ST Education Forum 2022

S'pore universities must work harder to connect with the world, communities, industries: Chan Chun Sing

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing speaking at The Straits Times Education Forum at SMU Yong Pung How School of Law on Feb 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Universities here must work harder to connect with the world, and Singapore's communities and industries, as well as one another, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Singapore's educational institutions - including its universities - should not just transmit knowledge but also become connectors for collaboration in response to an increasingly fragmented world, he added.

Mr Chan said: "In a world that is becoming more fast-paced, more divided and yet more interconnected, we will need a strong network of connections to keep us current, keep us together, and keep us open."

He was speaking at The Straits Times Education Forum 2022 on the evolving role of universities, held in partnership with Singapore Management University (SMU) on Thursday (Feb 10).

Universities should be platforms for young people to grow up understanding and interacting with the rest of the world, Mr Chan said.

"I strongly encourage our universities to connect and reconnect with the world through their exchange and internship programmes, even as Covid wears on."

Singapore should continue to send students overseas and welcome foreign students here, he said.

Universities - both faculty and students - should also tighten their connection with the industry, he added.

Mr Chan said that to do this, Singapore's polytechnic, university and Institute of Technical Education students must have access to quality internships.

He added that university faculty are critical for the relationship between industry and university, and that universities must create more opportunities for faculty to keep up with the latest industry developments.

This may mean more diversity in the kinds of educators employed at universities, he said, including possibly tapping more industry experts to work as adjunct or practice-track faculty.

Mr Chan said educators will need different strategies and skills as they take on the challenge of working with adult learners.

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The Straits Times Education Forum 2022 – held in partnership with the Singapore Management University – saw Education Minister Chan Chun Sing emphasise the need for lifelong learning.

Universities also need to "up their game" in terms of their connection to the community, he added.

He said: "Our universities can be more deeply integrated into our wider industry, business and social ecosystem. We have a responsibility to lead to help connect, collaborate and create.

"This will help the universities better understand the challenges of our community, industry, and the world, for us to apply our knowledge, ideas and skills to create better solutions for Singapore and the world."

Mr Chan cited Nanyang Technological University, saying it should see itself as not just a university in Jurong, but as a "nervous system and catalyst" in the area.

He added that SMU, too, should aim to "inspire and lead" the transformation of the city centre.

SMU president Lily Kong, who spoke in the panel discussion following Mr Chan's address, responded to his point, saying SMU's place in the heart of the city has spurred it to actively cultivate a sense of citizenry among its students.

(From left) Forum moderator Zakir Hussain, SMU president Lily Kong, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and OECD special adviser on education policy Andreas Schleicher at the ST Education Forum on Feb 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Mr Chan also said Singapore's universities should work to deepen their collaboration with one another. He said: "I have an aspiration where our six autonomous universities operate as one team, leveraging each other's strengths - from research to teaching and industrial collaboration.

"An aspiration where students can take modules across different universities, like the Boston system."

Mr Chan also spoke on the importance of instilling confidence in Singapore's students to define success on their own terms.

He said: "In a world of contesting ideas, ideology and values, we must have the confidence to chart our own destiny based on a pragmatic and disciplined search for what works best for our people in context, rather than be prisoners of ideology; and define our way of life based on our own set of values.

"While we learn from the world, we must never relegate ourselves to just copying other people's ideas without context."

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