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Higher education goes beyond teaching and learning

12 November 2012

Mr Ngiam speaking on how universities are Singapore's strategic assets

Panelists during the question and answer session: (from left) Prof Kong; Prof Devang Khakhar, Director of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India; Prof Peng Yinghong, Assistant President of the Shanghai Jiaotong University, China; and Dr S Narayan, Head of Research at the Institute of South Asian Studies, NUS

"Singapore's real assets are the thousands of young undergraduates we educate and nurture in our universities and polytechnics," said NUS Pro-Chancellor Mr Ngiam Tong Dow at the third China-India-Singapore dialogue on Higher Education on 8 November.

Elaborating on the theme of universities as strategic assets, the former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister's Office, Singapore, said that local universities have a higher role to play beyond teaching and imparting technical knowledge.

"By elucidating different dimensions of a national problem, our thinkers in ivory towers can indeed enlighten the legislature to make decisions for our beloved Singapore," opined Mr Ngiam. He urged educators "to help the state to ask the right questions" so as to have good policy-making in public administration.

Sharing about the NUS experience, Professor Lily Kong, NUS Vice-President (University and Global Relations) and NUS Vice-Provost (Academic Personnel), said that the University is grooming "broadly educated and globally prepared leaders."

Through the General Education Modules (GEM), the University Scholars Programme or the Yale-NUS College, students gain breadth and depth of knowledge as well as learn critical, analytical thinking and communication skills. The GEM allow undergraduates to pursue modules outside their majors so as to widen their general knowledge and hone their critical and creative thinking.

NUS also offers a host of programmes to prepare students for a globalised world such as overseas attachment and educational programmes which include stints as part of the Student Exchange Programme and at the NUS Overseas Colleges. These efforts also involve working with renowned partner universities to set up schools and programmes at NUS.

At the insightful dialogue which saw some 160 participants, questions discussed included the nature versus nurture aspect of educating students, the employability of students especially those with liberal arts education, as well as the cost of university education.

Into its third year, the dialogue is jointly organised by the Office of the Vice President (University and Global Relations), East Asian Institute, Institute of South Asian Studies and Office of the Deputy President (Research and Technology) at NUS, in collaboration with the Planning Commission, India and the National Center for Education Development Research, China.