World Academic Summit: In conversation with Singapore's minister for education

today universities are seen as a natural congregation of faculty who conducts research and teacher students in Singapore we have a short history and we have drawn on these two models to establish a good foundation in research and development to sharpen the competitiveness of our industry we establish a similar front offer model in an organization that we call a star which bridges academia and industry in R&D in 2010 Singapore launched the RIE program which stands for research innovation and enterprise where the government provides sustained funding for R&D a significant portion of the budget then went to universities and from there we developed the american-style research universities model particularly in NUS and NTU we also set up research centers of excellence which were standalone research institutes which will progressively be brought into the universities building on the success of the existing research centers of excellence the Ministry of Education has launched a new grant call to appoint up to a two new centers directly into our autonomous universities they will develop capabilities new areas and see future opportunities for emerging industries so today regardless of the model we choose research is a robust and tight discipline across the world with standards and processes they are upheld globally the tenure system admits only high quality talent into the fraternity of researchers in the university they have to publish their work subject to peer review and have their impact evaluated by most of the time through citations those outcomes in turn are widely used to drive the global rankings of universities yet all of us should constantly question how the current research model the system of ranking and evaluation needs to evolve with the times after all every industry we know of a subject to disruption and so it's ours and this was a topic discussed at a recent panel discussion in Singapore in Singapore every two years we will convene the international advisory panel these are members who are presidents or vice chancellors of quite famous universities around the world Asia Europe West Americas as well as CEOs of global companies and we gather once every two years to discuss the future of our academic institutions so the panel this year they felt that universities undergoing a fundamental change and I will summarize the panel views as follows we know that learning has to be lifelong now but as people learn for life what does it then mean to have a degree given that graduates will need to constantly update and upgrade their knowledge throughout their lives knowledge and skills throughout their lives then what should be that body of knowledge and skills that should make up a degree what kind of breadth what kind of depth and these are fundamental questions about a university education and a degree and it's definition is undergoing a major rethinking there is realization that lifelong learning will change the rhythm and the mix of Education there is less pressure for universities to front-load knowledge during the formal years of undergraduate studies and more effort is required to make university education on experiential so students now in Singapore they go on overseas exchanges for cultural exposure and as Professor Tintin in China said they go for entrepreneurial stints as well they immerse themselves in community and social work we have a few undergraduates in the background they are not to be seen but the toe media ambassadors and so they are also doing some form of social work while they are studying they go on internships work on research projects germinate business ideas and spin-off startups in fact they now populate the incubators in universities across the world creating a never seen before bus and a can-do spirit on campuses and when they step out of campuses they can drive the growth of entire industries so with researchers pushing the frontiers of knowledge and students constantly on the go universities are changing the character of cities if a city is vibrant and dynamic and has transformed its economic makeup from all the new industries there is a good chance that a university is an underlying driving force of that change against the deep changes happening in universities it is not surprising that when it comes to the issue of international university rankings the International panel was quite unanimous in expressing that today's methodology needs to be enhanced to take into account a very improving rows of universities today the ranking system also and probably unintentionally gives the impression that there is only one research-based model or successful universities when in fact they have diverse social and economic missions and objectives so if there is a change I wish for on an improvement I wish for in the international ranking system for universities it will be to evaluate the effectiveness of university in collaborating with the world outside of academia the world outside that comprises industries society communities governments and delivering impact in all these sectors this will go way beyond publications and citations which are easiest to measure and we may have relied on quite a lot there are two aspects of collaboration with the outside world the first is institutional collaboration Singapore universities in this regard have set up many corporate laboratories with major global and local industry players in their campuses these laboratories combine the practical expertise of industry and the research powers of the academia to seek the next competitive breakthroughs and innovation we are bringing industries into campuses and vice versa so it is not just a flipped classroom but also flipped campuses flipped faculties not just asking students to contribute in class with the lecturer facilitating but industries contributing to education I had a deep impression when I visited Singapore military facility a couple years ago there was a commemoration plaque of Engineers who worked on this impressive project on one side were the engineers of the Ministry of Defense but I saw that many of them also have professor EO titles in universities and us and NTU on the other side of the project team were professors of universities but unfortunately they were not given military titles but that was impactful work and an impactful collaboration needed between universities and the Ministry of Defence another example where I am now in the Ministry of Education the NIE National Institute of Education is located in NTU and it offers a good model whereas Singapore's Ministry of Education trains all our teachers but beyond that the Faculty of nie conducts research and spearheads innovation in education which translates into classroom practices and better student outcomes so one research finding shows that by allowing students to generate solutions to novel mathematical problems as opposed to being told a formula they can eventually better understand the concepts they are taught to them and significantly outperform their counterparts in a traditional direct instruction classroom and this basically affirms the inquiry based education approach that is widely practice now in Singapore's classrooms the second aspect of collaboration with academia and the outside world is the internal talent recognition and management system of a university universities need to recognize the impactful work of academia in industries and governments and in communities and encourage a flow of talent between the sector's in and out of academia and therefore encouraged the experts from Alibaba from Google are now teaching artificial intelligence in NUS and until recently many Caballero Anthony from NTU she was promoted to full professor for her work in chairing the United Nations advisory board on this armament matters and I was in 2016 and she also served as the director of external relations at the asean secretary so she was recognized for those work outside of university and given professorship the Harvard Kennedy School is a good example to show us how talent in industries and academia can reinforce each other at Kennedy School academics can join the government for several years and then return to academia conversely members of government can join the academia as the next career and contribute to teaching and research in school and if we do that I may have a second career in NUS the NUS young rule in medical school a National University Hospital they are situated side by side physically University graduates that they are practice University graduates from young rule in study apprentice in the hospitals then they gain experience they may complete their residency and specialist training undergo a master's in medicine and then contribute back to the University as a faculty in teaching and research and if they do research instinctively their research will be informed by challenges and problems they face as practitioners and some of this research can be very fundamental so a fundamental breakthrough in a local Singapore hospital then contributes immediately to global medical know-how so for example and us and the University of Malaya Medical Center together with to Singapore's hospitals and to Malaysian hospitals have been working together for the past eight years in an ongoing study on chemotherapy for students with for children with leukemia so in a recent study they discovered that increasing the intensity of treatment for children with high-risk leukemia can improve the recovery rate from 70% to 90% and cut down recurrence significantly so in my view there is also I've been talking about stem quite a bit so in my view there's a great collaboration potential in social sciences and the humanities between academia the social sector and communities and governments there is a clear imperative globalization has put stress on societies far-right parties are gaining ground many countries asserting identity politics inequality and social stratification is an issue across all mature societies there is urgency and imperative for researchers in the social sciences and humanities to examine these issues of the day in a robust evidence base scientifically rigorous outcome focused way in this pursuit we should allay the worries that a social scientist has no future doing local research says in Singapore we are a multicultural urban and international City and we are a microcosm of the world many countries are in fact curious about our social and governance solutions in our experiments for that case for example China sends the housings of senior officials and mayor's to Singapore to study our solutions as we are an interesting reference point for China and whatever works in Singapore China can consider that for other cities in China the fact is all around the world whether it is inequality identity politics racial harmony societies face similar challenge driven by the same deep global forces but manifesting locally like why is the way to teach a child to become better in mathematics it's not likely to differ between classrooms in Singapore u.s. Brazil Germany or Djibouti social science research will need to be imaginative to be confident that local research can have a global audience and by doing to do so to focus by focusing on the fundamentals then what is seemingly local can find global application and that is why a simple studies by Professor Jota quoi we show that in Singapore yellow taxis are less prone to accidents than blue Texas that was widely published because across cities drivers have similar habits on the road and they recognize the same colors in conclusion I wish times higher education or the best as it evolves this existing system to better evaluate the performance of modern universities the academia world needs your service and your innovation academics and researchers by nature are curious people so I think I'm in safe company to express the many questions I have in mind on the future of universities and research and ranking I'm supposed to take questions for the next 20 minutes but really I will also welcome some answers thank you the first question suppose a ranking agency like Phe were interested in producing a ranking or poppin universities and let's define poppin used to be a need which is mini funded by the government if tht would solicit your inputs in this design this ranking or university what input would you emphasize and for example will you actually place greater emphasis on where's your employment outcomes question is for me in my view our in Singapore we have three major objectives in our universities one is education one is research and one is lifelong learning for education I think it has to go beyond we have not quite cracked the problem quite cracked this issue how to measure a quality of education we all know that if you ask the student to fill up a form at the end of the class that's highly inaccurate the the forms of the worst feedback often is the most beneficial to the student but they wouldn't know until they graduate ten years after ten years of the Graduate so I think you need a combination of both immediate feedback employment outcomes upon graduation and some more longer-term longitudinal study for the student to express what what was the true quality of education and how did that affect them well rest of their life not just as a worker as a career person but also as a person as a human being so I hope ranking organization at eh II can help crack this problem and find a way that we can evaluate you know objective evidence way the quality of education on research I've expressed my view I think we need to measure impact that goes beyond citations and publications but also what differences University is making in societies and communities in industries in the world and there should be many other methods to do so it does not mean that we move away from fundamental research I think there's a space of fundamental research but also a space where those research can translate into impact so no actually I would like to open the community floor anybody who want to speak please let us know your name and affiliations anybody I would like to ask the questions I know that President it was a journey not shy people so yes I knew she would be the first please I should really thank the minister's speech and I have a question Singapore is very well known for its the venturi education because it has very high schools in Pisa tests so my question is for and Singapore probably has the best pour of undergraduate put in moat so my question is and the government's views about sending those young people abroad or attract them to study in Singapore so that's my question sir I didn't get the last question problem ends view to send Singaporeans aborts sienta young people about 17 years old 16 years old to abroad or attract them to stay in Singapore to finish their higher education when I was when I just finished high school and a level at that time nobody's aware of ranking and as the boy grew up in a humble family background if I have a chance to be overseas I will go overseas and that was the mentality and when I was given the scholarship I just grabbed it and then a school accepted me there was really nice LSE and I just went to Odyssey and and three years opened up my mind that was how we were driven today's there are many more children already have that exposure so if you study not just University if you go to high school what we called JC or even secondary school chances are they may have a overseas trip and be exposed to overseas and they may take family to us as well so it's a new generation we more exposure to the world and when they grow up they will look at our local universities ranked high around the world and really I think one of the best universities you know thank you so I very much would like to see young promising Singaporeans if they are ever given scholarships they choose not just to go overseas but also study locally in NUS and Q SMU and all the other university every year we select probably hundred over young Singaporeans give them scholarships in return for bond service to serve the government and amongst them we select a few top ones that we then confer what we call President's Scholarship so this year the president's scholars I noticed that it's Wednesday as well and we decided to study locally and I I think it's a good development yeah any more questions from the floor of this Simon thank you Simon Testament Dean of NUS School of Law so I think I'm out ranked by almost everyone here for a change so Minister thank you for your your remarks when I was appointed Dean seven years ago I made a statement to the media that I wanted to produce creative law graduates and I had some people come back to me and say don't you understand the whole Singapore education system is designed to produce people who do very well in tests but I'm not creative no I think that was that was wrong but that is a misapprehension of some education systems like Singapore which are extremely rigorous could you talk a bit about how you think universities but also primary and secondary school systems can produce not just people who do very well in Pisa tests is our friend from Beijing pointed out but are also creative and innovative pieces that test we've been doing quite well both I think ten year level and 10 year old level in 16 y/o 14 euro level but in 2015 Pisa came out with a new test on creative problem-solving and the expectations were country that Singapore who score well in academic subjects will not do well in a creative problem-solving Pisa tests so guess what's the results of 2015 who came out top in the world you were Singapore so that was a surprise there was a surprise so I don't think that is mutually exclusive to be creative and at the same time able to score well in tests because you actually understand the concepts and understanding the concepts and mastering it actually is the necessity the necessary condition to be creative the thing about education where there is elementary level or university level when you make a change and we have been making many changes you wouldn't know the outcome to 10 years 20 years later which is why I think we evaluate education quality and impact of Education it has to be a lot deeper a lot more longitudinal so so many changes have happened throughout our education system of course in the meantime there is always the self critique maybe our students can be more creative maybe our entire society can tolerate risk better have a higher tolerance for risk and be more creative but changes are in fact underway and I think you wouldn't see the full results until 10 20 years later but we are starting to see and if you come to a university campus you can feel the bus you can feel that students today are doing things differently from the time when I was a student and I cannot imagine myself doing things that they are doing today so change is underway Simon yes please Thank You Suzanne 30 from McGill University you started your remarks by talking about two very important modelled runoff for the German model the us model how you've used those models and how you've integrated them do you think that you have an opportunity where I might phrase it do you have an ambition that in 20 30 years from now we'll be talking about the singaporean model that you will create enough innovation in the way that you shape your education research system that there will be a model that will come from this country that we will all like to emulate in Singapore because of our geography being between east and west and we're in the middle of an archipelago Southeast Asia we tend to look east and west all the time and we we copy we see what works in other countries we don't try to reinvent the wheel we absorb what other people have tried and work and then adapt it to our environment in a way that reflects the fact that trade comes through 60% of 3 or were trade comes through Southeast Asia Straits of Malacca forty or forty or sixty percent and that is what we are and how we have been wired to think and in that process if we come up with a model there's a combination of east and west there will be a privilege and an honor but we just tried to do our best to to build something that is adapted to our conditions and work for Singapore Antron Moscatelli University of Glasgow Minister you've Singapore has been really successful during venting itself over the over the years industrially and how do you know if you look ahead to the next 30 years what changes you do you think will have to happen to your education higher education system today to deal with the lifelong learning challenges which will exist with you know an aging society the need to retrain for yet new industries that you will specialize in as a country because this is one of the major challenges which we face in the advanced economies how do you think Singapore is going to be dealing with those challenges so if I can just touch on two aspect economically I choose economics because every of our undergraduate is thinking about their jobs many of them economically we are transforming ourselves the days when we grow through population growth and manpower growth I think that is over it has to be driven by innovation driven by productivity instead of drawing in MNCs and fbi's to create jobs to set up plans and offices we now have to nurture enterprises that go out to our region 650-million market within Southeast Asia and then in China in the Middle East Australia New Zealand all these are our immediate hinterland so from drawing in FDI now we nurture enterprises to go out from making things because FDI is come in set up factories from making things we have to create things from R&D from entrepreneurship and enterprises coming out of universities and industries we have to make things so in that kind of environment you are constantly on the move you are constantly understanding your customers and building new products and services and be at the forefront of technology you need to learn for life so our whole education therefore first we need to change too be able to do to nurture that joy of learning that curiosity in our students because that's what will drive you to learn for life learn for life is no fun then for life is going to be tough whatever domain you choose is going to be tough and so if you going to go through this tough process through life at the very least have a passion for it because that's what helps you overcome whatever obstacles that come your way so that learning for life the joy of learning getting students to do what they are passionate about has to be a key focus within our system they came up with a creative way for omitting students this year in NUS if you choose your first choice he gave you you giving you them two bonus points one point two five on one point two five bonus points and my tip of faculty professor call me after that to say there are game theories that say this may not be a great idea but but I think it worked for you so far because I think you are getting in students into faculty that into a area of study that they are most interested in and I think we are more likely to learn for life in an area that we are interested to a second area is actually social social stratification inequality these are issues that all of us face in mature societies I think we have a young generation that grew up with that feels a lot more about their communities and societies education has to nurture that I think not just full of hate when you come out in full of brains but have also having a heart for society for your community because in a globalized world is it cannot be mutually exclusive that either you're a citizen of the world or you live locally I think the two are actually reinforcing the more you feel strongly about your locality and your community the more confident you are to face the outside world so I would just say education in the broad sense I think we need to focus this – on this – intangibles don't do their questions in some way I know you've been very passion about live on learning and and why successful guy for you in a decade maybe ten years from now when you look back what do you think will be you'll be very happy you see what we're done well how do you judge the success ten years from now I hope I walk into NUS and Beyond looking beyond seeing just faculties who are researchers I see practitioners mingling with them working together beyond seeing students who are young and has not work a day in their lives I also see adult who has a career but coming back to learn and you see a very good interaction between students of learners of different age groups learning from each other I think there will be a nice outcome ten years from now okay okay one last questions we are running short time please yeah thank you very much mr. minister you talk about models you talk about the change of the elements you are doing to these models in terms of you know behaving better so my question is what are the indicators what are the elements you are observing in these models in terms of return of for instance return of investment to this model called education and innovation and intrapreneurship in Singapore the return on investment in education and training is a issue that has been studied for a long time it's difficult it's difficult to isolate the impact of education and training sometimes we may just have to they are some training that you can you can identify and isolate impact but by and large in education it is really a public good and it's quite hard to you can seek correlation but it is hard to see causality so I would usually just look at to make sure that whatever money we invest in education we produce students that can find work who are good citizens contributors society Singapore remains stable happy vibrant economy warmed kind-hearted society I think that will be a good outcome I think we come to the end because the time is running short so so can you guys join me in thanking [Applause] you

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