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Senior alumni in conversation with Education Minister

21 May 2013

Minister Heng (right) and Dr Khoo listening to issues raised during the conversation

Dr Tan (standing) and participants in the healthcare group presenting their views

Photos: Dr Oliver Seet

Our Singapore Conversation, where Singaporeans from all walks of life are invited to give their views on the issues and challenges faced, is now in its second phase. Participants are asked to delve into specific policy areas such as housing, healthcare, education and jobs, rather than the open-ended discussions in the initial phase. About 60 senior alumni and friends gathered at Eusoff Hall, NUS recently to engage Chairman of Our Singapore Conversation, Minister of Education Mr Heng Swee Keat, on their vision of the future Singapore landscape.

NUS Senior Alumni President Dr Rosemary Khoo chaired the discussion based on four topics - the needs in housing and healthcare, as well as contributions in volunteerism and life-long-learning, including University of the Third Ages.

Kicking off the conversation were Mr Andrew Tan, a retired architect and alumnus who presented on behalf of the housing group; Dr Carol Tan, a geriatrician, on healthcare; NUS Professor Kua Ee Heok, a psychiatrist, on volunteerism; and Mr Chua Joon Eng, Vice-President of Senior Alumni and a retired NUS Vice-Dean of Business, on life-long-learning.

Many thoughtful views were brought up by the four groups and participants. Dr Khoo urged Singaporeans to see the "silver lining" in seniors instead of a "silver tsunami". Mr Tan proposed that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) build "vertical kampongs" with healthcare facilities. Dr Philbert Chin, a physician, proposed national "forward planning health insurance" whereby a person pays progressively lower premiums from the start of the work life to retirement. Dr Tan argued that the five "A's" of health services should be Awareness, Availability, Accessibility, Affordability and Accountability, while Prof Kua shared his findings that most seniors are eager to volunteer but feel the need for training.

Minister Heng responded to the comments and suggestions by quipping that Singapore has progressed from 5 C's to 5 A's. As to whether more can be done in areas like HDB housing and healthcare, he observed that Singapore is "a work in progress" in various aspects. However, to the delight of the participants, he disclosed that dialogue is on-going with the four local public universities for support of life-long-learning. He also expressed his wish that every child leaving school would have been ingrained with the seed of learning throughout life.

By Dr Chiang Hai Ding (NUS Senior Alumni Committee Member)