SINGAPORE'S first liberal arts college, Yale-NUS, has added "something different" to the educational eco-system here but, to succeed, it cannot be a carbon copy of Yale in New Haven in the United States, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.
Instead, the college, a tie-up between the National University of Singapore and the American Ivy League institution Yale, has to experiment and adapt the liberal arts education model to Asia, he said at the inauguration of the college campus.
This is because while countries in Asia and around the world face similar challenges such as income inequality, wage stagnation and rapid economic, social and political change, each country is faced with unique circumstances.
"While the challenges are similar, countries are not converging on a single universal social or political model that will best deal with these challenges under all circumstances," he said.
He added that each country has different constraints and possibilities, and needs to find its own way forward.
Yale-NUS needs a curriculum and a college ethos that respond to the regional context of Asia, he told the students and university officials gathered as he affirmed the Government's commitment to the "bold collaboration".
"Its graduates have to understand these countries... not just a theoretical, intellectual understanding on paper but actual experience living in Asia, interacting with fellow students from this region and outside," he said.
Mr Lee also said Yale University wants to play a role in fast-rising Asia. Being in Asia, it will be be able "to feel the buzz of societies on the move, to respond to the zeitgeist, the issues and the priorities of a rising continent", he said.
He added: "This is a learning journey for both partners. We are building an institution here that is relevant and valuable both to the hosts in Asia and to its intellectual parents in the US."
He also noted that Singapore has been diversifying tertiary education steadily to offer more Singaporeans many pathways to explore and chase their aspirations.
While each of the six universities in Singapore have their own focus and role, each also has programmes to suit the diverse aptitudes and interests of students, he said.
Yale-NUS will add to the landscape with its innovative pedagogy and new learning approaches, said Mr Lee, adding that he is confident the school will create a unique model of academic excellence here.
Yale-NUS founding president Professor Pericles Lewis said Yale-NUS had striven over the past few years to "reimagine liberal education for this century" by drawing from the traditions of learning both in Asia and in the West.
Describing the campus as a "learning landscape", he said: "This state-of-the-art campus provides our community with the resources to bring the best of the East and West together."
The college took in its first batch of 155 students in 2013. Enrolment has grown since then to its third and largest intake of 190 students this year, with a total of 500 students from 38 countries.
The 64,000 sq m campus, which is designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli of New Haven in the US and Forum Architects of Singapore, consists of three residential colleges, 1,000 student rooms, seminar rooms, laboratories, fabrication studios, sky gardens, a library, a black box theatre, a performance hall and art studios among other facilities.
The inauguration ceremony was also attended by Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung and college presidents from universities worldwide.
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