Learning beyond the book at poly

Ms Liew, who became Nanyang Polytechnic's principal last July, is the first woman to head a polytechnic here.
Ms Liew, who became Nanyang Polytechnic's principal last July, is the first woman to head a polytechnic here.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Qualities such as teamwork to be instilled through new programmes at Nanyang Poly

Students entering Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) this year will not just focus on honing their skills and knowledge in their chosen courses.

The emphasis will also be on developing qualities such as intercultural awareness, the ability to work in teams and an innovative mindset through sports, co-curricular activities and general studies modules.

NYP principal Jeanne Liew, 43, said several programmes and schemes are being revamped to offer a more holistic education.

"Increasingly, what counts for career success are qualities such as the ability to communicate, work well in a team and being innovative," she said, adding that these qualities are more easily nurtured outside the classroom, through sports and co-curricular activities.

The polytechnic's students are already required to take eight to 10 general studies modules - such as languages, cross-cultural communication and conflict management - over their three years of studies.

They have been taking the courses with peers from the same discipline but, from this year, the number of modules will be expanded and they will have to take the modules outside of their discipline.

"We want them to attend classes with their peers from other disciplines, so they are exposed to different perspectives," said Ms Liew.

Some courses, such as Personal Career Strategy and Fitness for Life, in which students will have to try out different sports for two hours a week, will be compulsory.

"The emphasis will not be on how well they play a sport, but on developing qualities such as teamwork and sportsmanship. Also, keeping fit and healthy is a habit we want them to develop for life," said Ms Liew.

NYP offers a wide range of sports and co-curricular activities, including street dance, martial arts, Chinese orchestra and an adventure club. Students will be encouraged to participate in these, but staff members and coaches are being trained to ensure that the students get more out of them.

"For example, students can be encouraged to reflect and write about what they have gained through an activity they organised," said Ms Liew.

"Teachers should think about what the teachable moments are and if they are being good role models and imparting the right values."

In July, the polytechnic will open a MakerSpace where students can go to tinker and make things.

Asked about SkillsFuture initiatives, Ms Liew said NYP has launched five Earn and Learn programmes in which students can work in companies and further their qualifications at the same time. Over the next two years, the polytechnic will launch eight to 10 programmes in sectors such as visual communications and healthcare.

"I see NYP playing a lead role in this national movement to encourage skills development, as the polytechnic is already closely aligned with industry."

Ms Liew, who became NYP's principal last July, is the first woman to head a polytechnic here. She studied accountancy at Nanyang Technological University and has a master's in information systems management from Carnegie Mellon University. She worked as an auditor before moving to Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 1997 to teach.

Prior to taking the helm at NYP, she was deputy principal and registrar of Singapore Polytechnic.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Learning beyond the book at poly'. Print Edition | Subscribe