This was an interview with Professor Syed Farid Alatas from the Department of Sociology at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, who shared his views on the emergence and augmentation of alternative discourses of non-western thinkers in the process of universalising and internationalising the social science.
NUS is the only Asian university to gain a position in Quacquarelli Symonds’ (QS) list of 10 best universities worldwide, with 11 subjects attaining a top-10 ranking in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018. The University is also ranked in the top 50 for 34 subjects out of the 48 disciplines analysed by QS. 11 of those subjects are housed in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (Environmental Sciences is co-hosted with Faculty of Science). Overall, FASS is ranked in the global top 20 in the broad subject areas in Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences & Management.
This was an article contribution by Dr Norshahril Saat from the Department of Malay Studies at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences who discussed the debate on the Malay identity and the thinking that should be developed with regard to this issue. He shared that from politics to cultural issues, much has been discussed about who the true Malays are as well as who is lesser of a Malay or not a Malay.
It was reported that for the past 30 years, Professor Kenneth Dean, Head of the Department of Chinese Studies at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Professor Zheng Zhenman from Xiamen University have gone on trips together to collect historical information from temples and places of worship to study the cultural history of Fujian province in China.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”