Address By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) at SUSS Convocation 2019, Session 1, Wednesday, 9 October 2019, The Grand Hall, Level 4
Mdm Halimah Yacob, President of Singapore and Patron of SUSS
His Excellency, Pak Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia
Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education
Mr Stephen Lee, Chancellor
Members of SUSS Board of Trustees
Excellencies, Graduands, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning. Welcome to SUSS Convocation 2019.
I would like first to thank Her Excellency, Madam Halimah Yacob, for her presence and steadfast support as SUSS Patron, and Minister Ong Ye Kung, as our Guest-of-Honour. A special welcome also to His Excellency, President Joko Widodo and Mrs Widodo – you honour us by your presence.
As an Autonomous University, SUSS has developed our brand of education that is inclusive, industry-relevant, with a strong social emphasis that transcends disciplinary focus. We are able to do this only with all our partners and benefactors, and I wish to thank them for journeying with us. Today, we celebrate with over 2,400 graduands at Convocation 2019. Amongst them are 39 pioneer graduands from our full-time Human Resource Management programme – the only undergraduate programme offered by a Singapore University specially developed by HR practitioners together with our faculty.
To our graduands, congratulations! A promising future lies ahead for you – face it well. Our hope is that as SUSS graduates, besides being professionally equipped, you will be open, tenacious, purposeful and socially-conscious - open to new challenges, continue to build new skills, remain tenacious in overcoming difficulties. You will commit to make a mark not only in serving your chosen professions, but also serving society, and remaining agile to the constantly evolving environment of our time. While rooted in Singapore, you will look, and work, beyond our shores, especially in ASEAN and our larger Asian neighbours.
As your alma mater, we will strive to provide you, and our students, the necessary support and inspiration. Let me highlight some.
In April this year, the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) became part of SUSS. By fusing both SUSS and IAL’s expertise in adult learning, we will bring best practices of applied, continual and flexible learning for adult learners, and lead and advance adult education in Singapore, and beyond.
In online learning, we have gained a cutting edge in supporting continual learning.
Last year, we broadened our capabilities and offered several credit-bearing fully online courses to our students. Over 2500 students have taken them, and initial studies show that the learning outcomes and performance of students taking online classes are not significantly different from those with traditional classes. Our goal is to empower learners with the choice of different learning modes, anywhere anytime, heralding a future of personalised learning.
Today, over 60% of our textbooks are offered as e-textbooks. Our study guides are online. This allows greater collaboration and flexibility, while we gain additional insights into our students’ learning needs and patterns. We are building an online library to serve our stakeholders 24x7 anywhere they may be. We will press on to advance technology-assisted learning, lead in offering more online courses, and foster a vibrant online learning community in SUSS that is adaptive, agile and ready for the future.
Along with our growing pool of training partners, we have over 2000 online learners from all walks of life, using our public-fronting UniLearn online platform. These learners could be volunteers, trainers, parents and clients served by social service organizations, accessing learning through a common SUSS platform. We expect these joint activities to grow as digitalization takes greater hold, not just in education but in industry and society.
Our investment in using technology and predictive analytics is also making an impact. Our schools are actively using dashboards created by our Analytics team to better understand students’ learning behaviour and academic performance. This enables our faculty to better predict and provide individualised intervention strategies for our students.
To advance continual learning, we have accelerated our pace in curating more modular, stackable learning modules. These courses and modules are suitable for working adults who want to keep their skills sharp and relevant. Popular courses are in such areas as Digital Marketing, IP and Innovation Management, Human Capital Management, and Expressive Art Therapy. More will be offered in the coming years.
We have also not let up on our efforts to expand the range of work-study programmes and industry-relevant SkillsFuture courses. Among these are collaborations with Defence Science & Technology Agency on procurement, Lazada on e-commerce, Institute of Financial Planners on digital skills, and Commissioner of Charities on leading and managing high performing charities. For work-study programmes, we have rolled out our own such programmes while broadening our collaboration with the polytechnics to include sectors such as Social Work, Human Factors Engineering, Biotech, Sports, and Media.
SUSS is embarking on developing a framework for Recognition of Prior Learning, piloting some ideas with a few organizations in Singapore. While difficult to design and implement, it is a worthwhile venture to accredit and recognise past work experience for adult learners.
To achieve all of these, we are investing heavily. Yet, in support of our government’s effort to make education accessible to all, SUSS has announced tuition fee reductions for our full time undergraduate studies, starting in 2020. Still, that may not be enough. So, next year, we will double the funding set aside for financial aid and scholarships for our students. Many more will find it less onerous to support their studies at SUSS.
Unfortunately, you, our graduands, will not benefit. But take heart, awaiting you are two free courses that you can take from SUSS after graduation through our ACE+ programme, to keep you on your learning journey.
We will construct a Student Hub next year which will serve as a hive for innovation and collaboration as we continue to embed entrepreneurship, service learning and community engagement into our full time programmes. Today, we are delighted to confer several student awards, including three new Entrepreneur Awards.
Externally, SUSS will continue to strengthen ties locally and regionally with academia, community and industry. These partnerships will amplify our provision of a holistic education. In particular, we have set “international exposure” as a graduating requirement for our full-time students. Today, they have gone at least once, some several times, to our neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Indochina, and further afield to China and India, to learn their ways and cultures, and build friendships and networks.
As Singapore’s foremost university for lifelong learning, SUSS is in a strong position to contribute to building a first-rate national continuing education and learning eco-system for all Singaporeans, while our social sciences leaning pivots us towards bringing good to society. But, we are much stronger when our graduates join hands with us – and we treasure this partnership. So, graduands, do stay actively connected with SUSS. Contribute to our endeavours. Be our advocates. Let us seize this opportunity and make our mark. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my privilege to introduce our Guest-of-Honour, Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education.
Minister Ong was elected Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC and appointed to the Singapore Cabinet in 2015. He is concurrently a board member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Chairman of the Chinese Development Assistance Council.
Prior to his Cabinet appointment, he held various positions in the Government and was the Deputy Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress, overseeing the Labour Movement’s employment and employability programmes. He was Chief Executive of Singapore Workforce Development Agency, during which he spearheaded many initiatives to build up the Continuing Education and Training infrastructure. Mr Ong will now address us.