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EDB veteran is new poly head

New S'pore Poly principal takes over in Jan, in move set to boost industry links. -ST
Matthias Chew

Mon, Oct 08, 2012
The Straits Times

In an eye-catching move, Singapore Polytechnic (SP) has appointed an Economic Development Board (EDB) veteran as its new principal.

EDB deputy managing director Tan Choon Shian, 46, will replace current principal and chief executive Tan Hang Cheong, 58, on Jan 1 next year.

The appointment is expected to boost the polytechnic's links with industry.

The former EDB scholarship holder, who has a degree in information science from Tokyo University, has spent nearly all of his 20-year career with the board - except for a year-long secondment to the National Trades Union Congress in 2006.

He joined EDB in 1992 and served in various positions, including as a regional director in Japan.

Explaining the appointment, Mr Bill Chang, chairman of SP's board of governors, cited Mr Tan Choon Shian's "diverse experiences, solid industry connections and strong leadership acumen" as qualities that will enable him to excel as the poly's new head.

The move to replace a veteran educationist with a senior EDB official will bolster the polytechnic's ability to meet the manpower needs of industry, observers noted. Polytechnic heads typically come from within the poly sector, or the civil service.

Ensuring that tertiary institutes continue to prepare graduates for jobs remains a key emphasis of the Education Ministry, which recently committed to funding two more practice-oriented universities.

MP Low Yen Ling, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, noted that Mr Tan's EDB background gives him "extensive exposure to globally competitive companies and their workforce needs". "His strong industry links and sharp acumen will help lead SP towards even closer industry cooperation, and stay well-tuned to the evolving shape and needs of our economy," said Ms Low, who is also a former EDB colleague of Mr Tan.

Meanwhile, outgoing principal Tan Hang Cheong will retire after 22 years in the polytechnic sector. Before being appointed principal of SP in 2008, he served as deputy principal of Ngee Ann Polytechnic from 2001 to 2007.

A holder of a computer science degree from Imperial College London, he is credited with improving pedagogy and curriculum in SP. He introduced the general education programme, a first for a polytechnic where students study subjects such as ethics and politics to improve their general knowledge.

Mr Chang said: "It is evident that he has made a difference to SP in every aspect - from the students, staff, curriculum and our operations to enhancing the campus landscape."

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