Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social and Family Development.
Ms Tan Li-San, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Social Service.
Mr James Teo, President;
Mr Jamie Teo, Vice President and Chairman of the Donation & Charity Sub-Committee;
Members, The Ngee Ann Kongsi.
Mr Richard Eu, Pro-Chancellor, SUSS.
Guests and colleagues.
Thank you for your presence at this signing ceremony for the NCSS-The Ngee Ann Kongsi 360 Panel Research.
At the Singapore University of Social Sciences (or SUSS), we are driven by a two-fold purpose: (1) to promote lifelong learning, and (2) to transform society through applied social sciences. At the heart of all we do are people. This people-focus has not changed from the inception of the University in 2005. Back then, we were called UniSIM, a private university offering part-time studies to degree qualification upgraders. Then, we became an Autonomous University – SUSS - and we embraced the social sciences in our identity. There are very few Social Sciences Universities in the world. So, we are kind of unique here, attractive to those concerned with social well-being.
Let me say a few words on SUSS’s twin purposes – lifelong learning and applied social sciences.
In lifelong learning, we serve students who come for an opportunity to upgrade their skills and qualifications. Very many are polytechnic diploma-holders who want to gain a degree to improve their careers and lives. We now also have full-time students, and again, many are polytechnic graduates. Today, 85% of SUSS students are polytechnic graduates - that’s about 13,600 enrolled, or 4,100 polytechnic graduates joining SUSS as new students every year. But, we also desire to encourage the broader society to learn for life. And, that ranges from CET for skills acquisition to learning for the elderly. Our education value-proposition is to be inclusive, accessible, and rendering support to give everyone entering our doors the best chance to succeed.
In applied social sciences, it is firstly also about our students who can develop not just to be professionals but socially-conscious ones. But, we also desire to conduct applied research, and advocate and implement ideas, that can uplift our society and build social good.
Combine these two motives, and we are intentionally seeding a future generation of skilled socially-focussed graduates while tackling today’s problems and anticipating tomorrow’s. And the latter are many – ageing, job dislocations, social disparities, social strife, environmental distress, etc.
To benefit many, our effort in applied social sciences research should be scalable to make a purposeful and cohesive impact on our communities. We cannot do it on our own. We need committed empathetic partners who share the same vision for lifelong learning, student development and social good. We are thus deeply appreciative of the collective contribution from the National Council of Social Service and The Ngee Ann Kongsi to join SUSS in this panel research through the funding of $2.22 million.
The NCSS-The Ngee Ann Kongsi 360 Panel Research is the first-of-its-kind social research in Singapore which will offers insights into emerging household dynamics. And significantly, the findings from the five-year panel research can be tapped on to identify suitable interventions and guide policy formation that empower individuals and their families to cope with multi-dimensional challenges they face at different life stages, such as parenthood, retirement, major illnesses and retrenchment. Again, people are at the centre of the research.
Why is such a panel research so important, even as Singapore society continues to develop and mature? Professor Leong Chan Hoong, the Principal Investigator of the project, will elaborate. Three outcomes come to mind.
First, we get a deeper and more intimate understanding of how citizens’ prioritisation and usage of time in everyday activities and social interactions can potentially affect social well-being and the quality of life;
Second, to inform policies and measures that are designed for continued social mobility where citizens are provided the holistic support needed and are motivated, empowered to pursue their dreams and aspirations;
And third, to reap cumulative positive changes from addressing outcomes 1 and 2 that can potentially strengthen Singapore’s social service delivery.
We are able to make good policies, render appropriate social support, and change social behaviour for the better if we first find out what is really bubbling on the ground, what people are thinking about and habitually doing, and what can be of real help to improve their lives. I hope this research will contribute some of that information and understanding.
Just like how The Ngee Ann Kongsi was founded by a group of businessmen to uphold Teochew customs and look after the welfare of Teochew immigrants, all of us have a part to play in strengthening our social fabric and nurturing social resilience, and secure a better future for our fellow Singaporeans. The start of the Ngee Ann Kongsi endeavour was modest, but look how it has grown to what it is today through purpose, foresight, determination and generosity to its broader community. So, in like-mindedness and stout-heartedness, we embark on this research project, and look to doing a good work for our society beyond the project’s remit. In this and other endeavours, we can hope with confidence, when all the stakeholders involved take an interest, are engaged, are determined for success, and advocate for the others.
The NCSS-The Ngee Ann Kongsi 360 Panel Research is an illuminating example of how the public and private sectors can partner in championing a shared cause. I hope there will be more of such. These partnerships amplify our efforts and what we seek to accomplish at SUSS. They build bridges, encourage exchange, and allow us to develop a cohesive view of society and grow collectively as a force for social good. SUSS is excited about what this project can bring, and I believe, so is The Ngee Ann Kongsi, and so is the National Council of Social Service. And I hope, you are, too, Minister. Thank you for gracing this event.
Thank you all once again for taking the time to be with us this afternoon.