Greater flexibility in school brings out best in students

Students studying at the National University of Singapore University Town.
Students studying at the National University of Singapore University Town. PHOTO: ST FILE

I applaud the efforts taken by the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences ("More flexibility for NUS arts and social sciences freshmen"; last Thursday).

Greater flexibility should be encouraged and applied within our universities in general so that we continue to bring out the best in our students.

The millennial generation is one that is less willing to confine itself to established practices and societal norms, especially in a field like education.

For an increasing number of students in Singapore, pursuing higher education has become less about getting a degree in the highest-paying field, but more about getting one in the field they are most personally interested in.

By promoting this, we can minimise the negative effects when students feel unmotivated and unhappy being stuck in a certain course. This will reduce the number of students dropping out of school and make it easier for them to excel in their careers.

The increased affluence among Singaporeans has also allowed many more young people to consider universities overseas for the experience they provide and the different style of learning.

In the United States, for example, major tech giants have supported universities like Minerva to promote radical learning styles, including the use of technology to spark creativity and problem solving, rather than focusing on content.

Singaporeans have been encouraged to go outside their comfort zone and spend time studying or working overseas.

Local universities must promote a flexible environment so that Singaporeans can use the expertise they have acquired and return to improve our local academic scene.

This is vital if we want to prevent a brain drain and maintain Singapore's competitiveness, so that we canremain a world-class hub for innovation.

The future economy of Singapore depends on maintaining flexibility in the face of globalisation.

Given that change is the only constant, it would do us good to embrace the right changes fully and as quickly as possible.

Lionel Loi Zhi Rui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline 'Greater flexibility in school brings out best in students'. Print Edition | Subscribe