S'pore Universities Take New Leaps

28 Dec

SINGAPORE – A new university, a third medical school, collaboration with an Ivy League institution and the debate over mother tongue languages.

These were some of Singapore’s main developments on the educational scene this year.

One innovative programme is the Campus Builder Programme, which gives early entrants to the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) a say in creating their ideal campus.

This includes giving feedback on classroom design, forming clubs and societies, even deciding on the food in the canteen.

Mr Toh Yong Cheng, 20, plans to pursue his interest in mathematics and systems engineering at SUTD and will also help out as a research technician under Professor Daniel Frey, co-director of the Singapore-MIT International Design Centre.

Said Mr Toh: “When we have our own ideas, we can suggest it to the professors … Maybe we’ll even make our own product, our own design even before we get into university.”

SUTD president Tom Magnanti said the university hopes to hire some 60 faculty members by 2012 and, over time, build this up to 350 to 400 faculty members, who will be involved in both teaching and research.

He said: “Universities are built on what we all call ‘flywheels’. You attract the best faculty, they attract the best students. You attract the best students, they attract the best faculty. And we hope we got the flywheel working.”

Also planned – student accommodation.

Professor Magnanti is intent on creating a strong campus culture, something he experienced at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States where he was Dean of its School of Engineering.

He said: “There’s something special about MIT. You go there and you just feel the pulse of the place and you feel the enthusiasm. We want to replicate that at SUTD. “

SUTD, Singapore’s fourth publicly-funded university, is aiming to have 4,000 undergraduate students and 2,000 postgraduate students.

Meanwhile, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is finalising its agreement with Yale University to start a liberal arts college, with details expected early next year.

It is also opening two of its four undergraduate residential blocks – which will hold 600 students each – at its new university town at Warren from August next year.

The NUS said its graduate residential complex, which has space for 1,700 students, will also be ready. The 19-hectare site will be fully completed by 2013.

As for the Nanyang Technological University, it has partnered the United Kingdom’s Imperial College to set up Singapore’s third medical school.

The school will open in 2013, with an initial intake of about 50 students, which is expected to grow to 150 over the next five years. There are more degree options as well for polytechnic graduates, in the form of the Singapore Institute of Technology.

The institute has partnered five foreign universities to offer courses ranging from the culinary arts to naval architecture.

In other education moves, more students in the Normal Academic stream can soon enter polytechnic, without sitting for the O-levels.

And a review of the teaching of Mother Tongue languages at the PSLE is underway.

Many had thought that the Education Ministry was reducing the weightage of the subject, sparking a spirited debate within the Chinese community.

Eventually, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said there would be no cut to the weightage.

The review of mother tongue languages will be out early next year.

Today Online

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