Letter of the week #1: Time to develop Singaporeans' soft skills

A lunch crowd in Singapore's central business district.
A lunch crowd in Singapore's central business district.PHOTO: ST FILE

I was pleased to read that both Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore occupy the top spot in Asia in an annual global ranking of universities (NUS and NTU tie as Asia's top university, June 19).

As a nation, we can derive great satisfaction from the way our tiny red dot has made its mark and punched well above its weight, be it in our university rankings or the fact that we have some of the best minds in the academic circles and medical fields operating in Singapore.

Now we need to move beyond this.

We need to see how Singaporeans at the top of the pile can infuse elements of compassion, care, inter-personal relations and heart into all that we do.

University lecturers should work to improve on creating rapport and instilling passion into all that they teach.

Let us also review how we select our academics beyond their academic prowess.

There are too many great academics lacking in motivational skills - reservoirs of knowledge, but not mentors that students want to emulate.

Similar observations apply to our hospitals. Last month, my mother died at a government hospital.

Did she get good medical care? Mostly, yes. I am grateful that the Singapore doctors I encountered were medically at the top of their game, explaining the essence of what my mother was experiencing.

Foreign doctors were equally competent, but the difference was that they sat down with us for a significantly longer time, went beyond the medical conditions, and spoke passionately about the medical, ethical and moral issues that we were experiencing as we made tough medical decisions.

In other words, they treated my mother as more than just a medical entity. I was extremely touched by their humanising approach.

Perhaps I generalise.

Yet my observations of "business-as-usual versus compassion" cut across other sectors as well.

I think that while Singaporeans have done extremely well professionally, now is the time to put some empathy and passion behind all that we do. With our trained competence and diligence, we can take Singapore to an even more exalted level.

Let's begin softening the rough edges now, and have more heart in all that we do.

Satish Kumar Khattar

I think that while Singaporeans have done extremely well professionally, now is the time to put some empathy and passion behind all that we do. With our trained competence and diligence, we can take Singapore to an even more exalted level.