Parliament: Singapore should have its own full-fledged arts university, says NMP Terence Ho

A view of Lasalle College of the Arts. Lasalle and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts offer diploma and degree courses, though they are not full-fledged arts universities.
A view of Lasalle College of the Arts. Lasalle and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts offer diploma and degree courses, though they are not full-fledged arts universities.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Singapore should consider transforming arts institutions such as Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Lasalle College of the Arts into full-fledged arts universities, said Nominated MP Terence Ho on Monday (July 8).

Lasalle College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) offer diplomas and degree courses in the arts. The country also has other arts institutions such as the School of the Arts, Singapore's first pre-tertiary arts school, and the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

While they are all reputable, Mr Ho feels "more can be achieved".

"As an aspiring arts nation, I believe we should have our own arts university. By transforming or upgrading our art academies, this will draw local and overseas talents to enrol in these institutions," he said in Parliament during an adjournment motion on achieving arts excellence in Singapore.

Responding, Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng said Singapore has "a wide range of diploma and degree programmes in arts, design and media, more than 90 per cent of which are government-subsidised".

These are offered at all five polytechnics, Lasalle College of the Arts, Nafa, NUS, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Institute of Technology.

"Altogether, there are 70 diploma and around 30 undergraduate degree courses offered in the creative arts, catering to students who are keen on specialised disciplines such as music and fine arts, as well as those who are interested in more broad-based and multidisciplinary programmes such as NTU's degree in media art."

"With the competing manpower needs of our economy, it is also the responsibility of the Government to ensure that arts education is competitive in quality and relevance with other disciplines in enhancing the employability of our students."

"MCCY (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth) and MOE (Ministry of Education) will therefore study carefully Mr Ho's suggestion for an arts university, taking into account the evolving arts education landscape," Mr Baey said.

Mr Ho, who is executive director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, made two other recommendations: the country should establish a "robust eco-system" to develop top-notch, internationally-acclaimed artists, and do more to retain these artists in "national arts flagship companies".

With a nod to Singaporeans like award-winning conductor Wong Kah Chun, he asked: "What does the future hold for international arts winners in Singapore?

"To cultivate full-time artists and retain them, we need to have a clear career pathway leading them into a national arts flagship company after graduation."

He said: "(Aside from) seeking more Singaporeans to engage and participate in arts, I urge the Government to rethink... how Singapore can achieve arts excellence and fly our Singapore flag high in the international scene."

Mr Ho added that the country does not just need artists - it also needs qualified teachers, managers and directors "to keep the arts scene vibrant and to foster the sustainability of the arts sector".

Mr Baey replied: "The success of a sustainable arts ecosystem is determined not just by the quality of artists and their works, but also by whether they succeed in connecting with and growing their audiences. NAC (National Arts Council) will on its part also step up efforts to help our home-grown talents grow audiences."

MCCY and NAC are also "committed to developing our young talent, and are constantly exploring new ways of doing so. NAC is currently working with our flagship arts companies and institutions to take in NAC scholarship recipients after they return from their studies".

He added: "Our arts ecosystem is made up not only of artists, but other arts practitioners such as managers and administrators, educators, researchers and academics. NAC will continue to support the development of arts professionals in all these areas through its initiatives and funding schemes."