject to “rigorous tests in authentic workplace settings to achieve high fidelity of adoption” and further refined through iterative cycles to meet intended use needs, Prof Yeo explains. 


He adds that ALC partners will also co-create dimensions of progress to evaluate ideas in an evidence-backed manner, while ensuring a safe environment for trial and error. 


Adult learners, who are conventionally passive recipients of content, would also become active participants throughout the process of developing the pedagogies, from ideating, developing, and testing to sustaining innovations. 

From niche to mainstream: IAL aiming for wider market adoption 


Minister Chan highlighted his hopes for IAL to become a “frontrunner in andragogy,” which refers to the art of adult learning. The insights gathered around commercially viable solutions for bigger market adoption will also be shared with the wider public through publications, seminars and symposia, Prof Yeo says. 


As an MOE-designated National Centre of Excellence for Adult Learning, IAL has the mandate to systemically raise the quality of adult teaching and learning. 


“Through its network of stakeholders, the collaboratory also seeks to promote wider adoption of new approaches that have been proven to work well across the Training and Adult Education sector and enterprises to benefit more Singaporeans,” IAL stated in a press release.