Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) prides itself on providing quality education for students of all ages, qualifications and backgrounds. Its broad admission criteria and inclusive environment make SUSS a unique learning proposition, as its students and teachers come from all walks of life to foster knowledge together.
At the age of 36, with over eight years of teaching experience under her belt, Ee Kim Gek, Hannah, is an example of a mid-career learner. Though her Diploma from the National Institute of Education (NIE) had sparked her interest in inclusive childhood education, she realised the need to further her studies if she was to improve herself as an educator, and chose SUSS to begin the journey.
"I really wanted to explore the possibilities and challenges of responsible inclusive preschool education in Singapore," she told us of her epiphany. "But to do that, I felt I needed to learn more about early childhood education so that I could weave more seamlessly between what are currently two worlds."
To fulfil her goal, she searched extensively. In a stroke of fortune, SUSS filled some practical requirements – its degree was recognised, and the liaison officer she spoke to replied promptly. These gave her a good impression of the school.
However, that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to choosing a programme. Hannah refused to settle – searching for a degree programme that provided the "ideal" mix of length, quality and content. She also prioritised the lecturers, deliberately aiming for professors who taught from local practical experience.
"I really wanted people who taught from a wealth of practical experience and not just the theoretical. SUSS stood out to me because I saw that they not only had experienced lecturers, but also had a few lecturers who actually had some background in Special Education as well – so for what I was trying to pursue, this was a plus point," she emphasised.
A Good Investment
Upon beginning her studies, Hannah was especially impressed by the variety in her cohort, which included students from all stages of life from fresh polytechnic graduates to "silver learners" seeking a career change, and how this added colour and breadth to her studies.
"I see these different groups when I take my day classes and when I take my minor classes at night and I find it fascinating and encouraging that there is such a range," she ruminated.
"I think that’s an aspect of SUSS culture that stands out to me – how the student body is an embodiment of its vision of lifelong learning."
The variety of human experience shows itself in rich classroom discussions and thought-provoking papers, which Hannah appreciated as relevant to not only her degree but her eventual work in education.
"Having to write multiple papers on various topics is training me to hone the way I communicate my thoughts with clearer order and flow – which I think is a really important skill that can be generalised beyond Early Childhood Education," she highlighted.
A Rewarding Learning Journey
Her studies at SUSS not only buttressed her existing knowledge in preschool education, she was also awarded the prestigious ECDA Training Award (University) that helped fund her studies and guaranteed her career.
The award was not only "an answer to a prayer" for Hannah herself, but proof of the value of learning no matter the age. She hoped others would take a note from her book and embracing the learning opportunities at SUSS. "You already know what you are looking for so you can be pretty focused, and you have practical experience that can often help the theoretical make more sense."
She also had the following encouragement for learners young and old alike: "Think clearly about what your expectations are and see if they align with the mission, vision, and programme structure of the school to ascertain if you think this is really the U for you, pun intended!"
"You can learn a lot at SUSS, but you need to take ownership of your learning so be ready for that – it’s not a bad thing."
This article was first published in BrightSparks July 2020 eMagazine. Republished with permission from CareerBuilder Singapore.