FASS Curriculum Revision: More choices and flexibility

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) has revised its curriculum in a move to further enrich the undergraduate experience in the Arts and Social Sciences academic disciplines and to better prepare students for the future of work. The curriculum revision was introduced on 7 September, in conjunction with a roundtable discussion titled “The Value of a Humanities and Social Science Education” organised by the Faculty.

Undergraduates who are admitted from Academic Year 2016/2017 onwards will benefit from the latest curriculum revision, a process that began in 2014. The revisions were carefully deliberated and structured with the aim of strengthening the foundation for first-year students, providing more breadth for these students to explore their interests, while continuing to ensure depth in the major disciplines.

Prof Brenda Yeoh, Dean of FASS, said, “The education landscape has evolved rapidly over the last five years. A good, rigorous university education needs to be forward-looking to remain relevant to real-world settings and prepare students for the future of work. This latest revision to the Arts and Social Sciences curriculum is hence timely, after much deliberation and consultation with faculty members, students and employers. The revision retains and augments the hallmarks of the curriculum – flexibility, breadth, and depth – while it enhances students’ overall educational experience.”

“Increasingly, many of our students are taking up a second Major and signing up for internships under NUS Overseas Colleges and other programmes. Many of them have to extend their studies by six months to a year to take up these valuable opportunities. The revised curriculum will allow our students to pursue their interests and achieve a more all-rounded learning experience at NUS and also graduate on time,” Prof Yeoh added.

The last major revision to the Arts and Social Sciences curriculum took place more than 10 years ago. Over the years, regular reviews were conducted to ensure that the curriculum remains relevant to industry needs and market demands.

Key changes to the NUS Arts and Social Sciences undergraduate curriculum

Three key changes have been introduced to the NUS Arts and Social Sciences undergraduate curriculum – introduction of two new compulsory core modules on writing and communication; restructuring of the requirements for Majors and Electives; and formalisation of internships into the undergraduate curriculum.

  • Two new compulsory core modules on writing and communication
    Two core modules – “Writing Academically: Arts & Social Sciences” and “Public Writing and Communication” – have been introduced to boost students’ skills in writing, expression, and communication. These modules cover writing, presentation and speaking skills, which are core competencies essential to effective and successful communication. As new ideas and knowledge continue to evolve at the workplace, NUS Arts and Social Sciences graduates will benefit from possessing these enduring communication skills, regardless of their chosen profession.

These modules will be conducted for about 1,600 freshmen entering the Faculty each year through lectures via the Massive Open Online Course platforms and two-hour weekly seminars comprising up to 15 students per class.

  • Restructuring of the requirements for Majors and Electives
    The curriculum has also been restructured to allow greater flexibility for undergraduates pursuing a broad-based education to explore other interests such as to take up double majors and internships, within the normal candidature period of four years.

Under the existing curriculum, Arts and Social Sciences students who pursue a single major Honours degree need to fulfil five modules under University Level Requirements, three Faculty Core modules, 23 modules under the students’ selected major, and seven modules under Unrestricted Electives.

The revised curriculum will be restructured as follows:

(a) Expansion of Unrestricted Electives (UE) Space
Students can now have an option to take up a maximum of nine UE modules(equivalent to 36 modular credits). Those who prefer more breadth in their learning can make use of the two additional module spaces to pursue non-major or cross-faculty modules, while students who prefer to delve deeper into their majors could take up two more modules in their major disciplines. All single-major students will need to achieve at least 28 modular credits or seven modules under UE.

(b) Expansion of Faculty Core Modules
The number of core modules that students need to pursue has been increased to five modules to include the two new modules on writing and communication.

(c) Restructuring of Major Space
To accommodate the expanded Faculty Core and UE space, the minimum major requirements have been reduced from 23 modules to between 19 to 21 modules under the revised curriculum. While giving students the flexibility to pursue more broad-based subjects, the Faculty has ensured that the graduation requirements for major disciplines still puts its undergraduate programmes on par with established universities overseas.

  • Internships formalised as part of the curriculum
    Internships prepare students for work upon graduation and give them the opportunity to engage potential employers to translate their internships into job opportunities.

Under the existing curriculum, students who major in social work are required to undertake internships as part of their course. Discipline-related elective internships are also available for 10 other courses including theatre, philosophy and communications and new media. Each year, about 170 Arts and Social Sciences students go on these credit-bearing discipline-related internships. In addition, about 400 to 500 students pursue various non discipline-related internships, without credits, annually.

By formalising internships as part of the undergraduate curriculum, the Faculty hopes to encourage more students to accumulate valuable work-related experience prior to graduation. Under the revised curriculum, students may earn up to 12 modular credits (equivalent to three modules) by enrolling in the following internship modules:

(a) FASS Exposure Internship (two modular credits)
These internships are work assignments of at least 65 hours. Students can take up the internship at any time during their candidature period.

(b) FASS Internship (four modular credits or equivalent to one module)
Students who opt for this internship can choose to carry out the work assignment on a part-time basis during the regular semester (between 12 to 16 weeks) or on a full-time basis during vacation (between 8 to 12 weeks during special terms).

(c) FASS Extended Internship (eight modular credits or equivalent to two modules)
Students who pursue this internship will carry out the work assignment over 12 to 16 weeks during the regular semester.

The second and third options may be combined for an internship that lasts for up to six months. Modular credits accumulated through the above internships can contribute towards the fulfilment of the Unrestricted Electives requirement.

The above revisions to the curriculum will apply to the latest intake of students who are admitted into the Faculty in August 2016.


Click here for the Straits Times report on the curriculum revision.

Click here for the speech by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) at the launch event.



FASS Geography Students Win at GENC 2016

The team (from left) Liu Weiting, Jiang Xiaoshuang Grace, Raqibah Binte Abdul Razak & Fatin Farzana Binte Mishwan
The team (from left) Liu Weiting, Jiang Xiaoshuang Grace, Raqibah Binte Abdul Razak & Fatin Farzana Binte Mishwan

FASS would like to congratulate the NUS team comprising of FASS Geography students, Liu Weiting, Jiang Xiaoshuang Grace, Raqibah Binte Abdul Razak and Fatin Farzana Binte Miswan, on winning the Grand Prize at the Geoscience Exhibition and Competition (GENC) organised by the University Technology Petronas! The Prize consisted of a Trophy, Certificates of recognition and a cash prize of RM1000.

The team of four geographers beat 26 other participating teams from universities in South East Asia, which is a commendable feat especially because the NUS team were exposed to geology through only one or two modules.

The competition, held on 19 and 20 July 2016, consisted of two parts: the first part was a team oral presentation and the second involved putting up an exhibition of a poster, related material evidences and videos on the same theme. The NUS team name was “SENTOSA 4G SECRETS” and their work was based on the rocks of Sentosa (the one and only rock outcrop in Singapore that is accessible to general public and exposed only at low tides).

FASS Psychology Student Adalyn Heng Wins 2016 University Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize

FASS Highlights_OURP 2016-PhotoWe are delighted that Adalyn Heng from the Department of Psychology has been selected by the NUS as the sole FASS winner of the 2016 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize (OURP), on the basis of her recent honours thesis research mentored by Dr Stephen Lim, Director of the NUS Cognition and Education Laboratory.

The researchers comment: “In educational settings, the ability to ask good questions is critical. In this study, we explored the extent to which retrieval practice can enhance learners’ ability to generate higher-order questions. Participants were randomly allocated to one of two learning groups, wherein they either studied a text per se (S_S_) or used a combination of repeated studying and repeated retrieval (SRSR). They returned a week later and generated questions based on the text which they had studied. We observed that participants in the SRSR group asked significantly more higher-order questions than did those in the S_S_ group. This observation has important implications for how we might improve classroom engagement and learning in the real world.”

In addition, Adalyn shares her research experience: “I have learnt the importance of reflection in the research process. At times, making progress on research requires one to take a step back to reflect on and reconnect with one’s initial purpose of embarking on the project. For example, the research process is often fraught with various methodological challenges, ranging from selecting (or developing) experimental materials, specifying the experimental task and conditions, to deciding what statistical tool to use to analyze the data. In addressing these methodological challenges, it is important to stay connected to the overarching purpose of the research and to not lose sight of the larger picture, which in this instance, is to ultimately enhance pedagogical practices. I owe what I have achieved thus far to Dr Lim’s patience and generosity in mentoring and nurturing me. I am beyond grateful.”

We extend our congratulations to Adalyn and Dr Lim!

Prof Mohan Dutta Selected as 2016 ICA Applied/Public Policy Communication Researcher

mohan_duttaProf Mohan Dutta, Head of the Department of Communications and New Media and NUS Provost’s Chair Professor, was selected as the 2016 ICA Applied/Public Policy Communication Researcher. The prestige is awarded by the International Communication Association (ICA), which is an academic association for scholars interested in the study, teaching, and application of all aspects of human and mediated communication.

“The Applied Research Award honors a scholar or group of scholars who has or have produced a systematic and outstanding body of research that addresses a significant communication problem of relevance to a public representing one or more groups of stakeholders relevant to a division(s) or interest group(s) of ICA. Individual or collaborative applied research programmes which include community engagement, group and organisational interventions, or advocacy and/or political policy work at the local, national, international and/or global levels are all appropriate candidates for this award.”

Prof Dutta received the award at the 66th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association held in Fukuoka, Japan on 11 June 2016.

Our heartiest congratulations to Prof Dutta!

“Intergenerational Transfer, Human Capital and Inequality”

Tuesday, 31 May 2016



The International Sociological Association (ISA) Research Committee 28 on Social Stratification & Mobility (RC28) conference on “Intergenerational Transfer, Human Capital and Inequality” was held for the first time in Southeast Asia from 26 to 28 May 2016. It was hosted by the FASS Centre for Family and Population Research (CFPR).

In his opening address, Guest-of-Honour Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, touched on the issues of social mobility and social inclusion.

Keynote speaker, Dr Noeleen Heyzer, Social Scientist and Former United Nations Under-Secretary-General, spoke on “Harnessing Human Potential for a Sustainable, Secure Future of Shared Prosperity” and pointed out that the “Asian miracle” has lifted many from poverty, yet widened the inequality gap.

Click here to read the article.





Esri Young Scholars Award Winner for 2016 – Mr Yan Yingwei

Congratulations to Mr Yan Yingwei, from the Department of Geography who has won the Esri Young Scholars Award 2016 for his PhD work titled: ‘Investigating potential distributional changes of invasive crop pest species associated with global climate change using Geographic Information System’.

Photo_YingweiThis nation-wide competition, run annually by Esri, celebrates excellence in geospatial study, and more specifically, the creative use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology – or smart mapping technology – to solve commercial and community issues.

Yingwei’s study aimed to secure sustainable agricultural productions and global food supply in the context of climate change and rapid human population increase. Specifically, the study involves using GIS to analyse the possible consequences of future climate change on the global distributions of invasive crop pest species; and mitigating potential pest invasion risks based on quality-controlled Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) which is a form of crowd sourcing or user-generated content.

His four-year PhD project is supervised by Associate Professor Feng Chen-Chieh, and by his thesis committee members namely, Associate Professor Wang Yi-Chen, and Professor Lu Xixi. The project generated research findings on four fronts:
(1) the overall global distributional patterns of invasive crop pest species;
(2) the spatial patterns of future distributional changes in pest species richness across different latitudes and altitudes;
(3) how temperature and precipitation variations across different regions will affect the distributional changes of the pest species; and
(4) how to utilize artificial intelligence (fuzzy logic) to assure the quality of VGI in order to better surveil crop pest invasions based on spatial crowdsourcing.

These findings may allow agricultural planners, policy and decision-makers to easily identify areas around the globe which need more attention about invasive crop pest control.

Yingwei’s enthusiasm in GIS drove him to pay attention to the Esri Young Scholars Award. As a final year PhD student, he submitted his four year’s research outcomes to Esri to compete for the award. By participating in the competition, he described himself as a young scholar with a quick uptake and an ever burning desire to outperform himself and raise his intellectual levels at every opportunity.

Yingwei will be receiving this award at the 2016 Esri User Conference in San Diego, California, this June and will have his work displayed alongside other Young Scholar winners from around the world.

Dr. Stephen Lim awarded the UBC SoTL Leadership Certificate on Curriculum and Pedagogy in Higher Education

Dr. Stephen Lim is among the select group of NUS faculty members recently nominated and sponsored by the NUS Office of the Provost to undergo the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Leadership Certificate on Curriculum and Pedagogy in Higher Education program by the University of British Columbia. This program prepares academic leaders to develop expertise for scholarly approaches to, and the scholarship of, teaching, learning, and curriculum practices in contextually–bound higher education settings. Dr. Lim is the very first FASS colleague to have successfully completed the program.

We congratulate Dr. Lim on making this significant milestone.

Meet Our Pulitzer Prize Winning Alumna Mei Fong and Her New Book “One Child”


(Interview conducted by Department of English Language & Literature undergraduate, Nigel Choo)

Mei Fong graduated from NUS with a Bachelors of Arts (Hons.) in English Literature in 1997. She began her career as a journalist at The New Paper, then pursued a Masters in International Affairs at Columbia University before joining the Wall Street Journal as a correspondent in 2001. Her work as a correspondent at the Journal won her various accolades including a shared Pulitzer for her stories on China’s transformation ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After leaving the China bureau, she was on faculty at University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications and is currently a fellow at the thinktank New America. Mei Fong was recently in town in December to promote her new book “One Child,” an account of China’s failed attempt at social engineering and its pervasive effects on the Chinese people.

Q: How did your undergraduate education in NUS influence you as a writer or journalist?

I think the honours year really helped me blossom as a writer by teaching me to read and write critically, and not just on Shakespeare or Joyce but also on popular culture. There was a great class Tim White taught on film critique I enjoyed immensely, and I also remember classes by professors Barnard White, Yong LiLan, Robbie Goh and Susan Ang vividly. Professors Goh and Ang in particular were influential because they encouraged my admittedly middle-brow tastes by lending me books on everything from science-fiction to Umberto Eco’s piece on James Bond. I knew I neither had the ability nor interest to write an epic canto, but their encouragement and examples showed me that it was possible–and indeed, necessary, to write intelligently about anything, even so-called “fluffy” topics.

Q: You have come a long way from being the 16-year old who was inspired by a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II to become a journalist and writer. Has there been a defining moment in your career thus far that you could share with us?

Lots of them! One was getting into a program to encourage creative writing that was sponsored by the Ministry of Education, when I was at Raffles Junior College. The program paired us up with mentors, and my mentor was the neurosurgeon and writer Gopal Baratham, who was a kindly influence. Gopal used to invite us mentees to the Tanglin Club for tea, and was generous about introducing us to the movers and shakers of Singaporean literary society. Imagine being a scrubby teenager and meeting folks like David Marshall and Catherine Lim. All these encounters inspired me, made me think there’s more to life than a 9-9 existence as an office peon.

one child

Q: What inspired the writing of “One Child”?

I’d been reporting on China for several years, and the one-child policy was one of the most interesting and fascinating policies that really shaped Chinese society. At first, as a city dweller, it seemed as if the policy really only affected those in rural areas, who were more subject to its excesses, like forced abortions and sterilizations. Such things didn’t happen to educated women in cities. But over time, I came to realize it really shaped a lot of things for everyday Chinese, things like who you date, the jobs you choose, and how you die. But the key for me came when I was reporting on the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, China’s biggest natural disaster in three decades. A lot of the children killed in the earthquake were only children, because the area near the earthquake’s epicenter had actually been a test pilot program for the one-child policy, before they launched it nationwide in 1980. Because of the coming Olympics, Beijing moved in ruthlessly to suppress dissent and parental concerns over the nature of these deaths–many in poorly built, “tofu” schools–and so, the earthquake became not just an illustration of the damaging effects of a natural disaster, but also exposed the great hurts inflicted by that unnatural disaster, the one child policy. While I was in the midst of reporting on all this, including taking a physically taxing journey with migrant workers, I discovered I was pregnant. I subsequently had a miscarriage. That brush with parenthood, and the pain of the loss, was a trigger for me to examine some of the issues raised in the book. Why do we want to have children? What happens when that desire is thwarted by nature or government fiat?

Q: Who should read “One Child” and why?

Anyone who’s interested in China, in the kind of dystopian worlds envisioned by Orwell and Huxley, anyone who’s interested in journalism, anyone contemplating the costs of parenthood, anyone with a uterus.

Q: Finally, do you have any advice for our undergraduates?

My advice is to those contemplating creative careers, in the arts, in writing, in journalism, filmmaking–all the so called “unsafe” jobs that your parents are horrified by. There are a million obstacles, but if you really want to do this, then YOU can’t be the first obstacle, you’ll never get anywhere. To those who want to go into it, I say, Find a Way.

And for those who’ve had some success in these fields, I say, Make a Way.

For a more comprehensive Q&A with Mei Fong, head to http://www.meifong.org/author-qa/ where she responds to questions about “One Child” in greater depth.