Increase focus on teaching at universities

A university's role is twofold: to provide rigorous tertiary education for our future workforce, and to make ground-breaking advances in science and technology ("NUS, NTU top Asia's best universities list"; June 21).

The latter role has a far greater weight in ranking methodology. Hence, we have little information about how our university educators fare vis-a-vis those of other universities.

Since our local universities place great emphasis on research, our faculty members consequently devote more time to research than the quality of teaching.

This has far-ranging effects that are very much felt by undergraduates.

Singapore intends to transition towards a knowledge-based economy that exploits technological advances to create disruptive products and services. This is contingent upon the ability of our workforce to generate innovative and competitive solutions.

While our centres of research will continue to play a crucial role in our economy, the centre of gravity will inevitably shift to nimble and creative outfits that account for the bulk of our workforce.

We have to ask ourselves if our universities are adopting the optimal strategy that will bring to fruition the economic transformation our country needs.

Perhaps we should introduce a novel tenure-tracked scheme for professors with a proven record as educators, where their primary preoccupation will be educating our future workforce.

These specialist educators will be expected to actively review and redesign our teaching pedagogy and content to ensure that each graduate is prepared to contribute to a cutting-edge knowledge economy.

More crucially, our educators have to inspire and mentor our undergraduates, focus and capture their creative energy, pique their interests and encourage entrepreneurship.

Garry Lim Zhi Zhe

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'Increase focus on teaching at universities'. Print Edition | Subscribe