Commencement Celebrations 2014

Another eventful year has come to pass. Another batch of graduating students marked the end of their formal school years and the beginning of an exciting future ahead with the annual Commencement Ceremony at the University Cultural Centre. On top of that, respective departments also held Commencement Celebrations for their graduates to bid them farewell, as well as to welcome them into the FASS Alumni family.

 Other than the usual get-togethers, some departments added in a dash of intellectually engaging components.  The Department of History had a quiz on history and, as with tradition, held their famous customary event – Mad Hatters! – inviting alumni from the Classes of 2013, 2007, and 2008. Some hats on display included a Samsui woman’s, a Bollywood Cop’s, a Shameless Monarch’s, and even a Bird’s Nest hat. The English Language department also had a pub quiz of sorts which tested the graduates’ linguistic and general knowledge about NUS. They also had a graduate who recited a poem he had specially penned for the occasion. Graduates too did not miss out on the opportunity to showcase their musical talents. The Department of Japanese Studies invited alumni from previous years and many friendly exchanges were made between the graduating class, faculty, and alumni, while sharing a communal Japanese meal at Waraku Restaurant. A happy coincidence occurred during Social Work Department’s graduation event – two PhD graduates found that they were classmates from the same Honours batch 18 years ago. All in all it was a joyous occasion for all parties involved.

Click on the following links to read more about the individual events that were held, as shared by the respective departments!

collage for blog

Chinese Studies     Communications and New Media     Economics    English Language     English Literature

Geography     History     Japanese Studies    Philosophy   Political Science   Psychology     Social Work     Sociology

 We wish the Class of 2014 the best in their endeavours!

Disclaimer: Links are correct and available at the time of posting.

Commencement 2013 Celebrations

This year, a good number of the departments in FASS, together with some of their alumni associations, organised events to celebrate their graduates’ commencement. Lunches, dinners, and even themed parties were held. Some of the highlights include: personalised congratulatory letters with calligraphy (Department of Chinese Studies), performances put up by the NUS Rondalla and the Chorda Trio (Department of Economics), instant photo booth with fanciful props (Department of Political Science), and students and staff coming with ‘mad hats’ of their own (Department of History). 

Click on the following links to read more about the individual events that were held, as shared by the respective departments!

   Chinese Studies      Communications & New Media      Economics       Geography

History      Japanese Studies      Philosophy     Political Science     Psychology

   Social Work       Sociology      South Asian Studies Programme    


We would also like to take this opportunity to wish all graduates the best in their future endeavours!


Disclaimer: Links are correct and available at the time of posting.


Roundtable workshop: Children’s Agency in various contexts: Family, Health, Social Service and on the Streets, 21 December 2012

Organised by Social Work Department,
Funded by Family, Children and Youth Research Cluster

Chaired by Dr Esther Goh of Social Work Department, together with invited speakers: Prof Leon Kuczynski (University of Guelph, Canada), A/P Jan De Mol (Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium) and A/P Cheng Fucai (Shanghai Academy of Social Science), this round table stimulated enthusiastic interest among faculty members, research and undergraduate students on conceptualising children as agentic beings in research. Conventionally, children are often treated as passive recipients of external influences. They are commonly conceived as the ‘dependent variables’ with parents, schools, and other adults in their environment as ‘independent variables’.

Prof Kuczynski, a developmental psychologist and theorist, explained his Social Relational Theory (SRT) which is an interdisciplinary framework designed to understand how parents and children interact as human agents within a system of culturally embedded social relationships. It provides concepts for understanding various facets of children’s agency, including their capacities to make sense of the environments, act strategically to achieve their goals, and resist domination by others.

A/P Jan De Mol’s captivating presentation through enactment of a clinical case where he saw a family with a depressed teenage girl, explained to the participants how he utilised the concept of child agency as well as relationship contexts for expression of agency in family therapy. Wong Hui Mei, a fourth year Social Work major who worked on her honours thesis with Dr Esther Goh, shared with the group her discovery of child agency in ADHD children and their parents in Singapore.

A fascinating ethnographic work with 39 street children in Shanghai was presented by A/P Cheng Fucai. He lived with this group of street kids over a period of six months and witnessed how children survived the harsh underground world through their agentic strategies.

Dr Goh moderated a student panel where three 4th year Social Work students responded to the presentations and discussed how these conceptual tools could be useful in their own research projects which viewed children as actors instead of passive members of families and social service systems. Participants provided input and comments and posted questions to help them think further along their research projects.

The roundtable ended with a research gallery presented by Dr Goh to demonstrate how the Social Relations Theory (SRT) can be a productive research lens to examine phenomenon within and beyond social science borders. She illustrated the generativity power of SRT in studying children’s bargaining power in three-generational families, involvement in negotiating house chores, children’s agency in pediatric dentistry and in nutrition and food science. This gallery is an exhibition of the interdisciplinary relevance of SRT and its ability to generate productive research activities in various research contexts.


Comments from the student participants:

Chee Liping (4th year Social Work student):
Personally, the session has further enhanced my interest in working and research with children and widened my horizons about the breadth and depth of such undertakings. I was particularly inspired by Professor Cheng’s sharing about his ethnographic work with street children which showed the rich insights that can be gained when a researcher truly seeks to see from the children’s perspective without an imposition of adults’ beliefs.

 It was really good!

Wong Hui Mei (graduating 4th year Social Work student):
I was really excited to meet Prof Kuczynski in person after reading about his theory and articles and I’ve used the SRT for my honours thesis. So hearing him “live” and meeting in person was an amazing experience! All in all, the roundtable has been a wonderful closure for my undergrad life in NUS while at the same time, it has opened up the exciting path of research work in children and child’s agency for me!

Gina Chan (4th year Social Work student):
Thank you once again for organising this very insightful and interesting workshop Dr Goh!

Inaugural Prime Minister Social Service Awards for 2 Social Work Students

On 11 October 2012, two FASS students received the inaugural Prime Minister Social Service Awards at the National Council of Social Services’ (NCSS) 20th anniversary held at the Holiday Inn Atrium. Both from the Department of Social Work, Sarah Pyne Pennefather is a Second Year student and Muhammad Fareez Bin Mohd Fahmy is doing his Masters degree.

The Prime Minister’s Social Service Award was launched in 2012 and aims to encourage more Singaporeans to choose careers in social service. Besides outstanding academic achievements, the recipient should demonstrate exemplary passion and drive to tackle social problems and improve the lives of the disadvantaged. This award is worth $10,000 and would go towards defraying expenses incurred for research and project work that scholars undertake during the course of study.

To read the news articles, click here and here.

New Alice Goh Scholarship to help support future generations of Social Workers

She was the wife of one of Singapore’s founding fathers, but Madam Alice Goh (1925-2012) preferred to serve as unobtrusively as possible. A social worker for almost 30 years*, Madam Goh, who later separated from her husband Dr Goh Keng Swee, was known as a quiet, steady person and an able administrator who dedicated her life to children’s welfare. Her motto was “Every child is special; every child is God’s gift’. Alice Goh worked ceaselessly towards a better quality of life for her “little ones” and had an abiding interest in social work at various levels throughout her life.

Her giving spirit and sterling values will be bequeathed to a new generation of students with the establishment of the Alice Goh Scholarship at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Social Work at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The endowed Scholarship fund was set up with gifts from Madam Goh’s family, friends and well-wishers. The Scholarship will benefit two deserving students who need financial assistance annually – one Undergraduate student and one Master student – starting from Academic Year 2013/2014.

Social Work students in class

Dr Rosaleen Ow, Head, Department of Social Work, said, “The Alice Goh Scholarship is a timely response to the current need to increase the number of social workers to meet the needs of enhancing social development in the country. It is in tandem with the Singapore government’s support for the training of professional social workers in the social service sector. The Department of Social Work, NUS, continues to play a pivotal role in the training of social workers from its inception in 1952. Many of its graduates have become leaders in the public and social service sectors, including a Past President of Singapore, current and former Members of Parliament and Nominated Members of Parliament as well as senior management in the civil service and statutory boards. The Alice Goh Scholarship will therefore provide significant encouragement to social work students in NUS to excel both in classroom learning and in translating the knowledge towards contributing to the community through practice.”

A pioneer of children’s social centres in Singapore, Madam Goh is remembered as a quiet but popular figure. Ann Wee, a social work veteran who worked with her in the Social Welfare Department, says, “There was nothing arrogant about her. It was always a pleasure to stop by and chat with her. She was also trusted. People would say, ‘It’s alright. That’s being handled by Mrs Goh’.” During her time at the Social Welfare Department, Madam Goh was in charge of childcare centres to tackle, among other responsibilities, the problem of malnutrition among children.

Born in 1925, Madam Goh (née Woon) married Dr Goh in 1942 when she was 17 and he 24. The two met while working at the War Tax Department. For the next 44 years, until their separation in 1986, she supported his illustrious career as he went from Minister of Finance in the first PAP Cabinet (1959-65) to Deputy Prime Minister in 1973.

Applications for the scholarship will begin in June 2013. More information about the Alice Goh Scholarship can be found here.



* Taken from

Can Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) help with Singapore’s languishing fertility record?

Visiting Professor Eric Blyth addressed this question at a seminar in the Department of Social Work on 29 May 2012 that was attended by Department staff and research students, and professionals from local hospitals, the Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and the National Population and Talent Division. The discussion covered the extent, causes and consequences of nearly 40 years of below replacement fertility in Singapore, and the potential benefits of publicly funded fertility treatments and accessibility to elective oocyte cryopreservation. The latter, frequently described as ‘social egg freezing’ has been suggested as a means of protecting the fertility of young women against ageing and thus increasing their chances of successful conception if they later decide to embark on family-building.

The current ‘state of the art’ was discussed and participants agreed that while clinical expertise in Singapore enjoyed a high international reputation, although the twin and triplet rate following ART appears high by international comparison, essential support and intermediary provision such as  counselling was far less well developed or extensive as in some other countries. Government financial support for eligible couples undergoing ART appears to be meeting current demand although the MOH is reviewing whether extending the upper age limit, the number of funded treatment cycles or types of funded treatment might enhance both the aspirations of individual couples with fertility problems and the government’s desire to boost fertility rates. The experience ofIsrael’s generously-funded ART programme, that is generally perceived as a successful model of state funding that other countries might usefully emulate, was shared. Recent research has highlighted the significant psychosocial pressures to which women whose treatment is not successful are subjected to and identified the unintended negative consequences of unlimited state-funded provision.

As regards elective oocyte cryopreservation, its outcomes have been insufficiently evaluated to warrant making this available as a routine clinical service, despite the aggressive marketing and promotion of the service by American fertility clinics and ‘egg banks’. However, it was suggested that Singaporemight provide an optimum location to initiate a properly evaluated clinical trial. It was agreed that the overall impact of ART on population growth was inevitably likely to be modest but that it could form part of a wider programme to promote family-building that tackled the main disincentives and barriers to family-building in Singapore and ensured that young people grew up with accurate knowledge about conception, family planning and fertility decline as a natural element of the ageing process.

Eric Blyth is Professor of Social Work at the University of Huddersfield, England