On Saturday 11 July, 2015, students from 19 different secondary schools gathered in Raffles Institution for the 12th annual Inter-School Philosophy Dialogue (ISPD). The ISPD is a yearly event organized by the RI Philosophy Department where secondary students meet to engage each other in interesting discussions. The aim of the event is to provide students with a platform from which to practice their critical thinking, analysis and presentation skills—and for them to experience how fun and engaging philosophical discussion can be.
After a keynote address, participating students were organized into small groups according to their allocated discussion topics. Guided by their facilitators, participants of the dialogue were given a valuable opportunity to engage with difficult philosophical issues. The most outstanding student in each group—the one that displays the virtues of a probing and charitable inquirer—was awarded the “Gadfly Award”.
ISPD 2015 is especially interesting and noteworthy because it coincides with SG50. In keeping with the spirit of SG50, Mr Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, co-author of Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus, was invited to be its keynote speaker. Mr Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh gave an engaging and thought-provoking keynote address on the topic of “Challenging the Singapore Consensus”. Furthermore, the thought experiments provided as discussion topics—all of which suggests questions in the area of ethics and politics—were also crafted for their relevance to ideas about nationhood, citizenship, governance and other societal issues.
ISPD 2015: SG50 Edition was extremely well-received by participants, facilitators and organizers alike. While many of the secondary schools represented have been attending ISPD in previous years, five schools joined for the very first time. The overwhelming consensus by the facilitators was that the level of discussion and the maturity of thought displayed by the participants were impressive and went beyond their expectations.
This year, as part of SG50 and NUS 110 celebrations, National University of Singapore is the main sponsor of the event through the Department of Philosophy. The Deputy Head of Department, Associate Professor Loy Hui-Chieh worked tirelessly with the event organizers, Ms Kristie Chen and Mr Ng Chong Jin to ensure the smooth running and success of the event, both of whom are alumni members of the NUS Philosophy Department. Further representing the start of a collaborative relationship between the Philosophy Departments of NUS and RI, Mr Huang Yuhuai, a graduating student of the Department, was also responsible for crafting the thought experiments used in the discussion as part of his internship with Raffles Institution. As with previous years, the vast majority of the facilitators who led the small group discussions are also current undergraduates, graduate students, as well as alumni members of the NUS Philosophy Department, making the event a veritable alumni gathering of the Philosophy Department.
(Prepared by Mr. Wilson Lee and Mr. Jeremy Huang, with additional input from A/P Loy and Mr. Ng Chong Jin)