Nafa revamps diploma courses for job fit, more focus on practical experience

Some programmes merged, more focus on practical experience

The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) has revamped its diploma programmes in a big way to ensure graduates hit the ground running and are better equipped to meet the demands of employers.

Not only has the number of diploma programmes been slashed from 31 to 18, with several courses being merged, but there will also be more emphasis on practical experience through community projects, internship and overseas immersion.

Said Dr Shang Huai Min, vice-president of Nafa's academic department: "The revamp is aimed at helping students satisfy their aspirations as well as to face the challenges of the rapidly changing global economy."

The move will affect more than 700 students who who hope to start school in July, including 18-year-old Muhamad Firdaus.

He wanted to do illustration design, but, after he applied, he realised that the course had been merged with the diploma in animation, with an equal emphasis on both.

While concerned about having to tackle two art forms, he believes he will be able to take the changes in his stride if he earns a place. He said: "I'm used to producing 2-D art and have not tried my hand at animation before, so it will be a challenge. But I ultimately believe it is advantageous to pick up a new skill."

Two other courses that have been combined are the furniture design and spatial diplomas.

Ms Sabrina Long, head of the department of 3-D design, explained that this will allow students to design a piece of furniture in context.

"So instead of just considering ergonomics, students will also have to take into account designing furniture for different environments and different groups of people," she said.

She added that feedback from employers shows that the industry is looking for multi-disciplined students, while students themselves have expressed interest in picking up a wider range of skills.

Students will also be given a choice to take modules from other disciplines from their department. And they will have to undergo a foundation semester.

That, said aspiring film-maker Ryan Teo, will help him interact with students from other disciplines, exposing him to different perspectives and techniques.

"The multi-discipline approach will also help me learn more ways to address challenges I may face in the film industry," said the 19-year-old, who has enrolled in the screen media programme.

The last time the 75-year-old Nafa underwent such a major revamp was in 2008.

Mr Adrian Chye, general manager of home-grown animation firm and prospective employer Mediafreaks, believes it is a step in the right direction.

Taking the example of the new diploma in illustration design with animation, he explained how both skills go hand in hand.

"Conventional drawing helps an individual to build a strong foundation. Technology improves efficiency and effectiveness of the outcome," he said.

He also stressed that employers prefer students who are already well prepared to work and do not have the "time and patience to train graduates".

"The industry is more mature now compared to 10 years ago. This means that companies have the resources to pay a little more to employ talents who are operationally ready," he said.

"That is why our schools must produce industry-ready graduates to stay competitive and, hopefully, stay ahead in the industry."

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