Professor John Miksic wins inaugural Singapore History Prize

The inaugural Singapore History Prize was awarded to renowned archaeologist and NUS Southeast Asian Studies Professor John Miksic on 11 January. His book, titled Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300–1800, presents the history of Singapore in the context of Asia’s long-distance maritime trade in the years between 1300 and 1800.

Accompanied by 300 colour photos and maps, the book draws from over 25 years of archaeological research to reconstruct the 14th-century port history of Singapore and illustrates a well-organised, prosperous city with a cosmopolitan population, providing evidence that the Singapore story began long before Stamford Raffles arrived in 1819.

While historical textual evidence of ancient Singapore long existed in Chinese and Indian sources, there was never a way to “nail down” its early history until there was archaeological evidence to tie in with the text, said Prof Wang Gungwu, Chairman of the East Asian Institute in NUS, who headed the Jury Panel for the prize.

Calling the book a “truly monumental piece of work”, Prof Wang said, “With this book, Prof Miksic has laid the foundations for a fundamental reinterpretation of the history of Singapore and its place in the larger Asian context, bringing colour and definition to a whole new chapter of the Singaporean identity.  We now know more about Singapore in the 14th century than any other city in the region during the same period.”

The book was the unanimous choice for the award by the Jury Panel; made up of Prof Wang; Prof Kishore Mahbubani, Senior Advisor at the NUS Office of the Vice President (University & Global Relations); Ms Claire Chiang, FASS alumna and Senior Vice President of Banyan Trees Holding Limited; and Prof Peter A. Coclanis, Director of the Global Research Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Prof Mahbubani, who first mooted the prize, spoke about how Prof Miksic’s book stood out for throwing significant light on Singapore’s history. “What makes a country strong in the long run is if the citizens actually understand their history well. If you understand your history well, your commitment and your loyalty to the country is much stronger. Your sense of identity to the country is also stronger if all citizens carry a common narrative of the country,” he said.

Some 1,000 Singaporean volunteers took part in the many excavations that led to the book, Prof Miksic shared, and he wrote the book as a tribute to them.

“Everybody who dug with me was a discoverer, everyone who worked with me found something; they discovered a piece of Singapore’s memory, which had been lost, and without them would never have been recovered. I felt I really owed them a debt to put this all together and show them the importance of what it is they had done,” he elaborated.


Prof Miksic (centre in blue) with the Jury Panel for the Prize (from left) Prof Coclanis, Prof Mahbubani, Ms Chiang and Prof Wang

Prof Miksic will receive a $50,000 cash award. He hopes to use the money to build up the Archaeology Laboratory for NUS Southeast Asian Studies, as well as fund other excavations and training sessions.

“Historical enquiry serves as a basis for us to understand ourselves, our society and the world around us. Knowing our roots and appreciating our past will also help us better chart our future. I hope that the Singapore History Prize will inspire more research, discussion and debate about the history of Singapore, so that future generations of Singaporeans can better appreciate the Singapore story,” he said.

The book retails for $58 and is available in Kinokuniya and on the NUS Press website. It is on its third reprint and is in the midst of being translated into Chinese, to be published in 2019. Prof Miksic is also currently working with NUS Press on an online catalogue of ancient artefacts found in Singapore with the trial site to be launched next month.

NUS establishes Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund to expand social service research

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has established the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund to promote applied social work research with the aim of enhancing social service provision and delivery at social service agencies.

The new research fund is established through a philanthropic gift of S$2.37 million from the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund. This gift is eligible for the Government matching grant. Administered by the NUS Department of Social Work, the new research fund will support practice research projects that promote collaboration between practice and research.

In practice research projects, practising social workers and NUS researchers will work hand in hand to address real-world challenges in Singapore’s social service sector, and in the process, social workers could build their capacity and capability to handle a variety of local issues. Findings from such research projects will also contribute towards improving the accessibility, delivery and design of social services; enhancing the well-being of service users, as well as contributing to policy discussions at the service providers and government levels.

Associate Professor Esther Goh, Head of the Department of Social Work, NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said, “We deeply appreciate the generous gift from the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund to support the NUS Department of Social Work’s initiative to expand social service research in Singapore. This is a timely development, as there is a pressing need for more practice research in the social service sector to drive evidence-informed policy-making, resource planning and training of social workers to serve Singapore’s multi-cultural population.”

“The Department of Social Work is in a strategic position to host the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund to collaboratively conduct practice research with practitioners that will positively impact service users. The synergy between the extensive research competencies of our academic staff team and the ground expertise of social work practitioners will generate research findings that could build the knowledge base for social work practice in Singapore and enhance the well-being of the clients we serve,” Assoc Prof Goh explained.

Philanthropic gift from Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund

A trailblazing woman of her time, Mrs Lee Choon Guan championed many causes, including women’s education and reduction of child mortality. Through the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, her great-grandson Mr Keith Chua, who is Trustee for the Trust Fund, continues to support her causes in education and health care in Singapore and abroad. A long-time supporter of education and research initiatives at NUS, he first initiated the idea of philanthropy as a subject to be offered at the NUS Business School, which culminated into an initial gift of S$1.5 million to support the establishment of the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy at the NUS Business School in 2009 (later renamed Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy in 2011).

Mr Keith Chua, Trustee of the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, said, “In our earlier years as a developing country, Singapore naturally drew on the experiences of other countries adapting good evidence based practices in the delivery of our social services. As economic advancement brings about improved standards of living and quality of life, we are now able to increasingly deliver our social services in ways unique to our society. We are pleased to play a part in this stage of our nation’s history to find better ways through collaborative research to continue to build an inclusive and caring society. Every society will have social needs. It is imperative that we pool our collective resources to keep developing appropriate and effective evidence based interventions. Our Trust Fund is pleased to continue this working collaboration with NUS. By partnering with NUS, we hope that research emanating from this initiative may also be found helpful in other communities, regionally and internationally.”

The Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund

The Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund will provide funding for social workers to carry out practice research projects that will benefit service provision and delivery at social service agencies. Depending on the viability and impact of the projects, successful applicants can expect to receive funding that ranges from S$20,000 to S$30,000 for each practice research project. Each project is expected to be completed within a three-year period.

Social workers applying for the funding will be matched with researchers from the NUS Department of Social Work, who will partner them as co-principal investigators for the research projects. The practice research projects will involve service providers, service users, and caregivers in the conceptualisation, implementation, analysis and utilisation of the research findings.

Applicants must be a practising social worker with a keen interest to do practice research. They will also need to secure endorsement and support from their employers. In addition, project proposals must show feasibility and have the potential to translate into training or teaching materials.

The NUS Department of Social Work envisions that these practice research projects will have the potential to improve the accessibility, delivery and design of social services; enhance the well-being of service users, as well as contribute to policy discussions at the service providers and government levels.

The first call of applications for the fund will be announced in 2018. In the year ahead, the NUS Department of Social Work intends to increase the awareness of and impart competence in conducting social work practice research, by holding a series of public lectures and conferences on practice research. It will also conduct visits to social service agencies to explore possible research areas as well as conduct clinics to train interested social workers in conducting practice research.

Expressing support for the establishment of the new research fund, Ms Ng Hwee Chin, Head of Direct Services and Principal Social Worker, Children’s Cancer Foundation said, “Practice research is an integral part of the provision of effective programmes. It contributes to ensuring good stewardship of publicly raised funds by designing programmes that benefit the clients. By conducting practice research the practitioners gain systematic and in-depth understanding of clients’ experience as recipients of help. Heeding the voice of clients is key to Social Work as a helping profession.”

For information on making a gift to NUS, contact us at 1800-DEVELOP (1800-338-3567) or email


Join a pro-bono Consulting Organisation!

Conjunct Consulting is Southeast Asia’s first social change consultancy. We engage, mobilise and empower pro bono talent to strengthen social good organisations in Singapore. We do this through pro bono consulting projects and strategic collaborations.

With teams of trained university students and working professionals, we provide nonprofits and social enterprises with pro bono advice that helps them create maximum social impact.

If you would like to find out more about Conjunct Consulting or how you may join training to become a student consultant, drop by either one of our info sessions!

Info Session 1:

Date: 19 January 2018 (Fri)
Time: 7pm to 8.30pm
Info Session 2:
Date: 23 January 2018 (Tues)
Time: 7pm to 8.30pm

The info sessions would be located at the NUS Mochtar Riady Building, NUS. Exact locations would be disseminated via email.

RSVP at:

Meanwhile, applications for training are now open and will close on 24 January at 2359hrs.

The application link is

Schools join fight against fake news (Page 7)

Monday, 8 January 2018


The New Paper

It was reported that tertiary institutions have introduced courses to help students differentiate fact from fiction in order to tackle the growing problem of fake news. It was mentioned that the Department of Communications and New Media at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences had started a new module called ‘Fake News, Lies and Spin: How to Sift Fact from Fiction’ in August 2017. About 60 students took the module and another 100 are expected to take it this semester.

Commenting on the phenomenon of fake news, Assistant Professor Elmie Nekmat from the Department of Communications and New Media said that when people are exposed to fake news, it has a “drip effect” where people build up ideas pertaining to the issue they read. He suggested that media literacy courses dealing with misinformation can be taught to secondary and even primary school students as it is good for schools to engage the young about this.

Click here to read the article.

Despite show of solidarity, Pakatan not any closer to winning elections

Thursday, 11 January 2018


This was an article contribution by Dr Norshahril Saat, Adjunct Lecturer from the Department of Malay Studies at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, in which he noted the announcement of the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan on the two former nemesis – Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of Anwar Ibrahim – who will lead the opposition in the next Malaysian polls. Dr Norsharhril discussed the reactions of the Malaysian voters and party activists to the so-called Mahathir-Anwar reconciliation and opined that this election is not a contest between personalities, but political vision operationalised in systems they represent. He added that Malaysians want change, thus what will define the upcoming general election is which coalition can offer them a better way of life.

Click here to read the article.

While social class division exists, it does not mean Singapore is divided

Thursday, 11 January 2018 


This was an article contribution by Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser and Assistant Professor Vincent Chua from the Department of Sociology at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Dr Gillian Koh, Deputy Director (Research) and Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Policy Studies at NUS. The authors elaborated on some of the findings of their recent study on social capital in Singapore and discussed how best Singapore can approach this issue of a social class divide. They added that we should remain vigilant of any possible emerging class tensions as while bringing people of diverse backgrounds together is necessary, it is not in itself a sufficient condition. Apart from equalising opportunities, we must facilitate and nudge our people to work together, play together and support one another. We must also recognise the different strengths and talents of our people, thereby developing multiple pathways for achieving success in Singapore. These will not only produce a more compassionate meritocracy, but also greater social cohesion and a stronger national identity.

Click here to read the article.

What hope do monolingual parents have in raising bilingual children?

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

 Channel NewsAsia Online

This was an article contribution by Associate Professor Leher Singh from the Department of Psychology at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, in which she discussed whether monolingual parents can raise bilingual children. Assoc Prof Singh noted that research has shown that parents who do not speak two languages can raise bilingual children who become fully proficient in both languages. She added that for monolingual families, well-designed and effectively implemented bilingual education programmes can provide an excellent and sustainable route to bilingualism; and shared her views on what distinguishes good bilingual education.

Click here to read the article.

Green Mark Awards and property prices (Opinion, Page A18)

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Straits Times

In this monthly “Ask NUS Economist” series, Dr Eric Fesselmeyer, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Economics at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, discussed whether the Green Mark Award increases property prices. From Dr Fesselmeyer’s recently published research which examined the impact of a Green Mark Award on the price of new apartments and condominiums, it was found that green certification causes price to increase by around 2.7 per cent on average. Additionally, the effect is biggest (4.1 per cent) for properties in developments that scored just enough points to win the Green Mark Award. The results suggest that certification is an important policy tool to help mitigate the environmental impact of residential buildings by encouraging developers to invest in green features, including features that may not otherwise be valued by buyers.

Click here to read the article.

Citi gift to raise financial well-being of low-income families

Mr Han Kwee Jan, CEO, Citibank and NUS Provost (fourth and fifth from left) with NAI faculty members and Guest of Honour Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development (fifth from right).

Social workers will soon be equipped with knowledge and skills to help low-income vulnerable families better manage their household finances thanks to a gift from the Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of global bank Citigroup, to the Next Age Institute (NAI) at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

NAI will embark on a new initiative to develop a curriculum to empower social workers and social work students in Singapore with expertise in Financial Capability and Asset Building (FCAB). Currently, there is no formal training in FCAB for social workers in Singapore. NAI aims to bridge this gap by equipping social workers and social work students to help low-income vulnerable individuals and families enhance their financial capabilities to achieve better life outcomes.

Associate Professor Corinne Ghoh, NAI Co-Director, explains, “Social workers play a pivotal role in supporting and uplifting low-income vulnerable individuals and families. The Singapore FCAB curriculum will provide social workers and social work students a renewed focus on assisting low-income families to manage their household finances and gain access to appropriate services. By integrating knowledge of financial capability building into professional practice, social workers will be empowered to guide and support low-income families to make informed decisions that will heighten their potential for positive change in their family situations.”

Mr Han Kwee Juan, CEO Citibank Singapore Limited, says, “The success of every society is dependent on the ability of its people to become economically self-sufficient. Citi is proud to partner the NUS Next Age Institute in this brand new initiative to fill a gap in the community by equipping social workers with the knowledge and skills to assist disadvantaged families on money management matters and access to appropriate financial services.

“Citi has pioneered several initiatives to enable financial inclusion in Singapore. The latest financial education initiative with NUS enhances our efforts to enable progress within another segment of our society.”