Who's who: Speakers and moderator

Update: The Straits Times Education Forum on Reimagining Universities on Feb 15 has been postponed. ST and SMU urge those who have signed up for the forum to register again once a new date is set.


Today's rapid pace of change means that universities need to do more to prepare students for the world of cross-border mobility, competition and work.

Universities face changing expectations on many fronts. While building better citizens and more resilient societies, universities today contribute high-impact research, serve as drivers of innovation and collaborate closely with industry partners. How should universities balance these competing needs and evolve their role as higher-education providers?

Clearly, change must occur. We need to seek the best ideas for how to align our higher-education ecosystem to the future of work and life.

In a world where continuous reskilling and lifelong learning will become the new norm, we need bold ideas that reimagine how we learn across our lifetimes, ideas that expand opportunity for all members of our society and foster equity.

Among the questions that arise:

- Should university education be front-loaded or should institutions offer subscription-based programmes for upskilling and refuelling throughout the span of a learner's career?

- Do we need to move to a competency-based model, which rewards prior experience and measures learning through demonstrated proficiency to enable students to progress at their own pace, shortening or lengthening the time necessary to complete a degree?

- Should students continue to pay upfront tuition or should we look into income-sharing agreements between students and universities?

Come and seek answers to these urgent questions at The Straits Times Education Forum on Reimagining Universities held in partnership with Singapore Management University.

The forum moderated by Lydia Lim, head of SPH Schools and Education products, will see Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung deliver the keynote address. This will be followed by a panel discussion that will include Hamoon Ekhtiari, the founder and CEO of FutureFit AI, SMU president Lily Kong and ST's senior education correspondent Sandra Davie.


Ong Ye Kung
Minister for Education

Ong Ye Kung is the Minister for Education. Prior to his Cabinet appointment, he held the position of director of group strategy at Keppel Corporation, overseeing long-term strategic planning of the group's activities.

Before joining Keppel Corporation, he was the deputy secretary-general of National Trades Union Congress, overseeing the labour movement's employment and employability programmes.

Mr Ong graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science (UK) with a BSc(Econs) First Class Honours, and holds a Master of Business Administration from the Institute of Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Professor Lily Kong
Singapore Management University

Professor Lily Kong is SMU's fifth president, and the first Singaporean to lead the 20-year-old university. She is also the first Singaporean woman to head a university in Singapore. She was previously provost of SMU; vice-provost and vice-president at the National University of Singapore (in various portfolios); and executive vice-president (Academic) of Yale-NUS College.

Prof Kong is known internationally for her research on social and cultural change in Asian cities, focusing on a range of issues ranging from religion, cultural policy and creative economy, to urban heritage and conservation, and smart cities. An award-winning researcher and teacher, Prof Kong has received five international fellowship awards and has also won the Association of American Geographers Robert Stoddard Award for Distinguished Service (Geography of Religion and Belief Systems).

Prof Kong was conferred the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 2006.

Hamoon Ekhtiari
Founder and CEO
FutureFit AI

A lover of all things blueberry and/or avocado, Hamoon Ekhtiari is the CEO of FutureFit AI, an AI-powered intelligence platform for the future of work that partners with national governments and global companies on upskilling and reskilling. Previously, he was the director of strategy and innovation for the executive vice-president at Telus.

Prior to that, he was the founding director of Studio [Y], a leadership and innovation academy at MaRS, Canada's largest innovation hub. He has also founded a social enterprise which raised US$1million in its first year, helped build Deloitte's consulting business in the Caribbean, and taught as adjunct faculty.

Mr Hamoon is a member of the Governor-General's Canadian Leadership Conference, an AdR Fellow at the University of Cambridge, a recipient of the University of Waterloo's Alumni Achievement Medal, and a Canada Millennium Scholar. He is passionate about unlocking the potential of people, organisations and societies to reimagine and build the future.

Sandra Davie
Senior Education Correspondent
The Straits Times

Sandra Davie was a junior college teacher before joining the newspaper. As a young reporter, she covered a range of topics from health to education. She honed her investigative journalism skills further at The Philadelphia Inquirer on a Knight Ridder fellowship and on her return joined a special report team and wrote many award-winning stories.

She became education correspondent in 1998 and has since written extensively on education issues. She has a BA from the National University of Singapore and an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Lydia Lim
Head of Schools, Education Products and Editorial Training
Singapore Press Holdings

Lydia Lim specialised in reporting and writing on Singapore politics and policy before moving to head editorial training in November 2017. In May 2019, she was named head of SPH Schools department, a team that specialises in producing News in Education products and services for students. She also writes a regular Sunday column in The Sunday Times.

She is a co-author of two books, Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going and Struck By Lightning: Singapore Voices post-1965, and editor of Vintage Lee, a collection of 33 landmark speeches by Singapore's founding prime minister.

Before joining SPH, she worked in television as a current affairs producer and broadcast journalist at Mediacorp. She has a BA (Hons) in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford and was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University.

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