Singapore should consider transforming arts institutions such as the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) and Lasalle College of the Arts into full-fledged arts universities, said Nominated MP (NMP) Terence Ho yesterday.
Lasalle and Nafa offer diploma and degree courses in the arts. Other arts institutions include 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 an adjournment motion on achieving arts excellence.
Responding, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng said Singapore has "a wide range of diploma and degree programmes in the arts, design and media, more than 90 per cent of which are government-subsidised". These are offered at all five polytechnics, Lasalle, Nafa, NUS, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) 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 ecosystem" to develop internationally acclaimed artists, and do more to retain them in "national arts flagship companies".
"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: "I urge the Government to rethink... how Singapore can achieve arts excellence and fly our Singapore flag high on 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 said: "The success of a sustainable arts ecosystem is determined not just by the quality of art-ists and their works, but also by whether they succeed in connecting with and growing audiences."
The National Arts Council (NAC) will step up efforts to help homegrown talents "grow audiences".
He added: "NAC is currently working with our flagship arts companies and institutions to take in NAC scholarship recipients after they return from their studies.
"Our arts ecosystem is made up not only of artists, but also 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."