Getting Ready for the Future (II) – Career Preparation and Future-ready Skills

We are at an extremely critical point of human existence as technology and automation are rapidly changing the future of the world and causing disruption on a scale that the World Economic Forum calls “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Entire job sectors are becoming obsolete and new ones are being created as we speak. Over the next decade, the World Economic Forum predicts that 47% of all occupations will be affected by deepening automation. Many children in primary school today may end up in jobs that do not even exist now.

Some business experts call this environment “The VUCA World”, VUCA being a US military acronym used to define an environment that is “Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous”.

If we don’t know what the future holds for us, how do we prepare our youth for their future?

At NUS, we pride ourselves as being at the forefront of educational innovation and we have implemented a range of initiatives to prepare our students for the future. One of the less conventional approaches we have taken is with the Centre for Future-ready Graduates and its work.

A couple of years ago, we restructured our NUS Career Centre, turning what was a traditional University career services office into what you know as the NUS Centre for Future-ready Graduates (or CFG) today. CFG now serves as the vital bridge between students and the world of future careers. It offers career advisory services, but also functions as a teaching arm, equipping students with future-ready skills and competencies, and performs research on future-readiness.

To better equip our students for this VUCA world, CFG started a groundbreaking programme “Roots & Wings” in 2016 that focuses on upgrading students’ internal Operating System so that they can function better and maximise their potential in a world of change.

Roots & Wings is formulated based on students and industry feedback that developing social emotional intelligence is of crucial importance for students to be prepared for the future, regardless of what career they are aiming for.

The latest psychology, neuroscience and leadership research contributes to the development of the module. Through a combination of experiential learning and interactive technology, students are taught social emotional intelligence based skills.

“Roots” stands for personal skills such as:

  • Focus – Learning to train one’s attention and curb distraction
  • Self & Interpersonal Awareness – Learning one’s strengths and challenges, emotional literacy and sensing
  • What’s my Operating System – Learning about how to self-regulate, manage stress and adopt a healthy growth mindset
  • Happiness and Resilience – Learning the essentials of a happy and meaningful life, and how to bounce back from adversity

“Wings” stands for interpersonal skills which include:

  • Sensemaking – Understanding different perspectives
  • Empathic Communication – Listening and communicating on a deeper level
  • Collaboration & Networking – Developing collaborative mindsets and teamwork skills

Roots & Wings allows students to maximise their potential, encourage diversity of thought and collaboration, and reduce reactivity as students learn to manage stress during times of complex change.

Students also learn to view the world through different lenses and adopt different perspectives, build positive relationships and use their strengths in the service of others and the wider community. They also learn crucial career preparation elements such as personal branding, networking skills and develop awareness of the industry landscape.

Over 7,000 students have participated in the Roots & Wings module as an essential part of their NUS education. Many have given positive feedback on the relevance of its content as well as commended its innovative teaching methods. 87% of students felt that the content was relevant and useful and 92% agreed that teaching had been effective.

One of our students, Erica Lim from FASS, wrote to CFG about the programme, saying: I really appreciated the focus on personal development, because this is something that’s often neglected in Singaporean education. A good education should teach us how to be better people, not just better students. Personally, I felt skeptical at first; I had attended a few personal development workshops prior, and they were so abstract they were meaningless. However, I found myself learning a lot from the seminar.

It was eye-opening to see how my actions deviated from my words and plans – I realised I was very others-focused (focusing on family, friends and other intimate relationships) to the detriment of my personal well-being. It also taught me that your priorities in life are yours to decide, not for society or the people around you to dictate. The breathing exercises, while simple, were also very helpful in anchoring myself. I’m looking forward to more seminars in the future, and I am very glad that NUS have these programmes for undergraduate students.”

Students from many different Faculties – from Arts and Social Sciences, Computing and Engineering, to Medicine and Dentistry – have reported similar stories of improving their wellbeing and abilities by practising these skills.

We plan to further complement the 2 MC Roots & Wings programme with a Career Practicum programme, where students can earn 2 MCs for participating in career workshops, networking events and industry education talks, and deepening their career preparation journey. More details will be announced in due course.

With the establishment of CFG and its various innovative programmes, NUS seeks to support the holistic development of our students – not just their academic skills, but their character and values as well. These, in conjunction with the world-class academic and research skills gained at NUS, will give them the necessary tools to thrive in a fast paced and complex future.

Getting Ready for the Workplace (I) – Internships

For the majority of NUS students, the NUS educational journey is your final full-time educational pursuit before stepping into the working world. Our NUS degree programmes are designed to equip students with the breadth and depth of knowledge and skills for our graduates to embark on their careers. A robust disciplinary curriculum coupled with solid foundational training in the general skills of numeracy, reasoning, critical thinking, communication, personal and interpersonal effectiveness, will go a long way in equipping our graduates for their future jobs.

Beyond all that can be taught and learnt in an intellectually stimulating campus environment, it is not an exaggeration to say that there is no better way of learning about the working world, than by experiencing it first-hand. Several of our degree programmes have had integrated internships or workplace immersion programmes as part of their degree requirements for quite some time now, and with much success. Others, such as the Faculty of Engineering and School of Computing, have introduced internships for all students from the AY2014/15 cohort.

Given the learning value of internships or workplace immersion programmes, we can expect that internships will feature more prominently as part of the NUS education offering. For degree programmes with compulsory internship requirements, Departments will work closely with industry partners to design and curate workplace immersion programmes that integrate learning with training and workplace needs. Let me highlight a few examples.

In Medicine, throughout their undergraduate education, students have multiple opportunities to be fully integrated into existing healthcare teams in a clinical setting, and they learn from the teams they are attached to. Medicine students will undertake clinical rotations in Year 3 and 4, and this is considered a form of internship.

In Year 5, all final year students will go through the Student Internship Programme (SIP) as part of the course work for the MBBS programme, under which they are placed with different healthcare institutions in Singapore. The SIP comprises medicine and surgery tracks, and every student is required to complete postings in both tracks. The duration of each SIP attachment could vary from 2 to 8 weeks.

During the SIP attachments, students would be assessed on attributes such as their clinical skills, professionalism, as well as the ability to work in a team, communicate with patients and kin, and function within a healthcare institution.

At Pharmacy, all undergraduates read Professional Skills Development modules; these are practice-based, and aim to help students develop essential clinical and patient management skills. Students are assessed based on their achievement of competency in the relevant skill set. These modules will prepare them for the Pharmacy Internship and Final Year Project (FYP) in their final year of study. Year 4 students will go through two 12-week rotations in Community Care (e.g. Guardian, Unity, Watsons), and Indirect Patient Care (e.g. pharmaceutical companies, public sector regulatory bodies such as Health Sciences Authority) or Ambulatory Care (such as at community hospitals, polyclinic pharmacies). The satisfactory completion of the 24 weeks of internship can count towards the 12-month pre-registration training required by the Singapore Pharmacy Council to qualify to be a licensed pharmacist.

Apart from professional or specialised degree courses, general degree programmes are also increasingly incorporating internship stints. Take Social Work for example, which has introduced compulsory field placement. Field placement aims to provide students with the opportunity to integrate theories with practice, through the guidance of a qualified field supervisor. Students will take two compulsory 400-hours field placements during vacation time after completing Year 1 and Year 2. The emphasis for fieldwork is on the development of knowledge/skills to work with individuals, families, small groups and the community as well as within the agency context. Students apply theoretical and professional knowledge in different practice settings. They will have the opportunity to experience variety in their field practice though placements at organisations such as agencies for children & youth, agencies for older persons, agencies for the disabled, correctional settings, medical/health settings, family service centres and government organisations amongst others.

Apart from required internships, one interesting trend we have noticed is that students see the value of work experience, and they have been pursuing such opportunities on their own accord. In fact, the past few years has seen a sharp increase in the number of students pursuing voluntary internships. In AY2015/16, nearly 4,000 students went on voluntary internships.

There are also interesting initiatives by faculty members to create internship opportunities. Assoc Prof Ben Leong of the Department of Computer Science runs an informal programme for selected students through the Computing for Voluntary Welfare Organisations (CVWO) initiative, which he founded in 2007. CVWO seeks to build IT systems that help partner VWOs serve the community more effectively. Under this initiative, about 12-14 students annually would work on projects to revamp, redesign or develop computerised customer management systems for VWOs. The CVWO has worked on projects with VWOs such as The Lion Befrienders, Care Corner Counselling Centre, Fei Yue Community Services and the YMCA. Students selected to participate in the CVWO initiative will carry out projects with the CVWO for three months during the Special Term.

Students who have participated in the CVWO testify of how valuable it had been to gain work experience and to complete real projects early on in their degree journey (typically at the end of their first year). Many of them were able to land subsequent attachments with partners such as Facebook and Google.

All in all, I believe this move to create more opportunities to introduce students to the workplace and to allow students to immerse in and experience working life in an industry setting, is a positive one. It prepares you mentally, and gives you confidence to step into the working world as you make the transition from a student to an employee (or for some of you, an entrepreneur).

I would be happy to hear you relate your internship experiences.

The Lost “Art of Asking Questions”

A Harvard Business Review article entitled “Relearning the Art of Asking Questions” stated that “Proper questioning has become a lost art” (Pohlmann and Thomas, 2015; From this simple but tightly packed statement, we may deduce several important things:

One, there is a proper way of questioning. (See the four types of questioning to achieve different goals by clicking on the Pohlmann-Thomas article link provided above.)

Two, questioning is an art, an important skill.

Three, we have lost this important skill.

Four, we used to possess this important skill.

The article goes on to say that while children have been observed by their parents to ask many questions (as much as 70-80% of their interactions), the adults themselves estimated that they only ask questions about 15-25% of the time in their own talk. This is a steep fall – why? Why do children ask so many questions compared to adults? Is questioning a ‘survival’ skill of some kind? Many scholars and innovators hold the view that questioning is a critical skill in their practice and has contributed to their success.

Paul Sloane, the author of “The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills” and “The Innovative Leader” says that asking questions is “the single most important habit for innovative thinker” ( Sloane affirms the importance of asking questions to our growth. He writes:

“Children learn by asking questions. Students learn by asking questions. New recruits learn by asking questions. Innovators understand clients’ needs by asking questions. It is the simplest and most effective way of learning. People who think they know it all no longer ask questions – why should they? Brilliant thinkers never stop asking questions because they know that this is the best way to gain deeper insights”.

This view, of the importance of questioning to growth is shared by Google CEO Eric Schmidt when he said that Google runs “on questions, not answers”, because only through constant questioning can one arrive at better answers that will facilitate innovation and progress.

The NUS curriculum wants to reclaim and restore this lost art of questioning by offering a new compulsory university-wide module under the General Education (GE) Curriculum, that has been simply titled “Asking Questions” (or as the teaching team affectionately calls it – “Q”). This module adopts a multidisciplinary approach to introduce all NUS undergraduates to the different disciplinary modes of investigation through questioning. Newly launched this January 2017 semester, over 1,000 second and third semester undergraduates are currently undergoing a 6-segment introduction to disciplinary questioning – in Philosophy, Physics, Computational Thinking, Engineering, Economics and Design Thinking. We obtained the permission of a number of students currently taking the Q module to share their forum postings with us. This is what they have to say (italics added):

  • Is it too late to be teaching and learning about questioning now?

Evette: “So is it too late to start teaching questioning in university where most of our minds have been conditioned to only ask questions that can help us get the grade we want? My honest opinion is YES. But I also agree … that it is better late than never. There are pros and cons to teaching Q at this stage of our lives but as much as we are already off to a late start, I do believe that each of us will still take something away from this module.”

Thenappa: “I feel that questioning is an important life skill that is essential not only for undergraduates like us but also something that should be developed since young. I agree that questioning is important in all aspects of life. Top entrepreneurs of today like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk are successful as a result of them asking the right questions at the right time. So much of our life depends on asking the right questions. It lets us clearly define problems and expectations. …. Throughout our 12 years of schooling we are not encouraged or taught how to ask questions. However, the moment we enter university, we are told that asking questions is important and it is crucial that we develop this skill with 1 semester of studying this module GEQ1000. Although questioning should be nurtured and nourished from young, at least it’s a start in this module that we are taught the basics of questioning and hopefully it improves over our undergraduate years at NUS.”

Dean: “This peculiar module seemed redundant to me at first: defining “questions” on a rhetorical level seems almost ridiculous at our age, given our years of academic experience …. But the more I think about it, the more I realised that General Education mods are meant to broaden our perspective. As we progress in this module and reach the other domains, perhaps we will come to realise that there are other methods of questioning that we have yet to apply to our life – the way a physics student questions is perhaps different from how a philosophy major questions? That is why I am assuming this mod has a vast range of domain that ranges from philosophy to physics.”

  • On the importance of questioning

Amos: “Personally I feel that questioning promotes and facilitates a deeper understanding of the given subject; it defines the learning experience. I can ramble on about the benefits of questioning such as how it can lead pupils through a planned sequence which progressively establishes key understanding or to promote reasoning, problem solving, evaluation and the formulation of hypotheses, but I feel this mod represents more than that. The purpose of this mod, shifts the limelight away from academics, studying merely for the grades but instead makes us ask [questions], look thoroughly and reflect on our actions. It makes us more inquisitive, curious without consequences. Plus it’s a good skill to be able to frame a question properly. After all our lives revolve a lot around questions and its answers.”

Daryl: “[W]ith regard to tutorial 2 [on Physics], I believe what we’ve done is a repeat of all the Physics SPA back in secondary school days and it was really funny how me and my group could not remember how to do it and in fact, got the result with the biggest outlier of 7.8. However, the key learning point from this was when I think back to my secondary school days, little did I know that every little action of mine could have led to such discrepancies in the results and it brings back the question, why did I not question myself back in secondary school? Why did I (we) just do what we were told to do? The [online lecture] video made me realise that while doing such experiments, we should adopt ontological thinking and question the nature of such experiments in order to understand the fundamentals of what the experiment seeks to teach us rather than just doing the experiment to obtain the desired results which were what most of us were probably doing in the past! Seeking answers isn’t wrong but through this week’s tutorial, I realise that there are a lot that we can learn from by asking questions of why and how.”

The Q forum discussion is already filled with lively exchanges of various kinds, from “Are there such things as ‘stupid’ questions?” to “Making sense of a university built on questions”. We are deeply gratified to read the above and many other forum postings that assured us we have made the right decision to launch this new module for all NUS undergraduates. With Q focused on Questioning, the GE curriculum now has a suite of courses that aim to provide the foundation for questioning (Asking Questions Pillar), thinking (Thinking and Expression Pillar), reasoning (Quantitative Reasoning Pillar), and supported by two other GE pillars on society (Singapore Studies Pillar) and cultures (Human Cultures Pillar). This is the NUS approach to inculcate essential skills, including infusing the invaluable art of questioning and a sense of (intellectual) curiosity that we believe will put our graduates in good stead as they move from university to work, and later, continue to learn as productive citizens in our society. We hope you will embrace this module in the same way as we and many Q students already do. Let’s join all our current students in Q to reclaim this lost art of questioning, together!


Introducing Computational Thinking into the Undergraduate Curriculum

NUS President Prof Tan Chorh Chuan delivered his State of the University Address on 4 Nov 2016. It was a visionary and impactful speech, titled ‘Empowering for the Age of Empowerment’. He spoke on NUS’ plans to empower students for the future, enable faculty to stand out globally and create new platforms for high impact. (You may view the event webcast or read President’s speech here.)

Amongst the many educational initiatives to prepare and empower students for the future, President had made mention that NUS is considering introducing Computational Thinking on a large scale. I would like to take this opportunity to share more about Computational Thinking.

What is Computational Thinking?

Computational Thinking has been known to humans as long as we have been thinking. One of the initial formalisations of Computational Thinking happened, perhaps, in Geometry.  Along with Euclid’s axiomatic approach to Geometry, which focused on proving properties of geometric objects like triangles and quadrilaterals, there was a robust parallel development of constructing objects using a ruler and a compass. This approach emphasised constructing objects (for example, constructing a right-angled triangle) over proofs. In fact, one fed the other, leading to increasing intellectual sophistication in the understanding of Geometry. Not only that, there was a pragmatic facet to it as well. It helped put Geometric conceptualisations into practice – in areas ranging from building construction to time-telling to Astronomy.

Another example of Computational Thinking in daily life is cooking! Humans have been cooking for a long time; in fact, civilisations take great pride in their cuisines. Any recipe which can be executed by a non-Michelin-starred cook is a fine demonstration of Computational Thinking. The ingredients of that recipe are precisely specified and the steps laid out clearly for anybody to follow. By following the recipe (think algorithm – a series of steps to the solution) fastidiously, we get delicious outcomes.

Fast-forwarding to modern times, Wikipedia explains that Computational Thinking was first used by Seymour Papert in 1980. It caught wide attention when Computer Scientist Jeanette Wing wrote an influential article about it in 2006 (  It refers to the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solutions in such a way that a computer—human or machine—can effectively carry out. Simply put, Computational Thinking involves creating and making use of different levels of abstraction, to understand and solve problems more effectively.

Why Computational Thinking?

Computational Thinking is important because this is the thinking process of creative humans.. First, it compels us to discard inessential aspects of any problem to focus on minimum conceptual abstractions that are salient to the problem. Second, it enables us to successfully accomplish even very complex tasks by breaking them down into a set of elementary simple tasks. (In Geometry, the elementary tasks are (i) drawing a line using a ruler and (ii) drawing an arc using a compass. In cooking, there are basic skills such as chopping, stirring, straining, roasting etc.) Third, Computational Thinking helps us give an idea of the inherent complexity of any problem. Simple recipes comprise fewer steps and complex recipes require more steps in a certain order. The chef who uses Computational Thinking realises the importance of preparing the ingredients beforehand and in the right order so that the meal arrives at the table at the right temperature. No one likes a cold, bleeding steak.

As you can imagine, this way of thinking practically covers most areas of human endeavours. All of us have been unconsciously practising Computational Thinking throughout our lives. What is different today is that many of these elementary steps can be performed by computers. In fact, Computational Thinking is increasingly recognised as a fundamental 21st century skill, especially in this digital and technology-centric era. Together with reading, writing, critical thinking and problem solving, Computational Thinking is ubiquitous with vast applications across a range of fields, so much so that practically no field has been left un-touched. It is therefore time that we, as a university, start thinking about Computational Thinking formally in our curriculum.

The relevance and importance of Computational Thinking is also borne out in the job market. The World Economic Forum recently published an article on 2017’s most in-demand skills, according to LinkedIn data. It is quite evident that data and IT literacy have become a necessity, and at the next level, data proficiency and Computational Thinking are critical, relevant and sought after. This list of top ten most sought-after skills may change with time, but it is an indication of the skills in demand now.

This trend in the labour market is not surprising. Big data and technology developments are shaping the world. In Singapore, the big data sector is set for big growth and EDB expects the data analytics sector to contribute at least $1 billion to the economy every year by 2017. To stay competitive, companies will have to harness data for better decision-making.

Computational Thinking at NUS

NUS is mindful of these developments and we make effort to ensure that our educational programmes equip our graduates with the knowledge and skills to take on jobs immediately upon graduation, as well as to engage in lifelong learning, so that our graduates can adapt and learn to ride the waves and opportunities in this ever changing world.

A distinctive aspect of NUS’ curriculum is the General Education (GE) Framework. Comprising 20MCs, the General Education Framework serves as a common, core university experience for all students to be exposed to fundamental approaches to knowledge for a broad intellectual perspective and lifelong learning. Implemented in AY2015/16, the revised GE framework is designed as a five-pillar curriculum structure, and is closely aligned with the University’s educational philosophy which seeks to ‘help students become individuals with questioning minds, willing and able to examine what is taken for granted, and who engage in rigorous inquiry within and beyond assumed disciplinary borders’. The five pillars are:

  • Singapore Studies
  • Human Cultures
  • Thinking and Expression
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Asking Questions

Under the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) pillar, all NUS students read GER1000, a module introducing foundational data competency, taught using a blended format. Lectures are pre-recorded and are available online for students to view, pause and play at their own pace; learning is facilitated and reinforced with face-to-face tutorials. The module introduces students to the role of data in addressing real-world issues, and how to collect and employ data to conduct projections and scenario planning. Students will acquire basic reasoning skills, and learn to quantify and characterise relationships between data.

Given the growing importance of quantitative skills, we plan to take one step further to introduce Computational Thinking as a requirement for selected undergraduate majors and degree programmes. Computational Thinking is a set of cognitive skills and techniques that can be used to support problem solving across situations and disciplines. More specifically, as Google’s website summarises, Computational Thinking entails

  1. Decomposition – breaking a (big, complicated, complex) problem into parts or steps;
  2. Pattern Recognition – finding and identify patterns and trends in data;
  3. Abstraction – identifying the general principles that generate these patterns;
  4. Algorithm Design – developing instructions for solving the problem.

Step by step, part by part, the solutions to the small problems can be brought together, and help shed light on and provide a solution to the big, complex problem.

Computational Thinking is useful as a problem-solving methodology, but beyond that, training in Computational Thinking can also help cultivate positive learning attitudes and values, such as tinkering and experimenting with solutions, debugging through finding and fixing errors, perseverance in working with difficult and open-ended problems, and confidence in dealing with ambiguity and complexity.

I hope NUS students will be keen to acquire and deepen their QR and Computational Thinking skills, and that you are curious and excited about the many future job opportunities in these fields. With a good foundation in QR and the added training in Computational Thinking for some of you, NUS students will gain confidence and are empowered to pick up computer coding, even if you are not a Computer Science major.

Grade-free scheme for freshmen: Greater flexibility in shaping your transformative learning journey

In AY2014/15, NUS introduced a new grading system for modular degree programmes in the form of a revised S/U policy, where students may exercise the S/U option (i.e. students can decide whether to include or exclude the grades obtained for those modules in the computation of the Cumulative Average Point) for up to 20 modular credits (MCs) during the first semester of their candidature. In addition, students may exercise the S/U option for up to another 12 MCs at any time during the candidature.

The objectives of this grading system are to encourage a change in the way students think about grades and learning at university, and to help students make a smooth transition to the academic and social culture of university life. In so doing, a student’s anxiety about his or her academic performance should be alleviated during the first semester.

I had previously conveyed that we will be monitoring and evaluating how students and faculty members take to this new grading system.

Two cohorts of freshmen have since experienced the new grading system in their first semester and it is time to take stock. The usage patterns of the S/U options were similar for the first-year students of AY2014/15 and AY2015/16. Majority of students (about 80%) had exercised their S/U options for 3 or fewer modules; about 5% of students had exercised their S/U options fully.

We studied the student feedback carefully and an analysis of the qualitative comments received found that students took well to the new grading system. The new grading system also helped to reduce stress levels, and had encouraged them to take academic risks.

We have also noticed that students have become more adventurous in their choice of modules, and have ventured beyond their academic comfort zones. Nearly one-third of the modules read by first-year students in AY2015/16 were non-core modules (defined as modules not read as essential, programme essential, elective, programme elective or compulsory cross-faculty module). This is a significant increase compared to the modules read by the first-year students in AY2013/14. I see this as a positive development, that students are increasingly making good use of the opportunities of being in a comprehensive university, to broaden their perspectives and horizons by reading modules beyond their degree discipline.

To better analyse the effect of the grading system on student academic performance in the first semester, faculty members were asked not to vary their teaching and grading methods. It was found that there were no significant changes in the overall grade distributions before and after the revised S/U policy was introduced. This suggests that student academic performance was not compromised, even though they now have access to the S/U options for their first semester. NUS students were not complacent and continued to be academically engaged. With the S/U option, there remains a strong incentive to strive for good grades, while eliminating the anxiety and stress of poor grades. Having worked with two cohorts of freshmen, faculty members are convinced that NUS students are intrinsically motivated and in general, possess good learning habits.

To enable students to benefit from the S/U option more fully across the first year, NUS will be making further adjustments to the grading policy for first-year students. From AY2016/17, first-year students may exercise the S/U option for up to 32 MCs in their first year. If this is not fully utilised, the S/U option may then be saved for modules taken in subsequent semesters, for up to 12 MCs.

In essence, the total number of MCs available for S/U throughout one’s undergraduate candidature will remain unchanged, at 32 MCs. But students will now have the flexibility to exercise the S/U option for most modules in their first year, hence extending the opportunities for academic exploration across the first year, beyond the first semester.

The first-year grading policy must be seen in the context of a suite of educational initiatives that NUS has introduced progressively in recent years, to create a truly transformative educational experience that prepares students to take on the challenges of life and work in the 21st century. The new General Education curriculum, the Centre for Future-ready Graduates’ life skills programmes, expanding opportunities for students to participate in the NUS Overseas Colleges Programme as well as integrated living and learning at our Residential Colleges, are but some of the educational enhancements that enable students to maximise their learning experiences at NUS.

Students admitted into NUS are academically strong. We hope that this new first-year grading policy that will take effect in AY2016/17 will create even more time, space and opportunities to pursue adventurous and deep learning, and to move away from the over-emphasis on grades.

On a related note, MOE has recently announced that from 2021, the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) T-score will be replaced with wider scoring bands. Under the new scoring system, PSLE grading will no longer be based on how students fare relative to their peers. This move will hopefully encourage students to go beyond being exam smart, and to focus on one’s own learning, rather than competing to do better than others. Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Mr Ng Chee Meng explained that the current PSLE scoring system is too precise, and differentiates students more finely than necessary.

I welcome this move. MOE recognises that education is not about training book smarts – the emphasis should be on learning. There is no need to grade, sort and differentiate students at every possible juncture.

In the same spirit, the freshman year is an opportune time to immerse oneself in the social and academic culture of university life, to uncover, discover and pursue one’s intellectual curiosities and passions, setting you on course for lifelong learning. At NUS, we have created a first-year grading policy that allows for this self-development journey.

Please let me have your thoughts.