TL;DR – We hear what WDA has to say.
A few days ago, we wrote about the WSQ communications course that outraged some netizens.
Netizens who were outraged took issues with how the course seemed to ask participants to discriminate based on factors such as age, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation. We had written about why we thought that the exercise was a valid exercise given the objectives of the course.
We found out that the course is conducted by Eagle Infotech Consultants. We have also written to the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to get their response on this issue. WDA has responded to us.
This is WDA’s response:
“Eagle Infotech Consultants has been an accredited Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) training organisation since 2005.
The Communicate & Relate Effectively at the Workplace is a Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) course. The course focuses on effective communication where learners are required to participate and negotiate for mutually acceptable solutions by all parties using effective communication and negotiation skills (emphasis ours). This is done through the facilitation of group activities simulating conflict, negotiation and resolution skills. In this segment, learners are assessed on their ability to use various conflict resolution strategies to arrive at a team consensus. The intent is not to arrive at a pre-determined set of right or wrong answers. (emphasis ours)
Given that the assessment questions have been made public and the perceived sensitivity, Eagle Infotech will be replacing the questions immediately. WDA agrees with Eagle Infotech’s decision to do so.
WDA would like to assure that all WSQ courses follow a rigorous pedagogical framework and trainers are accredited to provide quality training. This ensures that courses meet their desired learning outcomes. We take a serious view of the quality of these courses and conducts audits on training providers on a regular basis. We also welcome feedback from learners on the programmes, particularly on how these programmes can be improved.”
From WDA’s response, it is clear that the scenario was set to assess how well the course participants are able to get the entire team to reach a consensus. If the scenario already has a pre-determined set of right or wrong answers, then there is really no need to negotiate. If the course participants have all the information they need and can decide who to retrench and retain simply based on merit, then do they really need to discuss? For that matter, if it was that simple, we wouldn’t even need humans involved – we could just throw all the data into an Excel spreadsheet and have a computer give us the decision!
It is precisely because there aren’t any pre-determined set of right or wrong answers that the course participants would be forced into heated discussions. They would thus have to put all the skills they have learnt to negotiate for “mutually acceptable solutions by all parties”. That is what makes this exercise a good exercise to assess whether the participants have learnt what was taught in the course well.
But now that the assessment exercise has been made public, it is only right that the the course provider change the assessment exercise. It’s like if questions for O-Levels get leaked out before the exams, they would have to be changed, right?
We hope that WDA’s fair response would put this issue to rest. The exercise isn’t advocating for anyone to be racist, ageist or whatever-ist. It’s to assess whether the course participants have learnt how to communicate and relate effectively in the workplace.