Singapore's first university of the arts to be established in NAFA and LASALLE alliance

Singapore's first university of the arts to be established in NAFA and LASALLE alliance

Polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will review their curricular to cater to students' diverse learning interests and better prepare them for evolving industry needs. Tan Si Hui reports.

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s first arts university will be established in an alliance between the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and LASALLE College of the Arts, Minister for Education Lawrence Wong announced on Wednesday (Mar 3). 

It will be a private university supported by the Government, with LASALLE and NAFA as its two constituent colleges, and both will continue to remain as distinct schools offering their own programmes, he added. 

Speaking during the Ministry of Education (MOE) Committee of Supply debate in Parliament, Mr Wong said: “MOE believes strongly in the need to nurture more diverse talents through our multiple education pathways. In our next phase of development, we will need this diversity of talent in STEM, and also in the arts, design and media.”

Adding that the two institutions have “grown from strength to strength”, he added: “Because of the quality and standards that both LASALLE and NAFA have achieved, I'm happy to share that MOE will grant the alliance its own degree-awarding powers, and also confer it university status. This will be our first university of the arts in Singapore.” 

The university is expected to be set up within the next three to four years, MOE said in a press release.

Currently, LASALLE and NAFA award degrees in partnership with well-known overseas universities such as Goldsmiths, the Royal College of Music and the University of the Arts London, said Mr Wong, adding that programmes are subsidised by MOE. 

LASALLE and NAFA took in about 300 and 130 Singaporeans and permanent residents respectively for their degree programmes in the academic year of 2020, said MOE in a separate factsheet. 

The Education Ministry, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, will work with LASALLE and NAFA to establish the alliance, he added. 

“The university will draw on strengths from both colleges and drive synergies between them. For example, students in future can benefit from a more diverse range of offerings, with more opportunities to access cross-institution modules and projects, as well as share learning resources. Faculty can also look forward to more opportunities for joint academic collaborations,” said the Education Minister. 

“More importantly, we envisage the university to contribute more to cultural life in Singapore and the region, and to offer a stronger value proposition to its students and stakeholders.”

For example, a student enrolled in LASALLE could take modules at NAFA through the alliance and have those credits recognised in their curriculum at LASALLE. 

READ: Fewer graduates found permanent full-time jobs in 2020, spike in part-time, temporary employment amid COVID-19

MOE has appointed a pro-tem committee to work with the two schools to develop the structure and operating model of the new arts university, and its work is expected to be completed by early 2023, said the Ministry in the press release. 

There are similar models overseas, such as the National University of Ireland, the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama and the University of the Arts, London, where specialised tertiary institutions for the creative arts have come together as one body, said MOE in the factsheet. 

The committee will take reference from these overseas models in working closely with LASALLE and NAFA to develop a model "unique and relevant to the Singapore context", said the ministry.

Commentary: A liberal arts education in Singapore and the usefulness of ‘useless’ knowledge

FULL SUBJECT-BASED BANDING

About 30 more secondary schools will implement full subject-based banding in 2022, Mr Wong said, in an update on the scheme. 

Adding that the initial findings from the first 28 pilot schools have been “very encouraging”, he said: “Students in the mixed form classes are learning well. They're making friends with classmates from different courses. More importantly, they are learning to respect and appreciate each other’s differences and strengths. And with a greater diversity of perspectives, classroom discussions are richer and livelier. 

“Some students attempting subjects at a more demanding level were naturally apprehensive at the start. But with support and encouragement from their teachers and classmates, they have been progressing well in their learning and enjoying their lessons.”

The remaining secondary schools will implement full subject-based banding over 2023 and 2024, he added. 

READ: Full subject-based banding an 'important' move to maximise students' talents: Ong Ye Kung

READ: Government to end current system of secondary school streaming: What you need to know

MOE is also reviewing post-secondary education pathways so that students have more opportunities to go to post-secondary courses aligned to their strengths and interests, said Mr Wong. 

“In particular, we will take steps to enhance our polytechnic and ITE education, to ensure that it remains responsive to the aspirations of our students and the needs of our future economy,” he added. 

Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman is leading an ongoing review of opportunities and pathways in applied education. 

Noting that about 30 per cent of Nitec graduates today do not progress to Higher Nitec or other publicly funded upgrading pathways, Mr Wong said MOE is reviewing the curriculum structure to enable more students to attain a Higher Nitec certification.

For example, the ITE curriculum will be streamlined to allow more students to attain a Higher Nitec qualification in a shorter time, said Dr Maliki in his speech on Wednesday. 

“This will equip our ITE graduates with deeper industry-relevant skills, which provide stronger foundation for future skills upgrading. We will also ensure sufficient flexibility for students of different profiles under this new system to cater to different learning needs and paces,” he added. 

With many ITE students also wanting to pursue a diploma, MOE will also expand the distinctive diploma offerings in the ITEs, said Mr Wong. 

The ministry is also studying if the Polytechnic Foundation Programme can be expanded to cater to more students, beyond the current pool of Normal (Academic) students, said Dr Maliki. 

The Common Entry Programmes, which target students interested in a polytechnic course cluster but are undecided about the specific course, will also be expanded to the arts, design and media and sciences clusters in all polytechnics from 2023, he announced. 

With this change, about 25 per cent of Year 1 diploma students will enter polytechnic through a Common Entry Programme, up from the current 20 per cent, added Dr Maliki. 

The programmes were last expanded in 2019 to include the business, information and digital technologies clusters, on top of the engineering clusters, he said. 

Source: CNA/hw(rw)

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