In today’s increasingly chaotic world, sound public policy and good governance have become more crucial than ever to forge stronger social cohesion, and to bring about order and progress.
This is why James Cook University (JCU) psychology graduate Tasha Tan decided to join the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) at the esteemed Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy as a research assistant.
Says the 24-year-old: “After graduating from JCU, I knew that I had interests in both research and working with people. I really enjoy the research IPS does on diversities in Singapore. As Singapore becomes more globalised and interconnected with the rest of the world, we start to see tensions arise between different countries and races.
“I think finding ways to manage such tensions is important for Singapore’s social cohesion. One way to do so is by conducting more research and in-depth studies into topics such as integration between different races as well as locals and foreigners; people of different religions living together.”
As a new research assistant, Ms Tan does not expect her work to have an immediate impact as the issues she is studying are long-term and complex. But in time, she hopes to be able to propose ideas and give recommendations to aid policymaking in the government.
“I also think IPS is a good starting place for fresh grads who are interested to explore research as a career,” she says.
Ear to the ground
As a research assistant, Ms Tan’s main responsibility is to track media and social media platforms for developments on policy issues, and how the government and members of the public have responded to such issues. This information is then used to write op-eds and reports. Ms Tan also attends and writes event reports on forums that cover issues such as employment risks and social resilience.
“The research I do in my role contributes to the formulation of public policy to address socio-political issues in Singapore. If done well, our approach could possibly set an example for the rest of the world to learn from,” she says.
Although Ms Tan joined IPS only in January, she has already conducted a number of interesting research, including one on Singapore’s recent general elections. She tracked media reports and reactions of netizens to get a sense of how Singaporeans view the election, its outcomes and the current political landscape.
“It was a memorable project because it was the first time I voted. Also, as a researcher, the thought that I could play a part to help others gain a better understanding of Singapore’s politics was exciting. Being part of the GE research allowed me to better understand how Singapore’s politics works and the key social issues that our country is concerned about,” she says.
Ms Tan had not intended on studying psychology from the start. She studied biotechnology in polytechnic, but developed a keen interest in psychology towards the end of her diploma. She took up a Bachelor of Psychological Science at JCU in 2016 and subsequently went on to do her honours in 2019.
Ms Tan chose JCU as its undergraduate courses are accredited by Australian Psychological Accreditation Council (APAC). The school also has graduate courses in psychology, which makes furthering her education more seamless.
Her studies at JCU has also imbued her with an international mindset and exposed her to people of different nationalities from around the world, which really helps in her current job.
"In the psychology course, we had full-time students from different countries. We also had some foreign exchange students from other universities who chose to do a trimester at the Singapore campus of James Cook University. In the tutorial classes that I took, I got to collaborate with students from Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and as far as Germany for group presentations on specific topics in psychology,” she says.
Ms Tan is also very grateful for the passionate lecturers at JCU who exhibited a spirit of excellence in their teaching. While studying can sometimes feel mundane, Ms Tan’s lecturers made classes engaging by relating the content to daily life.
Says Ms Tan: “After realising that what I learnt could be personally relevant, I started to enjoy learning. My thesis supervisor Dr Peter Chew was also very supportive and mentored me during my honours year. Through his feedback and guidance, I learnt how to conduct research and write better.
“These skills have helped me to excel in my job as a research assistant at IPS.”
Looking forward, Ms Tan hopes to also explore the field of clinical psychology which would allow her to further apply what she has learnt during her studies at JCU.
Click here for more information on JCU’s Bachelor of Psychological Science programme.